Ralph, as he came to be known in my adult years by me and my family, was one of the most amazingly inspiring and gifted human beings whoever walked this earth. I had the pleasure and opportunity to be one of his English and Drama students in junior high and high school. Never did I have a teacher......he always felt more like a professor....in all my years in school, including college and graduate school, whom I admired more and from whom I learned to fall in love with literature and learning in general. Ralph was not only a passionate, dedicated, devoted teacher and theater director, he was a loving man who held his family and friends deep within his heart. Never did any of us feel, no matter the physical distance, that we were not always in his thoughts. Being in his presence was a joy and a gift and I will miss him dearly, as I will miss his holiday letters of all his travels and experiences. I consider myself so very blessed to have known him in this lifetime.
A true gentleman and supporter of the arts.
Of the many teachers I had, I remember Mr. B. well. He gave me a great foundation for writing in college and beyond. His zest for English was contagious. Both my husband and I had him for British Authors at different times. I like to think his passion for teaching English lives on, as both our sons found jobs teaching English.
I had Mr. B. for English class grades 9 and 11. I was also in his plays and was fortunate enough to work with him as president of the Drama Club. We hosted a dinner at our house before a group went to the Rep for a play. My mom enjoyed meeting him. Yes, I can still recite the beginning of the Prologue and many Shakespeare verses. I also married an English teacher.
As others have written here, Ralph Bielenberg was a marvelous, engaging, and dedicated teacher. As our teacher for homeroom, Language Arts and Social Studies in 7th and 8th grade at Edison (1960-61, 61-62), he was unforgettable.
And he never forgot his students! When an article about an adult literacy program in the Journal Sentinel mentioned my name almost 30 years after those junior high years, he remembered and wrote to me. When he met my parents at some function, he remembered them. When four of us took an adult enrichment course from him in 2018 (almost 60 years later), he remembered us and was curious about what had happened to our classmates. (And, yes, he still had those grade books with their names.)
As he remembered so many so well, I will remember him and never cease to be grateful for what and how he taught.
Peace of mind is a call away. We’re here when you need us most.
I have read all these accolades to a wonderful man and educator. A man who inspired so many to deep thought and contemplation of language, theater and literature. All with a warm heart, sharp wit and a passion to share it all. He was my 7th and 8th grade English and social studies teacher at Edison Junior High in 1959 and 1960. He then came to John Marshall in my sophomore year and I was again able to have him for all my English classes. As an adult I am a member of Learning in Retirement through WCTC. WhenI saw he was teaching literature classes, I couldn’t wait to sign up and took several of his courses. He remembered me from all those years ago and even brought in his grade books from those Jr high classes and I brought the Marshall year books where he had written entries to me. We often discused the plays at APT .He was one of the most influential teachers I ever had. I kept the post cards he sent me from his trips for years. I will miss him for sure, but will always remember what a GREAT teacher he was and how willing he was to freely share his passion for the written word.
It has been my great honor to consider Ralph extended family for all these decades. We worked with him on many Early Music Now Auctions. I shared plays with him at the Milwaukee Rep, the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, and American Players Theatre. We had many lunches & dinners every year. And there were dozens of slide shows of his many trips all over the world; each amazing photograph accompanied by the classical music he taped to match every scene. You lived a good life, Ralph. I will especially miss your sharp wit, ever at the ready. While I am sad to let you go, Shakespeare's Hamlet has this quote. "Thou know'st 'tis common; all that lives must die, Passing through nature to eternity. " I look forward to seeing you there again some day, kind Sir.
A wonderful man. Deeply thoughtful driven by knowledge, intellect, and kindness. I am so grateful for the
time he shared with me
I was Ralph's pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church from 1997-2005. He is a beautiful, grace-filled Christian spirit and soul. Rest in God's arms Ralph.
I was a June 1968 Marshall graduate. I have wonderful memories of him, especially
when he and I worked on the music for one of the class musicals. I believe
it was Oklahoma, but since it was so long ago, it may have been another production.
At any rate he came to my house on a Saturday, and we spent several hours
recording the music for the production on my reel to reel recorder in sections for
the performance, which was then used during the musical.
I've always remembered that day, and how he and I became good friends. Over the years I've often thought about him, and what a nice and decent man he was.
Hre will be missed....
Mr. Bielenberg was an excellent teacher and the reason I became an English major in college. He taught me that through literature I could access history, art, spirituality, transcendence. I will never forget his rendering of the poem “The Prisoner of Chillon” to our 11th grade British Lit class at Marshall H.S. (1976-1977). Thank you for sharing your gifts with us, Mr. Bielenberg. You were the best, and you will go on in all of us. “Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote...”
Before “Harry Potter,” before “Games of Thrones,” even before “Dead Poets Society,” there was Ralph Bielenberg’s British literature course at John Marshall High School in Milwaukee, Wis. And everyone who experienced his dramatic gift for conveying the history of the English language and literature ~ will never forget it.
Memorizing Chaucer’s prologue to Canterbury Tales? Fifty years later, classmates can meet on the street and recite it to each other...with rueful smiles for the memories his teachings and distinct personality evoke.
My family was fortunate to keep in contact with Ralph through our church, Trinity, in Sherman Park. And my husband and I were honored to work with him on behalf of Early Music Now, after he invited us to a concert and we were ‘hooked.’
