My plan was to go downtown to visit my friend, Cleora, as she was staying on the 49th floor of a highrise apartment near Navy Pier to watch her newborn grandchild, Giulia, while her daughter returned to her teaching job. Overnight, the rain had turned to snow so I was wondering how I would have time to shovel the snow to get to the 6:25 AM express train where I would meet yet another dear friend, Sue, a daily commuter on her way to the Illinois Judicial Building. But then my dear husband, who hates early mornings, woke up and attempted to shovel the snow for me since our snow blower was on the fritz. Instead, he decided to drop me off in his heavy-duty truck at the train stop. Thanks to Larry I made it on time.
I stepped into the lives of commuters for the next hour and met friends of friends. Sue, being happy to have a me walk with her, treated me to a cup of delicious Starbuck coffee topped with whip cream to keep me warm on my walk toward Navy Pier. I reached my destination and was zipped up to the 49th floor where Cleora and her newborn grandchild greeted me. Now if it wasn’t for my thoughtful husband, I would have missed a very special day. Thank you, Larry. I hope more husbands will follow your thoughtful response.
Life with Larry took me to the Schuerr reunion in Fox Lake, IL on a warm, Sunday afternoon.. Larry greeted his 90 year old Aunt Esther by kissing and tickling her neck. He has greeted Aunt Esther in this manner over the past 30 years. She smacked him and said, “Stop it, Skip.” Skip was Larry’s boyhood nickname. Aunt Esther was always Larry’s favorite aunt even if she was instructed by his mother to shave his head completely bald every summer.
We soon noticed that smiling Aunt Esther was proudly holding hands with her 91 year old boyfriend, Emil. The lovebirds reminded us of high school sweethearts. Yes, Aunt Esther could easily write the recipe for life. Her laughter and teasing personality lightens up any room. She and Emil arrived in an orange, convertible Prowler like Cinderella going to the ball only accompanied by the prince. Emil sports two hearing aids and his sight isn’t great, but Aunt Esther is his eyes and ears. When Emil was no longer able to drive, he would pick up Aunt Esther in a riding lawn mover and set her on his knee.
As late as last summer, she road on the back of John’s Harley like a true motorcycle mama wearing only a scarf on her head. But now, Emil consumes most of her time. “I’ve been jilted by another man,” laughs John while flipping burgers.
On Friday’s her son, Jim, picks Emil and Esther up for a fish dinner. “I sneak peeks from my rear view mirror and catch them smooching. What a role reversal,” said Jim.
Watching Esther and Emil hold hands at the family reunion brought smiles to all our faces. Her recipe for life is simple. “You’re never too old to love and be loved.”. Regardless of ailments, the couple may well live to see their 100th birthday. Now that’s an occasion for another Schuerr reunion, for sure.
Now for an update: October 2017
I visited Aunt Esther last week. Regardless of her aches and pains, Aunt Esther’s twinkly blue eyes and big smile brings a warmth to anyone who visits her. She is now 96 and Emil 97. They still care for one another but see each other less. She recently attended her 1939 reunion at Grant High School in Fox Lake as the honored guest. Her children have created adventure opportunities for Esther such as down-hill skiing for the first time at 70, skydiving, horseback riding and tubing behind a boat, last year. Esther’s great sense of humor, her zest for life and her love for others is unique. She is my role model as a woman who knows how to face the future.
A brief biography of Esther Janseen Schuerr
Aunt Esther had six children. Her fifth child, Bobby, lived until 21 years old with cerebral palsy. Normally, a child in his condition would live no longer than seven years. But the whole family was trained to help Bobby who had to be hand fed and diaper changed. After his death, Aunt Esther and her husband took in an older gentleman who had no one. He stayed with them until his death five years later. She also has helped raise many of her grandchildren and you can always catch her making a batch of chocolate chip cookies even at 96.
