After retired English teacher Karen Kitze suddenly passed away, her family and close friends looked for some way to turn their pain into something positive. A memorial scholarship fund sprung up, and along with financial support has come an outpouring of stories about an unforgettable educator.

"I have had over 8,000 students in class as a teacher at Rhinelander High School, so with Karen and Mike, you can imagine what that circle is like," said longtime friend and former colleague Darlene Machtan.

Kitze taught English with her husband, Mike, at Rhinelander High School for decades, spending her free time with her family and her closest friends: the W(h)iners. It was their idea to start a scholarship fund in Karen's honor.

"We just trusted them implicitly to put it together and do it, and they came up with the most wonderful criteria and scholarship idea honoring mom's legacy and it has just taken off," said Megan Kitze-Ward, Karen's daughter.

"It has just been this explosion of monetary love, this outpouring of support for this woman who touched so many lives," said Machtan.

A mixture of old-fashioned checks and digital donations brought in thousands of dollars in just a week, which family and friends say shows just how far reaching Karen's impact was.

"Our hope is to keep this scholarship going," said Kitze-Ward. "Dad would really like to see this scholarship happen for as many years as we can. This year we're hoping to help more than one. Well, we already know we can help at least two people this year."

The scholarship will go to an RHS graduate who identifies as female and an "activist." She needs to define activism for herself, which will give students an opportunity to reflect on their own impact. The student will also need to have a 3.0 GPA and be an avid reader like Karen.


Bucketheads will host a fundraiser for the scholarship starting at 4 p.m. on December 28.

"We just really wanna thank Mike and Bucketheads for letting us host this event there," said Kitze-Ward.

And while donations are more than welcome, the event is really about collecting more stories to add the ever growing library of Karen Kitze legends

"The benefit that we're having at Bucketheads is less a benefit and more a celebration of life," said Machtan. "A chance for people to come together and say 'Who is she?',  'How did she influence us?', and 'We miss her.'"

You can share memories, learn about the celebration of life, and find ways to donate to the scholarship on the group's Facebook page: 

Karen Kitze Scholarship Fund.