Chris Hartwig passed away peacefully on Thursday, April 28, 2022 at the age of 79 following many years of health challenges.
Chris was born December 29, 1942, the first child of Hans Henry Hartwig and Joan Marie (Peotter) Hartwig. He was raised on Leminwah Street in Appleton. Chris was a mischievous child and enjoyed playing in his neighborhood near Riverside Cemetery and spending time at the gas station at the end of his block learning about cars, which sparked a lifelong mechanical aptitude and interest. He inherited an inquisitive mind from his father and an indomitable work ethic from his mother as he watched them start their business, Crystal Print, Inc., out of their garage in 1949. He attended Edison Elementary School and excelled in basketball until he was stricken with polio in the summer of 1953. His battle with polio was one of the factors that led to his health problems later in life.
Chris attended Roosevelt Middle School and Appleton High School (now Appleton West High School), where he participated in basketball and theater. He was blessed with a brilliant mind, but wasn’t always interested in classroom learning. He graduated in 1961 and went on to attend his father’s alma mater, Lawrence University, where he studied chemistry before leaving to fulfill his dream of working in the paper industry. He worked for large pulp and converting companies on the east coast and eventually returned to Appleton, joining his father at Crystal Print, which had by then left the garage and moved to Little Chute. They worked side-by-side for years until his father passed away in 1976. Chris purchased the business in 1979, and he grew it from a small company into a premier manufacturing business in the Fox Valley. He was an expert in printing and packaging and used his knowledge to transform Crystal Print into one of the first vertically integrated flexible packaging companies in the country.
Chris was gifted by God with great intelligence and a fierce entrepreneurial spirit. He gained his knowledge the old-fashioned way: extensive reading and talking to people. He never learned how to use a computer or a smartphone. A thirst for knowledge drove him, and he could converse on a great variety of topics from chemistry to construction management to history and foreign affairs.
Chris showed deep enthusiasm and drive in everything he did, and his passion for his business was the cornerstone of his life. He was blessed with many loyal and equally passionate employees, to whom he was eternally grateful. Chris was hard to work for, and he was known for being a very tough businessman and an uncompromising perfectionist, but those close to him knew that underneath a rough exterior was a soft heart. He considered his employees a part of his family, and he would do nearly anything to help them if they were in need. Chris’s passion led him to be engaged in his business until the very last day of his life.
The most important person in his life was his wife, Evie. They met in 1972 and were married on May 29, 1982 in Appleton. She was the love of his life, his conscience, and the force that helped his dreams become a reality. Even in the very difficult years leading up to his death and during his darkest days, he always let Evie know how much she meant to him. To their children, Chris and Evie served as an example of true loyalty and commitment.
He and Evie raised two devoted children, Dana and Hans. Chris had a strong inner child and injected a sense of magic and wonder into the childhoods of Dana and Hans, his nieces and nephews, and their friends. He was always looking to create a new memory or experience for them. The birth of his children changed Chris’s priorities in life. He grew deeply committed to leaving his world better than it was when he entered it. Dana and Hans now carry on Chris’s legacy at Crystal Print as the third generation of family ownership.
Chris’s passion for local philanthropy had a significant impact on Little Chute and the greater Fox Valley. He guided and funded numerous municipal projects in Little Chute including Little Chute Elementary School, Little Chute Public Library, Little Chute Windmill, and Village Hall. He donated land for new parks and playground equipment and was very proud to purchase new fire trucks and police cars for the Village. Chris envisioned a community where people felt safe and desired to raise their families. When Dana and Hans entered school, Chris became a benefactor of private education in the Fox Valley, and he was instrumental in funding the building and remodeling of several local schools, including schools within the Xavier Catholic Education System, Fox Valley Lutheran High School, and Appleton Christian School. He created the Hartwig Family Foundation and the Crystal Print Foundation, and donated much of his wealth to hundreds of worthy causes and organizations. He served as a mentor and guide to many family members, friends, and business associates, who relied on him in their time of greatest need. Chris rarely took public credit for his generosity, as for him the satisfaction of helping others was recognition enough.
