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Horlick High School
91-year-old alum donates funds for Horlick Fieldhouse scoreboards

RACINE — Jim Bie had a problem. At 91 years old, he’s still feeling healthy. He’d planned to donate large sums of money to a number of different organizations after he died, but then he stumbled upon a strange question:

“What if I don’t die?” he laughed, speaking Friday night inside Horlick High School’s freshly renovated fieldhouse. “Why don’t I give away the money now and watch the organizations make use of that money?”

That’s why he donated $75,000 to Horlick, the school he graduated from in 1945. The funds have been used to purchase two new scoreboards and one high-definition video screen. The fieldhouse renovation was completed in November, but the scoreboards were installed on Wednesday, Horlick Activities Director Joe Wendt said.

They were christened during a boys basketball game against New Berlin West High School on Friday night, which included a halftime ceremony to honor Bie’s contribution.

“I wanted to do something good, something everybody could enjoy,” he said.

The scoreboards actually cost nearly $100,000, according to Wendt. The rest of the funds will be provided through selling advertisements and sponsorships, Wendt said.

A life after Horlick

When Bie was in high school, he was one of those kids who did everything. He starred in the senior play, sang in a choir, was the starting center on Horlick’s football team and qualified for the state track meet as a hurdler.

His father was an athlete, too. Bie said that his dad played on the Racine Iroquois football team, the first team to ever score against the Green Bay Packers in a professional football game. The Iroquois still lost the game, 76-6 on Oct. 12, 1919, “But they scored!” Bie cheered.

However, Bie’s dad wasn’t wealthy enough to send his son to college, even though Bie had the brains for it — he later joined the Mensa high IQ society.

“We didn’t go to Cancun. We went to the employment office,” Bie remembered, growing up in the 1930s and ‘40s. “I didn’t want to go back to the factories.”

That’s where football coach Glen Morrow and track coach Art Ritt stepped in; Bie ended up recruited by Tulane University as a two-sport athlete.

Bie went to Tulane for two years before joining the Army, helping keep the peace in Germany after World War II. One of Bie’s jobs was to organize athletic events for the soldiers, a deliberate distraction to keep the “handsome American boys” from chasing after available German lasses.

After returning home, Bie got a degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and became a stockbroker. He also became part owner of a nutritional supplement company, Nutrition 21. A friend founded the business, and Bie helped him fundraise and get the company off the ground.

“This thing just went wild,” Bie said, talking of the unexpected success of the company, which helped him acquire “quite a bit of money.”

He’s lived in California since the 1960s and retired in the 1990s, but returned to Racine Friday to see the scoreboards he helped pay for get installed.

‘An incredibly generous man’

Wendt called the scoreboards “the final touch to the best fieldhouse in the State of Wisconsin” during the halftime ceremony Friday night.

Below one of the scoreboards, a photograph and plaque will be hung.

The photo features depicting Bie and five of his high school buddies (Gene Franks, Don Kamm, Ron Ashenfelter, Don Keppler, Wally Barzditis) in 1945, all wearing their letterman jackets.

Don Kamm is the father of David Kamm, the president of Horlick’s golf outing committee. David Kamm said that Bie called him a few months ago, offering $50,000 to Horlick and wanting to know how that money could be used. Kamm connected Bie with Wendt, knowing that the money could go toward the fieldhouse renovation.

When Bie saw that his money would be spent on something practical, he bumped his offer up to $75,000.

“This is all about an incredibly generous man,” Kamm said after the ceremony.

Bie said he provided large sums of money to several other organizations this year, locally and nationally. He said he gave $15,000 to St. John Nepomuk Church in Racine, another $15,000 to Tulane, $25,000 to UW-Madison’s journalism programs, $30,000 to the Fisher House Foundation to provide housing for military veterans’ families, $75,000 in scholarships to Horlick graduates attending Hillsdale College in Michigan, and another $1,000 to the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.

“It’s outstanding. This generosity is really humbling,” said Racine Unified School Board President Robert Wittke Jr., who attended the ceremony. “It’s great to see those that graduated come back and donate to our schools. We’d love to see many, many more.”

For Bie, he says it all started at Horlick. He still fondly remembers the five friends, all of whom have now died, that he spent almost every hour with during those high school years.

“We knew as soon as we hit 18 (years old), bang, we were in the military ... we all got separated,” he said. “It was really the days we spent in school that set the pattern for where we went in life.”

“It was really the days we spent in school that set the pattern for where we went in life.” Jim Bie, Horlick High School Class of 1945

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