Everyday Heroes. I got a call from Northwest Herald saying that a friend of mine wrote a letter recommending me as an Everyday Hero. Since my retirement, I have volunteered for various organizations including Adaptive Adventures which is featured here. My thoughts were that this award should go to my husband Larry instead who in the past has fixed up more than 2,000 bikes for the needy. He also has used his construction skills with Habitat, Willow, Bright Hope and Conference Point as well as helping many individuals. But I was chosen since I accompany him on many of these outings. It definitely is a time in our lives to give back and it is what has given us so much joy. If a person is wrapped up so much in his own life, he makes a small package. Enjoy the video and look for Larry as well.
“The Eyes are the Window to the Soul”
Being a child of the 60’s, I remember vividly a group of students and teachers hovered around a radio with the news of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I came home from my school on the south side of Chicago that evening to my family in tears as we watched the news. It was the beginning of woes—soon after Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were shot. The world was a different place—-the rug of security was pulled out from under us. But life goes on for a girl on her way to the university.
My best friend Carol and I set out for Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL. We were roommates in the first coed dorms, Lincoln and Douglas. We actually made a list of rules for ourselves which included no kissing on first dates. The other mission in our collegiate life was to visit various churches in our search for meaning and independence.
With our meal ticket in hand, we stepped into the coed lunchroom ready to refine the art of flirting. Carol was a master. Eating dinner, by the way, was a secondary activity.
“Looks don’t matter to me,” said Carol, “I’m more interested in dating a man with intelligence and personality.”
In contrast, I felt rather vain as I pointed to the picture of my dream stud muffin pinned on the wall by my desk. Glancing at George Hamilton made for a good study break. He was tall, dark, muscular and handsome—all my required ingredients in a man. I had my eye on a collegiate who fit that description. Eventually, Rick asked me out. But his handsomeness palled when he opened his mouth. I guess Carol was right. I needed to look beyond my poster dream boy.
Pledge time came; I watched intensely as Carol put her eyeliner on with a sharpened pencil; I was afraid she’d poke her eye out. We dressed in our best attire; piled our hair high and went to sorority teas. It was an adventure we could not afford. Sororities cost money we didn’t have; when we were invited back, we said “thanks” but we wanted to remain independent of any particular group.
After the tea, we went to the Union where students gathered nightly to dance. Looking to my left, I saw a tall and handsome young man. His engaging smile spoke volumes about his love for music and dancing. I dreamt of peering into his thoughtful, romantic eyes with lashes that would be the envy of any girl. OK, he didn’t have dark hair; he was blonde like me. I imagined myself encircled by his muscular arms. Other than that, he was my poster boy. Now there is someone I would like to meet, I thought. But the evening evaporated and Carol and I sauntered back to our dorms before opportunity knocked.
My rigorous and difficult classes kept me busy and often overwhelmed. I was thrown into advanced French with a Parisian teacher who spoke very little English. I survived my math class by rewriting my notes over and over again. Now speech was my specialty. I joined the speech team at NIU and was confident in my abilities. But I was disappointed in my first speech performance. It didn’t go well. I began my dialogue with God while gazing at the beautiful pink setting sun canopied in purple.
“I don’t know if you are there or not, but if you are—- show me you exist by making something wonderful happen. Right now, I wish I were a cloud floating along carefree. But if you are there, you can have my life,” I cried out.
My older brother, Bill, and I had many conversations on summer nights as we sat on the lawn looked up at the stars.
“There is no way we could ever know if God exists or not,” he said. I really valued the opinions of my intelligent older brother.
If God did exist, I thought, couldn’t he communicate with me, a human being? Couldn’t he reveal himself in some way?
My roommate, Carol, had a date the following Friday. Determined not to spend a Friday night in the dorm alone, I shyly ventured to the Newman Club for the Valentine Day dance alone. The band was in high gear when I looked across the crowded room of dancers. There he was, my poster boy, the very same one I had noticed at the Union the week before. He would stand out in any crowd. “You’re going to meet him tonight,” I heard but wondered where the inaudible voice came from. Fat chance I thought. He had a girl pasted on each side of him. When I came out of the bathroom though, he was standing alone. It was now or never to make a move before the pasted sisters returned. His picture was in the newspaper that day along with a comment on his views of the Vietnam situation. I starred at his picture for a long time earlier that afternoon peering into those mesmerizing eyes.