Chris loved adventure and living on the edge. He could become quick with excitement and hearty laughter. He loved to drive fast, and one of his favorite outings was cruising College Avenue and eating at Frank’s Pizza Palace with his kids. Fourth of July was an important holiday for Chris, but he loved lighting off fireworks for any occasion. He wasn’t afraid to take risks and would often get himself into trouble by pushing the limits and saying whatever he thought, even if it was unacceptable or inappropriate. Although he was an extrovert, at times he struggled with loneliness and connection to others because his mind worked differently. He valued commitment and perseverance; the safety of his loved ones was of the utmost importance to him. He was hard on people but equally hard on himself.
In 1991, Chris founded a vintage racing team with employees and friends, and together they raced at Road America and many other tracks around the country. He loved cars, especially Mustangs. Chris was also an avid sports fan and enjoyed attending Packers, Bucks, and Badgers games and NASCAR races.
He was proud to serve on the boards of directors of many local organizations, including Road America, Riverside Cemetery, Appleton YMCA, Lawrence University, and Appleton Medical Center. He was also a long-standing member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO), through which he and his family had numerous once-in-a-lifetime experiences, such as meeting U.S. presidents and foreign heads of state, including members of the British Royal Family. He was happy to discover his ancestral roots in Hildesheim, Germany on his honeymoon and forged a lifelong bond with his German cousins and their descendants. Finally, he enjoyed annual trips with his family, extended family, and friends to Disney World, Vero Beach, Florida, New York City, Sabourin Lake in Canada, and Beaver Creek, Colorado.
Chris felt very blessed to become a grandfather in the final years of his life. He found delight in visits from his grandchildren, Evie and Henry, who brought him a sense of joy that he hadn’t felt since the birth of his own children.
Despite his health challenges in the last decade of his life, Chris was driven to succeed and never give up until the very end. Whatever he set his mind to, he did it with passion and he perfected it. Chris was always making plans for tomorrow.
Chris is survived by his wife Evelyn (Zuleger) Hartwig; his two children: Hans Christian Hartwig (Appleton), Dana Christa Hartwig (Appleton) and her husband, Michael Sutcliffe, and their two children, Evelyn Louise Sutcliffe and Henry Hartwig Sutcliffe.
He is further survived by his sister Bettina Hartwig (Scottsdale, Arizona); his aunt, Patricia Peotter Marshall (Madison); and dearest cousin, John (Julie) Marshall (Madison). He is also survived by Evie’s brothers and sisters who were an important part of his life: Rev. Donald Zuleger, Marlene Zuleger, Robert (Mary) Zuleger, Mary (Scott) Spaay, Debbie (Steve) Buckoski, Kathy (Wynn) Beuge, Tom (Tracie) Zuleger, Ann (David) Funk, and John (Anne) Zuleger. He is survived by many cousins and his 24 nieces and nephews including his beloved goddaughter, Kathryn (Jon) Horan.
He is further survived by his childhood best friend, Bill McKenny, and many loyal lifelong friends, including Pat Hietpas and Gary Wynveen. His family would also like to acknowledge all of Chris’s employees who were instrumental in his success, including retired employees and colleagues: Jack Gehl, Hub Hennessey, Paul Mahlberg, Jim Miller, Dan Gavronski, Bill Melzer, John Rouman, Dave Holmes, Linda Tucker, Duane Vander Zanden and many more.
Chris was preceded in death by his parents and his father-in-law and mother-in-law, Ray and Dolores (Van Handel) Zuleger. He was further preceded in death by his dear brother-in-law, Greg Gratton.
The family would like to thank the entire team at Eagle Court Memory Care in Appleton, particularly Trevor and Ashley, for all the care and compassion they showed Chris these past five months.
A memorial service for Chris will be held at First United Methodist Church at 325 E. Franklin Street in Appleton on Saturday, May 7, at 11:00 am with Rev. Markus Wegenast officiating. A time for visitation will be held on Friday, May 6, from 4:00 - 7:00 pm, at St. Thomas More Church on 1810 N. McDonald Street in Appleton. A second visitation will take place on Saturday before the service from 9:00 - 11:00 am at First United Methodist Church. He will be laid to rest beside his parents in Riverside Cemetery. Memorial gifts can be made to First United Methodist Church, St. John Nepomucene in Little Chute, Fox Valley Lutheran High School, Xavier Catholic School System, or a local charity of your choosing.
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