Fred Leidel, a 100-year-old Wisconsin man, still bikes to Schenk Elementary in Madison, Wisconsin, to read to the kindergarteners there twice a week.

By Alex Heigl
Updated December 05, 2016 01:24 PM
Credit: Nitty Gritty - Madison/Facebook

Fred Leidel’s three-wheeled bicycle is a familiar site around Madison, Wisconsin. The 100-year-old, who was born before women could vote and spent World War II designing airplane propellers, tucks his walker in a cargo basket on the back of the bike and puts people a quarter his age to shame with the amount of activities gets done.

“When you get as old as I am, you have to find things to occupy your time,” Leidel told the Wisconsin State Journal. Among those things: Exercise that includes weightlifting and swimming laps, volunteering for the Experimental Aircraft Association — Leidel spent 37 years teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s college of Engineering, where he was also an associate dean — and at least one time, skydiving.

But perhaps the most impactful of Leidel’s varied extracurriculars are his twice-weekly visits to Schenk Elementary School, where he reads to kindergartners there who know him as “Grandpa Fred.”

“I like when he reads books to me, and I like it that whatever books you want to read and how many books you want, he does it,” Alaura Villarreal, who once had Leidel read seven books to her, told the State Journal.

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“So many of our kids don’t have other opportunities to read a lot of books at home. … His purpose for reading is really for fun,” teacher Lindsay Snyder told the State Journal. “It gives them a role model of someone who gives back to our neighborhood.”

Leidel made news last month when his UW faculty ID was’t accepted at his local polling place on Election Day. So, in another example of his perseverance, he spent two hours getting a new state ID before returning to the polls to cast his vote.

Schenk is throwing a birthday party for Leidel on Tuesday, and he says he has no intention of stopping his reading trips to the school.

“As long as I am able to get over here,” Leidel said.