The fact that Larry and I have been relatively healthy in our lives makes moments of sickness or times of surgery even more difficult. Larry has undergone numerous surgeries on his knees, shoulders, neck, back, etc. I was happy we had good insurance as teachers. Unlike most wives, I would drop him off at our local hospital and while he was being wheeled into surgery, I would take off to my teaching job or go cross county skiing around the hospital. This didn’t bother Larry at all since we both like to make the most of our time. You may wonder how Larry tore his body apart. He was a contractor for many years and he has had bicycle and ski accidents. But like the resilient bunny in the Duracell commercials, he always rebounded quickly. One time he was scheduled for surgery when I got a call from my friend, Cleora, telling me she was at the hospital, too. Her husband, Keith, was being tested for heart problems. That morning we enjoyed a cup of coffee together in the dining room of the hospital and laughed that both of them were in the hospital at the same time. Fortunately, none of these episodes were life threatening.
But there are times when Larry and I need each other desperately. I’ve lived my life actively enjoying biking, skiing, and mountain climbing. The only surgery I had was having my tonsils out at 9 years old. Surgeries are Larry’s department. I have been very fortunate. But on Martin Luther King’s birthday in 2017, I went out to start the van and defrost the windows for my dentist appointment. It was one of the few icy days we had and I slid down our driveway and fell right on my shoulder with all my weight. I had fallen years before in a biking accident and dislocated the same shoulder. I came in withering in pain and Larry was a great comfort. Now I have a torn rotary cuff and the prospect of surgery is scary for me. The thought of not riding my bike, not playing the piano and being without a right arm for up to 6 months is terrifying for me. So I have been learning to live with physical therapy and without surgery. But I think the time will come and when it does, I know Larry will be there for me and I’ll be more understanding of all he has gone through.
What are the lessons learned here? That when you take a marriage vow, it’s in sickness and in health. It means to be there for one another no matter what. We have learned over our 48 years of marriage to be servants to one another. Larry has never made me feel inferior being a female. It has never been about our roles as husband and wife. It has been about love and respect for the talents and abilities of each other and what we can do to build one another up to be productive human beings. I’m a better person because of Larry and he is a better person because of me. We both look to God for insights and wisdom in sickness and health. I wish that for you in a marriage relationship or in relationships with friends.
August is our busy birthday month. First comes my son, Aaron’s birthday, then our foster daughter, Donna Paluch, and finally my birthday. I’m 28 days older than Larry and he reminds me often during the month of August. I remind him that he looks much older—too bad guys generally don’t wear make-up—at least not Larry unless it’s Halloween or he wants to fit in with my tribe of girlfriends. But while Donna was living with us for three years during high school, she entered a contest describing why her foster father should be given the award of Father-of-the Year. I opened up an unread book we have had on our shelf named The Heart of a Father and found this letter in it. See what she said below.
For years I have been a foster child. I have never known the love a father and daughter share. There was no one to help me with school; there was no one to help me at all. As a child, I had no one to look up to. I had no one to call dad. I have a dad now. He is the most giving and compassionate man I know. He took in a girl who had no where to go. Not only was she a stranger, she was a stronger with a past. She was me. He has stood with me through moments of hell. We have climbed mountains together the last two years. He gave a girl on the brink of death a chance to experience life. He is an example for all people—-a member of big brother, big sister, an activist for the homeless, an activist for me. I call him Dad.
She won the award and a limousine picked her and Larry up and took them to the Oprah show. She was then on Channel 9 sharing her story and received free tickets for all of us to a Cub’s game.
Before we picked up Donna, she had attempted suicide by taking tylenol tablets. The hospital pumped her stomach and saved her. The three teenage years we had her were turbulent but we knew there was a gem within her. She was smart and tenacious. Today she is a lawyer living in Louisiana with her husband and three children.
God has saved her and used her as a public defender to help those with no hope. There were days during her times of fighting drug abuse that I thought there was no hope. She was hospitalized for a period of time and was strong enough to cut off unhealthy relationships. Donna read 45 books—mostly classics that summer and played basketball with me. She had the advantage being a lot taller than my 5 ft. frame. We are proud of the woman she has become. Happy Birthday Donna.
