Bio: Engel, Marvin "Mike" (25 April 2005)

Contact:  Crystal Wendt
Email:  crystal@wiclarkcountyhistory.org

----Sources: Marshfield News Herald (Marshfield, Wood County, Wis.) Mon, Apr 25, 2005

Retired Spencer landscaper turns 100

Engel known for his skills in mud-wrestling ring

By Jonathan Gneiser - - Marshfield News-Herald

SPENCER - Marvin "Mike" Engel has never been afraid to get his hands dirty.

The only thing that rivals his reputation as a gardener and landscaper is his quick moves in the mud wrestling ring.

"I'm noted for mud wrestling," he said. "Whenever they had any doings downtown, we'd put on that mud wrestling, and that was the main attraction." Last year for Engel's 99th birthday, Spencer Village President Bettye Nall proclaimed it Marvin "Mike" Engel Day to recognize his efforts to brighten area lawns and the mud wrestling entertainment he provided for many years during Spencerama Days, said Engel's granddaughter, Lori Andres.

On Sunday, family and friends gathered to celebrate Engel's 100th birthday, which is today.

Engel, who started wrestling when he was 22 and stopped at the age of 60, said he was known as the "speed boy of central Wisconsin" "I wasn't strong, but I was fast," he said.

When he read in the Milwaukee Journal about wrestling matches held in molasses in Tennessee and in fish in New Orleans, Engel said he decided to organize mud wrestling matches throughout central Wisconsin.

Engel said he once convinced a friend to referee a wrestling match wearing all white clothes and a red tie during the Loyal Corn Festival. During the match Engel grabbed the tie, causing the referee to lose his balance and dive into a pile of mud.

Engel was born in Waupaca and his family moved to a farm near Spencer when he was 10 years old. While still in school, Engel said he raised 800 bushels of potatoes on 2.5 acres. He completed school through the eighth grade.

Engel had planned to go into the chicken business.

"I had all the buildings and chicken coop ready," he said. But then a depression hit, and faced with the prospect of selling eggs for 5 cents a dozen, he gave up on that idea.

"I never got a chicken out there," he said.

Instead, Engel worked for 10 years as a miller at a new feed mill in Spencer.

Seventy three years ago, Engel started Engelwood Garden Center, 611 W. Clark St., Spencer, Andres said. Engel retired at age 98 and his granddaughters now run the business.

Engel started the nursery by building a stock of bridal wreath bushes, but twice a depressed economy caused him to sell off everything he had grown. Eventually the business succeeded, as Engel added a greenhouse onto his house and started doing landscaping jobs throughout central Wisconsin.

Healthy lifestyle choices might have helped Engel reach the century mark. "I never smoked, drank or tasted coffee - and I didn't carouse," he said. "It bothered me they had that dance hall in the woods. Everybody was drunk."

The women he saw leaving the dance hall gave Engel a somewhat negative attitude about the opposite sex. He would agree to ride along to Greenwood to meet the sister of a friend's girlfriend only after he found out she taught Sunday School.

A little more than two years of dating that teacher, and Engel decided to ask Nina to marry him. Following multiple rejections, Engel finally convinced her that they should sign up to get married at the Central Wisconsin State Fair on Sept. 5, 1935.

Engel was Spencer's Outstanding Citizen of the Year in 1978, Andres said.

Jonathan Gneiser can be reached at 384-3131 or 800-967-2087, ext. 334, or at jgneiser@marshfieldnewsherald.com.

 

 


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