Lincoln High School Alumni

Manitowoc, Wisconsin (WI)

Alumni Stories

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Jeff Pagels

Class of 1966

Outstanding classmate & athlete who dealt with personal tragedy and inspired countless others!!!


There are multiple sites on the Internet outlining Jeff's extraordinary accomplishments. I had the privilege of being a classmate & a football teammate of Jeff's. He certainly deserves to be the first from the class of 1966 to be included in the Alumni Hall of Fame--Tom (Marek) Garrigan
Rhinelander, Wi

Jeff Pagels, Olympic Torch Bearer
Posted by: Denise Pagel Moskovitz Date: January 15, 2002 at 11:49:13
of 735

from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 4 Jan 2002

Wisconsin Olympic Torch Bearer List
Former Paralympic Champion Jeff Pagels of Green Bay WI was one of Wisconsin's torch Olympic bearers.

(from a cached copy; this page is no longer live)

Jeff Pagels was born on September 24, 1948, in Two Rivers, WI. He attended Lincoln High School in Manitowoc and graduated in 1966. He furthered his education at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, earning a BS in Resource Management. Later, he earned his MS at UW-Green Bay in Public Administration. But none of this has been enough for Jeff. He has continued to strive for excellence throughout his life. And in spite of a life-changing injury he received in 1984, he has continued to work, inspiring others with his courage and strength.

Jeff married his wife Jane 29 years ago. They have two children, Corey, now 24, and Chad, now 21. In 1984, a tree fell on Jeff, causing severe injuries and leaving him a T-10 paraplegic. Instead of ending his hopes and dreams, the accident seems to have galvanized him into action. Read Jeff's words below and be amazed at all he has accomplished and continues to accomplish for himself and others.


I have been employed by the State of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources since 1974 as a District Community Services Specialist. My job includes administering and advocating for a variety of local grant programs associated with outdoor recreation. In this capacity I work to insure equal and quality access for recreation users who have disabilities, while protecting the natural environment. I was responsible for the oft-time quote, "Mother Nature does not have to comply with ADA."
I became a T-10 paraplegic as the result of a falling tree in October of 1984 and require a wheelchair for mobility. Since that time I have become involved in many Disability Programs, including:
--Former member of the National Wheelchair Athletic Association
--National Disabled Sports Association
--Wisconsin Wheelchair Basketball Conference (former)
--Northeast Wisconsin Advocacy Coalition, Inc.
--Committee on Accessibility
--Disabled Citizens, Inc. of the Fox Valley
--a six-year and now retired member of the United States Disabled Ski Team
and the US Wheelchair Swimming Team
--past member of the Department of Natural Resources Disabled Sports Advisory Council
-Horizons Wheelchair Sports Foundation
--Curative Workshop Users Advisory Committee.
I also served as a special assistant to the Coach of the American Sled Hockey Team helping with athlete conditioning (both physical and mental), grant writing, fund raising and anything else that needed to be done prior to the Nagano Paralympics.
At present I serve on the Executive Board and as Mobility Impaired Participant Coordinator of Ski For Light International, a non-profit disabled Nordic ski program.
I do peer counseling volunteer work at various hospitals and medical centers as well as one-on-one counsel with individuals with disabilities. I have developed a park and recreation accessibility manual, served as a chief advisor in the preparation of a federal US Fish and Wildlife Service video on accessibility and have conducted numerous "sensitivity" sessions for groups involved in providing services to the public and the disabled including the US National Park Service, the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Kansas Department of Conservation, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Somerset County, New Jersey Independent Living Center and numerous organizations and agencies in the State of Wisconsin.
To raise funds for my athletic pursuits and support Ski For Light, I also make numerous motivational and educational presentations to a variety of groups including service clubs, schools and business groups.
I have represented the United States in Norway in 1988 and again in 1991 at international disabled cross country ski races and in South America in 1990 in swimming competition. I have won 13 gold and 3 silver medals in international competition and was named to the 1992 United States Olympic Team that represented the USA in Albertville, France. In France (March, 1992), I became the first ever gold medal winner by an American Cross Country skier able or disabled. I won both the 5K and 10K races.
In the 1994 Winter Olympics held in Lillehammer, Norway I won three silver medals. I have won more Olympic Cross County ski medals than any other American athlete. I was recognized in 1991 and 1992 as Disabled Athlete of the Year by American Airlines and in 1992 by the National Disabled Sports Association and in 1992 and 1994 by the US Olympic Committee and was inducted into the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point Athletic Hall of Fame. In 1993, I received the "Beck International" Award, the highest honor a skier can receive from the US Ski Association. In 1994, I was a finalist for the prestigious "Sullivan" award, this country's highest amateur athletic award. I was also awarded Athlete of the Year by my community, the Village of Ashwaubenon. I am a "retired" soccer coach for both the boys and girls soccer teams at Ashwaubenon High School.
In the spring of 1993, I and another wheelchair athlete successfully completed the dangerous crossing of the Sierra-Nevada Mountain Range on cross country sit skis. This 55 mile trip up to elevations of 10,000 feet had never before been accomplished by disabled skiers.
In 1996, I was selected to receive the Wisconsin Easter Seal Society's Personal Achievement Award. I was also the focus of a Brown County Chamber of Commerce media campaign to help high schoolers think about careers.
In December 1996, I traveled with the USA Sled Hockey Team to Great Britain for sled hockey competition. In January of 1997, I traveled to Nagano, Japan to coach the Japanese Disabled Cross Country Ski Team. I followed that up with travel to Sweden to both compete in sled hockey and continue coaching the Japanese Nordic skiers. While in Japan I met with many organizers of the Nagano Olympics and Paralympic events. I was able to visit most venues and further understand the issues facing the upcoming games and the unique lifestyles and customs of the Japanese people. In 1999, I again returned to Japan to teach skiing to persons with disabilities.
I am supported in my ski racing, sled hockey and other athletic activities by JanSport Inc., the Peltonen Ski Company, Exel Ski Poles, and Halls Wheels (an adaptive equipment company), for which I am very grateful.