We live in a time when so much information is swirling around us through multiple means of media. When we were raising our family, Dr. Spock was the author everyone was turning to for wisdom. It was a time of no discipline and wisdom crumbled into a time of anarchy.
We raised our children through insights found in the Bible–We found the book of Proverbs and the words of Jesus our best blueprint for living. It spoke about how to deal with enemies by overcoming evil with good. Julie, our daughter, was the new kid on the bus and was not greeted warmly. We made cookies and the next day she distributed them and built a bridge of friendship through kindness.
We are living in difficult days where marriages are crumbling and the suicide rate and death by bullets is at an all time high. Our society has all kinds of directional devices but not one for living a good life. We need a societal directional system. Today I put together wisdom I found in 2 Timothy 3 and 4. I hope it will help you understand the times we live in and give you strength to stand firm.
“People will be lovers of themselves. Boastful, proud, abusive. Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–Always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. To suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers saying what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth. But you, keep your head in all situations. Endure hardship–Discharge all the duties of your ministry.” 2 Timothy 3 & 4
By committing your life to Christ and spending time in his love letters to us, life will have purpose and meaning. “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10.
It was a warm and beautiful day in San Diego where we escaped the winter by staying with my wonderful cousin Dave Berge and his wife Gail. We woke up to the sound of the ocean and the call of the birds and seals. Yes, his condo was right on the beach of Oceanside. We took our morning walk and ended up at a coffee shop. Larry wanted to stop and get a Marine hat. In his picture he is wearing a Navy hat. You see, Larry spent 4 years as a Marine where our daughter, Deborah, was born in South Carolina. But later, he joined the Navy reserves as an air-controller. Even though he was in the reserves for 19 years, he still was a Marine—–once a Marine, always a Marine. We walked into the local military store and checked out the Marine hats. We were not satisfied with any of them and concluded we would buy one at the Marine base in San Diego.
He was still looking around so I left him to join my daughter at the coffee shop again. She was soaking up the rays. (See picture below)
When Larry returned, I said, “I thought we didn’t like that Marine hat. I guess you decided to buy it anyway.” He frantically put his hands to his head to retrieve the Marine hat and said,”Oh no, I walked out with the wrong hat and left my Navy hat at the shop.” Now Deb and I are laughing at the imaginary sight of police surrounding Larry for the theft of an unwanted Marine hat in exchange for the desired Navy hat he left at the scene of the crime. He quickly bolted up the hill two blocks to the store to return the hat and retrieve his Navy hat.
We had a good laugh and I knew I had another Life with Larry story. Now my question is how many of you have done something similar? Have you left something precious to you at a store or restaurant? I was guilty of leaving my cell phone in a restroom at a Cracker Barrel in Kansas. My point is that in life we need to give grace to those around us. We all make mistakes or have senior moments. This scenario turned out OK; how about yours?
I heard a flock of sand hill cranes overhead beaconing the end of winter. Sitting on my deck, I see budding trees, the crocuses and my new rhubarb plant. Yes, what looked like death is certainly now alive. Nature is such a beautiful picture of the resurrection of Christ. In the background, I love listening to Handel’s Messiah and the song, “I Know that My Redeemer Lives”. It is the perfect Easter message.
I am so thankful that Cornelius existed in Christ’s time, because he gave us a picture of God’s love. Cornelius was a centurion (soldier) in the Roman Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing. But he was not a follower of Christ at that time. It says in Act 10 that he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. As a result, an angel spoke to him and said, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. He was then instructed to get in touch with Peter who was visiting Simon, the tanner. At about the same time, Peter was praying and had the same vision three times where he was instructed to eat meat that was forbidden to the Jew. He then had a knock on his door and was instructed to go to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile. When Peter saw that God was opening the door to the Gentiles, he said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who reverence him and do what it right. Then he told them the good news of peace through Jesus Christ. As a result, before he finished speaking—the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on them.
