“My hope for all of you is that you live a life full of fun and reach out to others to help them along,” he said. “As they say, we walk this way but once, and I want to walk the very best way I possibly can. I hope you take what is here and pay it forward; do what you can to help society. When we use our talents and work with others, we can make a significant difference in the world.”
The event touched the Nistlers deeply.
“That was truly incredible,” said Werner when reflecting on the ceremony. “The highlight was the band playing. They were passionate about playing those instruments. It felt really good.”
North Dakota upbringing
Werner grew up on a farm near Golva, North Dakota, and lived in nearby Beach, North Dakota, during his high school years. He and six of his nine siblings attended UND.
After arriving in Grand Forks, Werner went to work as a dishwasher in the Smith Hall cafeteria to pay for college. He worked his way up to cook and eventually became the student manager of the cafeteria, a job he held for his last three years on campus.
Werner began his accounting career after receiving a master’s degree from Arizona State University and spending two years in the Army. It was during a time when he served as the secretary-treasurer for a chain of nursing homes/retirement communities that he had the idea for a new kind of community.
As he traveled to the company’s properties, he was saddened to see couples separated when one needed more care than the other. He had a vision to create retirement communities where couples could stay together by providing a continuum of services. Touchmark was born in 1980 from that vision.
He met Colleen when she was hired as an accountant with Touchmark. Colleen and Werner have six children.
Today, Touchmark, based in Beaverton, Oregon, operates 14 full-service retirement communities in 10 states and one Canadian province, including communities in Bismarck, Fargo, and Sioux Falls and one in development in McKinney, Texas. The Nistlers have also owned medical records processing companies along with several other businesses.