Ralph Bielenberg was truly a Renaissance man, a great teacher and a good friend. He will be truly missed.
Ralph Bielenberg was a wonderful associate member of the MacDowell Club of
Milwaukee. He was the stage manager for our programs and performed his job beautifully. He was stage manager for the last MacDowell Club program at Villa Terrace on September 22, 2019. He was a kind and thoughtful man, and we will miss him greatly. Sincerely, Sally Schwarz, VP/Program Chair, MacDowell Club
Very early in his career, 1961, Mr. Bielenberg taught our 7th grade Language Arts class at Edison Jr. High in the newly-formed MPS Gifted Program. From the start, his strong expectations and energetic delivery motivated us to delve into broad aspects of language and literature fostering, for many of us, a profound appreciation for viewing aspects of communication and culture through interpretive analysis. He remained one of our most memorable teachers even as we moved on into different fields of study. When I transitioned to teaching Gifted English in the Orlando public school system in 1987 after twenty years in the business world, memories of his dedication impacted my love of teaching. Fast forward to 2017 when I returned to the Milwaukee area and, along with several of my former 7th grade classmates, enrolled in an enrichment class he taught. His impressive knowledge was just as formidable as that 7th grade class of 50+ years ago, second only to his ability to remember four of his former students. And as we reminisced about those Edison Jr. High days and those early years as members of Trinity Presbyterian Church, I discovered that he also had a great sense of humor. Mr. Bielenberg, you will always be remembered with great appreciation and respect.
Ralph Bielenberg was my British literature teacher and my school play/drama coach, including for Thornton Wilder's Our Town. Many years later we renewed our acquaintance when he took a class that I taught. Ralph, this is for you from Our Town: Emily: Oh, Mama, look at me one minute as though you really saw me. Mama, fourteen years have gone by. I'm dead. You're a grandmother, Mama! Wally's dead, too. His appendix burst on a camping trip to North Conway. We felt just terrible about it - don't you remember? But, just for a moment now we're all together. Mama, just for a moment we're happy. Let's really look at one another!...I can't. I can't go on.It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another. I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back -- up the hill -- to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Good-bye , Good-bye world. Good-bye, Grover's Corners....Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking....and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths....and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth,you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every,every minute?
Stage Manager: No. (pause) The saints and poets, maybe they do some.
Emily: I'm ready to go back.
I'm so sorry to hear this news. And yes, I too can still recite the prologue to the Canterbury Tales, much to the chagrin of my kids. I became an English major, and he helped spur my love of this subject. I am forever grateful to him.
Wonderful teacher, wonderful man. I will miss him at the next (50th) reunion. And I will never forget the prologue to the Canterbury Tales, in the original Middle English.
He was a wonderful Drama coach. He was smart,kind,funny and fierce.
Very sorry for the loss of this wonderful teacher. I had him back in '79 British Authors. Had to make sure I did my homework 'cause you never know when you would be called on to recite the Cantabury tales. I'm glad he lived a long life.
Few teachers at any level had the impact on my education, and therefore my life, that Ralph did. Sure, I can still recite the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales in Middle English, but his Advanced English class for juniors was so much more than that, and he was so much more than that class. His casting me as the lead in the play my senior year directly led to a (so far) 40-year career in the theatre. When my brother David (who had Ralph’s class four years after I did) had some milestone, Ralph came over to my parents’ house for dinner, and I made sure to come in from Madison or Chicago. Because Ralph.
My other favorite school memory of him is at least partially responsible for my love of language: every other Friday in his class we would play the dictionary game (known in less delicate circles as Bullshit). I will still occasionally organize a game when gathered with friends, and invoke Ralph as the source.
Happy Trails, Ralph.
Peace of mind is a call away. We’re here when you need us most.
I think all of us who had Ralph ("Mr. Bielenberg") as our English teacher at Marshall High had to memorize the prologue to Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales." He was a gem of a man, a gentleman in every sense of the word, and such a good teacher. I was fortunate enough to take a British Poetry class from him last year at the "School for Seniors" at the United Methodist Church in Whitefish Bay. We even used the same textbook that we had used at Marshall. Ralph so loved what he taught that he made the poetry come alive when he read it. I will miss him.
Class with Mr. Bielenberg wasn't just class. It was a potentially memorable event. He was a dedicated, effective, and innovative teacher and kind human being. I received an excellent education in High School, and teachers like him are why that was so.
Ralph was one of my favorite teachers at Marshall. I was so afraid of not being able to memorize the first 18 lines of the prologue to Canterbury Tales during the school year that during the summer before I took a bus downtown to take out a recording of some English actor reciting it. Everyone in my class was disheartened when I volunteered to go first and ruined the curve. Years later it still comes back.
He was also excellent on British history. And to help us prep for finals he had us playing a quiz bowl game.
And it was really nice of him to invite the class of the previous year over for a Christmas party when we were seniors. All good memories.
I'm so glad I got to see Me Bielenberg at our 50th reunion. It was such an honor to have him there. He was a remarkable teacher and the reason I majored in English in college. He left a lasting impression on my life. And I still can recite the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.
I remember once after class when Mr. Bielenberg told me that if I should ever give up my studies in math and science, he felt by looking at my work in class that I could become a very good writer....I never saw him after leaving Milwaukee, yet often have thought of this gentle man : ((
Please accept our deepest condolences for your family's loss.