We are thankful for the Jews who faithfully and accurately penned the Old Testament with the prophecies of Christ throughout. (See Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, and the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls for examples). Also reading Acts 10, I see that God hears the prayers and cries of the non-Christian and answers them if they seek Him with their whole heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
For example, I looked up at the sunset and called out to a God as a freshman in college. I didn’t think He existed. But I was looking for meaning and purpose in my life. I told God if he was there, He could have my life. Then I added, “Make something wonderful happen, if you truly exist.” That night, I met Larry at a dance—-my soul mate for life. Together we have seen the hand of God on our own lives, our families’ lives, and so many others. How he speaks to you may be entirely different. Just like nature is filled with a diversity of flowers and trees, so God has many ways to call his own to himself. Most of us have a thirst for more than this life can give. We know deep inside that the end of life is not the end. It’s written in our hearts
“Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out shouting, ‘Oh my God, what a ride.’” It has been that kind of year filled with many activities. Instead of being in beautiful snow laden MT this Christmas, we are home because of Larry’s meniscus knee surgery and our involvement in a Nativity play with Jonahre Foundation. We are gearing up for our last performance this Saturday at Egg Harbor Restaurant in Barrington. It’s a live nativity with a camel and lots of sheep. Larry and I didn’t like the scripts we saw on line so we wrote our own. This experience has brought us back to the theatre days at Cary Grove High School where we teamed up directing the school plays.
The year 2015 was a whirlwind of activity beginning with New Years in MT with Aaron, Lynelle and our three grandchildren—August, Jasper and Isaak. August loves aviation and had a chance to fly a real plane. Jasper loves physics and playing his cello. Isaak is very athletic and loves his French horn.
Elliot and Natalie drove out to MT with us this past summer so we could have a cousins’ reunion. It was so exciting to have them all together along with their Aunt Deborah. Elliot and Natalie are amazing readers. Elliot loves soccer and Natalie has been in several recitals playing the piano and singing.
One of the highlights of the year was our trip to Costa Rica with International Teams last March. We worked on building projects on their lovely campus filled with flowers and fruit trees. My job was to teach English classes to a couple Latin American women. What a wonderful way to make international friends for life.
I continue to keep my connections with District 155 by subbing when needed and Larry spent a lot of time volunteering with Love INC and Conference Point, a camp on Lake Geneva. Whoever said retirement is boring? We wake up to our coffee and ask God this question,”What do you have for us to do today?” There is always something. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10.
We hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year. Remember life is more than going through the motions of making a living, etc. You are unique just like your fingerprints and created for a purpose. Jesus said, “I am come that you may have life and more abundantly.” John 10:10. Go for that abundant life and don’t settle for anything less.
Welcome growing older and in Larry’s words remember the following, “Old age and treachery will always win out over youth and vigor.” So smile at the future. We love to post our pictures on Facebook under Sue Schuerr and Larry Schuerr. We also have a blog called www.lifewithlarry.org. Please stay connected and stop in and visit when you are in the area.
We had been married for ten years with three beautiful children but
no home of our own. We finally qualified for a loan in 1978, but the interest rate was high. Our construction loan was 12%—a sign of the times during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. I longed for a home for my children—Deborah, Julia and Aaron. Just like the woman in Proverbs 31 who bought land, I traveled from West Chicago to Algonquin and saw the quaint town with the Fox River flowing nearby. I stopped at a real estate company telling him I was interested in buying a lot for our future home. We bought a lot in unincorporated Fox River Grove from a 90 year woman for a very low price. My brother Bill, a lawyer, wondered if it was under water. It was on a downhill lot filled with trees. We would need to clear it and put in a well and septic.
We rented a house in nearby Crystal Lake and worked in the evenings clearing the lot. I gazed longingly at our land and dreamed of the house we would soon build. It was a long wait before our home materialized. In 1980, the bottom fell out of the economy similar to what happened in 2008. There was very little work for my contracting husband and even though I helped support our family of three with homebound tutoring and subbing jobs, we could no longer afford to rent a house while building our own home.
Summer passed and we were staying in a camper at Buffalo Park in Algonquin. I drove the kids to school and then went to my tutoring jobs. Aaron, our son, was asked to draw a picture of his house. He said to the teacher, “You mean our lot.” He didn’t have a house yet. But even then as a young artist, Aaron could accurately draw his house which was just a frame with a ladder going up to the window. Today he is a noted plein air artists. See www.aaronschuerr.com.
