Cover photo for Richard E. Niggemann's Obituary
Richard E. Niggemann Profile Photo
1938 Richard 2022

Richard E. Niggemann

April 24, 1938 — May 3, 2022

Richard E. Niggemann, 84, of Rockford, IL, passed away unexpectedly on May 3, 2022.

Richard was born on April 24, 1938 to Leonard and Helen (Egle) Niggemann in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He graduated from Messmer High School in 1956. Richard attended Marquette University and graduated with honors in 1960 with a Bachelors of Science in Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering. In 1963, he earned his Masters of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Richard met the love of his life and wife to be, Sandra, at St. Albert’s Church in Milwaukee, WI. Three years later on September 10, 1960, they were married at that same church. Together they had four children in a span of under five years. Family vacations were generally of the camping variety which Richard appreciated for being both inexpensive and enjoyable. He and Sandra had fun taking the kids on trips across the US seeing quite a bit of the Rocky Mountain states and provinces as well as Wisconsin.

Over the years as the kids grew up, he enjoyed traveling with Sandra, visiting all fifty states and several countries around the world. One of Richard’s favorite trips was to Ireland where he developed a fondness for a daily glass of Guinness. Richard had a strong relationship with God and will more than likely be having his daily stout in heaven.

He was a dedicated member of Holy Family Catholic Church. Richard prayed daily for family and friends.

An early to bed and early to rise type of guy, throughout his retirement Richard started his mornings drinking coffee and competing with Sandra to solve evil level Sudoku puzzles which he won more times than not.

Richard watched various sports on TV with great enthusiasm, especially his favorite team the Green Bay Packers. He was always up for watching golf tournaments and auto racing. During his retirement, he appreciated many Father’s Day family excursions to the vintage car races at Blackhawk Farms Raceway.

Richard was passionate about aviation. He loved attending air shows with family and friends, especially the EAA AirVenture Air Show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Throughout his retirement, he kept up to date on aerospace news by reading the latest editions of AviationWeek & Space Technology magazine.
Two of his favorite activities he enjoyed doing with his grandchildren was taking them to the Rockford Discovery Center and making / flying paper airplanes with them. In his children and grandchildren, he instilled a love of science, a curiosity of how things work and a joy of problem solving.

During his time at Sundstrand, every day before work, Richard enjoyed staying fit by playing matches of handball, paddle ball or racket ball with work friends. At lunchtime, his office was often ground zero for a stimulating round or two of Sheepshead, the official card game of his birth city, Milwaukee. In addition, he had fun playing golf and shooting pool with the same group of close friends and colleagues for over 37 years.

Richard had a long and successful career in the aerospace industry. In 1960, his career took off at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft where he worked on the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion and Apollo Fuel Cell programs. In late 1963, he had a layover at Allison Division of GM, working in the Research Department on the Military Compact (nuclear) Reactor program. In 1966, Richard landed at Sundstrand Corporation where his career soared for 33 years working on space power and thermal control systems, including the Space Shuttle Auxiliary Power Unit and the Space Station Freedom Thermal Control System. He retired in 1999 as Director of Applied Research with over 25 patents under his belt.

A career high for Richard was testing one of his inventions intended for the space station in series of “zero-g” tests on NASA’s “Vomit Comet” KC-135 aircraft. The test flights were a success, and on October 6, 1987, the Forced Flow Evaporator for Unusual Gravity Conditions was patented. Recently, as Richard reminisced about these “zero-g” testing flights, with a twinkle in his eye and a huge grin on his face, he exclaimed that it was the best roller coaster ride ever!

A lifelong roller coaster lover, Richard never turned down the chance to ride a thrilling roller coaster (or two or three) with his eager to ride children and grandchildren at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, IL.

Richard had an extra dry and great sense of humor. He had the ability to find the ‘funny’ side of any event, even aging. As he approached his 80s, his response to “How are you doing?” was, without fail, “Pretty good for an old fart.” Lately he would add, “Still upright and still ambulatory.” Richard was not a big talker, but he enjoyed laughing and making people laugh.

In addition, he never met a sweet he didn’t like. If someone didn’t care for a particular sweet, he would grin and agree, saying,” Yes, these are terrible. More for me.” In fact, Richard’s keen sense of sweets helped him discover any and all treats that Sandra had secreted into his cookie jar. Like magic, he always made them disappear.

Most of all, Richard was a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend. He will be dearly missed and forever in our hearts.

He is survived by his wife, Sandra; children, Mark (Lesley) Niggemann, Susan (Lenin) Delsol, Scott (fiancée Laura Trippiedi) Niggemann; grandchildren, Anna (Charles), James, Collin and Kelly; great granddaughter, Amelia. Predeceased by his parents, son, Peter and brother, Tom.

Funeral Mass will be 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 10, 2022 at Holy Family Catholic Church. Visitation from 9 a.m. until time of Mass at church. In lieu of flowers memorials to Holy Family Catholic Church. Arrangements by Fitzgerald Funeral Home & Crematory, Mulford Chapel. Send online condolences at

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Service Schedule

Past Services


Tuesday, May 10, 2022

9:00 - 11:00 am (Eastern time)

Holy Family Catholic Church

4401 Highcrest Road, Rockford, IL 61107

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Funeral Mass

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

Holy Family Catholic Church

4401 Highcrest Road, Rockford, IL 61107

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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