Reflections from Jeff Pagels on his recent assault on Mount Rainier....

The Rainbow Team all considered the expedition a success for the following reasons: The rope and ascender technology coupled with a Nordic sit ski works and works great. The equipment and clothing we had on the climb also worked flawlessly. (Check out our Sponsor Page…these folks sell great stuff!) We were in great physical condition before we started the climb and when we finished the climb. The Great Outdoors is truly a healing place. In the few days before the climb, I had a sore elbow and shoulder and all the other aches and pains associated with a 50 year old person. Once the climb started I was virtually pain free for the entire climb. I have never slept better in a tent than I did on Mt. Rainier. The views I saw above the clouds are views very few people with disabilities have yet to see. I hope many more get to see first hand what I got to see.

I had a dream several nights after the climb was over. In it, I was a grizzly bear, I wandered into a campsite and growled at the startled campers. They cowered in fear that I was going to hurt them. I looked them in the eye and they knew I could harm them, but that was enough, I turned and ambled out of the camp. They were not hurt, but now had knowledge of who I was. The point here is that the Mountain and those that live there now know too that disabled people are going to someday summit the mountain, something that previously was not believed.

The message to people, able or disabled is to seek out your own Mountain and try to climb it. Concentrate and Enjoy the journey, because that is a huge part of determining if your journey was successful or not. Don't measure success by if you reached the top, measure success by other things more important like the friendships you have made, the little problems along the way that need solving with teamwork and creativity, the chance to see the royal beauty of Mother Nature and the renewed physical and spiritual feelings you will have acquired on the journey.

To put it more precisely, Go Outside and Play!!!

There are many sayings said of mountaineers. Two I learned to appreciate go like this: Ascending is optional, but descending is mandatory. And, there are old mountain climbers and there are bold mountain climbers, but there are no old and bold mountain climbers! Both of these are grounded in the logic of safety. Our Expedition while sounding at times dangerous, was really not that dangerous as long as we followed all the safety precautions.

I hope others seek mountains like I did and enjoy the adventure like I did.

Jeff Pagels

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