Winter came and we moved into the garage and kept warm with our wood burning stove. Larry read C.S. Lewis stories around the fire. We identified with “Little House on the Prairie”. We were regulars at the YMCA where we had membership. In fact on Christmas Eve the staff told us the pool was closed. We said, “That’s OK. We just need showers,”
From the garage, we continued to complete the house. Larry struggled while putting the heating ducts in by himself. In frustration, his language became rather colorful. “I never heard Daddy talk like that,” said Debbie. I quickly shuffled the children off to bed saying we need to pray for daddy. Each day after school, the kids huddled around the radio and listened to children’s programs on Moody radio. I often remarked, “We have a loving home but no physical house to put it in yet.”
A woman from church invited us to stay at her home for a couple weeks while they were vacationing. “That would be wonderful,” I said. I try to remember how important hospitality can be. We had no choice living like this while we were building. There just wasn’t income—contracting had dried up and our interest rate was almost like the interest on our credit card.
From the garage we moved to the basement and established a kitchen similar to my Italian high school friend, Adelina Gina Maria Sangineto. The Italians I knew growing up cooked in the basement during the hot summer. Then after dry walling the bedrooms, we set up the bunk beds Larry made for Deb and Julie. The telephones were installed before the dry wall was completed. Unfortunately, someone stole our telephones and we had to replace them.
Our showers at the YMCA came to an end when we installed the bathtub. That was a momentous occasion. We took our first baths by candle light before the drywall was completed. It was pure luxury. I appreciated every step forward to the completion of our house.
Finally, the day came for our final inspection. We were very nervous because we still had major things to complete. The sink and one of the toilets was not functional yet. But we passed and shouted “Hallelujah.” I’ll never forget those difficult days and I’ll always have compassion in my heart for those in need. I was able to get a job teaching full time and I helped finance Larry’s education so he could complete his degree and become an Industrial Arts teacher. We knew we had to look for a more secure financial situation for us and our family. We were hard workers willing to take the opportunities to advance—- life then got much easier for us.
We have been in our home now for over 30 years and the walls reverberate with the voices of our three wonderful children and now our five grandchildren. Pictures of our odyssey from our lot to our home fill our walls. We love opening our home to friends for potluck dinners. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t thank God for our wonderful now paid off home. It has high ceilings and windows on the roof. It is decorated with tropical plants and large windows. Our wooded lot is surrounded with plants and trees. I love looking out the window watching the birds sing, the trees swaying in the wind or the snow glistening. Occasionally, a deer or a fox will make a quick appearance. I will always remember our times of struggle and our times of plenty. It is part of the tapestry of our lives
“Life is not measured by the breaths we take; but rather by the moments that took our breath away.”
As I was walking through the field house at Northern Illinois University, I felt a large, warm hand on my neck. It was Larry who I had recently begun dating. There was something about his touch that was protective and secure. I turned around and looked up into his beautiful eyes. He walked me to my dorm and pretended to slip and slide on the icy terrain bumping into me and causing me to laugh heartily. Three years later, I began my ‘Life with Larry’. Our almost 47 year marriage has been filled with humor and adventure. Practical jokes abound. Each night I get up around 2 AM. Just before I rest my head down, my pillow may often go sailing down the hallway. I get even by filling his pillowcase with shoes and other odds and ends.
Our marriage is far from boring. Larry is my trailblazer setting us off on one adventure after another. Our partnership has included a tandem kayak and a tandem bicycle. We have a deep love that conquers all. That love has grown by serving one another, by putting one another above ourselves and by forgetting who is right or wrong in matters. We try to follow what the Bible says. “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Many times we just agree to disagree. We can both be very stubborn. But the Bible continues to be our source for guidance because it never changes unlike the latest counseling advice. Laughter fills our home and we miss one another when we are apart. “Laughter is an instant vacation.” – Milton Berle