Like Cinderella, I had very few clothes and a very limited budget. However, my fashionable roommate was out to change my image. We went shopping the morning of the Valentine dance; she talked me into buying a bright red sweater with drawstrings that gently dangled over my breasts and a red and white checkered skirt.
“Red, unlike drab blue, will compliment your blonde hair and capture a guy’s attention,” she assured me.
Here I was a few feet away from my dream man. I was not going to let this opportunity pass by. I boldly walked up to him turning as bright as my red sweater and said, “What do you think of the Viet Nam situation?” He laughed knowing that I was making reference to his picture in the paper. He looked down at my five-foot frame and in a deep voice said, “Aren’t you Sue?” I was ecstatic that he knew my name. He had seen me for the first time that morning walking with his friend, Graham. He had me confused with a fast-moving girl named DeKalb Sue who was dating Graham. I melted when he asked me to dance to a medley of Beatle songs and even the cramp in my foot didn’t stop me. At the end of the evening, he asked if he could walk me back to the dorm. We held hands on the long walk back to the dorm. Girls had to be in by midnight on the weekends. I’d be grounded the next weekend if I was even a minute late whereas the men had no hours at all. At last, we arrived with minutes to spare. Placing me a step up, Larry starred into my eyes and they melted into mine. “Can I kiss you goodnight?” he asked. I very much wanted to be kissed by my prince charming. I don’t remember saying “Yes,” but Larry remembers and it was the softest gentlest kiss I had ever experienced. “I can’t believe you kissed me,” I said. I then remembered my vow to not kiss on first dates and this wasn’t even a date. It was a pickup. But Cupid’s bow had landed in our hearts and I ran down the hall shouting, “I’m in love; I’m in love”—-knowing that at 18 years old, I had found my soulmate. Yes, I do believe in love at first sight. Shakespeare was right when he said, “The eyes are the window to the soul.”
He called later that evening and we talked about our families. “Would you like to go out next weekend?” he asked. I held my breath hoping he would say Sunday instead of Saturday since I already had another date. “How about going to the Hootenanny on Sunday night at the Union?” Our dating relationship and mutual love for music began.
As I found out later, Larry was majoring in Dating 101. He had dated 32 different girls and still reserved Friday’s for pickups like me. He was making up for all the time he missed as a shy, overworked young man in high school. Larry’s classes were getting little attention. When people asked him where he would be living next semester. He would say, “Off campus,” Yes, I thought, way off campus. He later joined the Marines as an air controller.
There were ups and downs in our ongoing relationship. Larry was afraid of getting serious at nineteen years of age. I was very upset when he quit calling. When someone else asked me out, I said “yes” and ended up at the Newman Club dance yet again. It was Friday—Larry’s pick up night. He saw me with my new date and danced right next to us. My heart was throbbing uncontrollably. About 12:30 AM that night he called saying,” I didn’t like seeing you with that other guy. I think I’m falling in love.” We spent the next day talking, laughing and enveloped in each other’s arms. We knew there was something very special about our relationship and we didn’t want to lose each other.
God had answered my prayers by making something wonderful happen in my life. As a result, I gave my life to Christ and soon after Larry did as well. We know that we are gifts to one another and even after many years of marriage, the flame grows stronger. There is a God who designed us for one another and each Valentine Day is special to us.
The fairytale romance blossomed into marriage and the rearing of three children. Presently we have five grandchildren and we have had many foster children. Regardless of circumstances, our prevailing state is happiness. The scriptures say that “Two are better than one.” That has certainly been true in our lives. Larry built a beautiful high ceiling home for us filled with our son’s artwork, family pictures, and plants too numerous to count. We are so blessed and about to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary July 6th, 2018.
We enjoyed a wonderful family time in Montana with the unseasonably warm weather. We stayed at a cabin in Silver Gate near Cook City and skied in Yellowstone with Aaron and Lynelle and grandsons. It was a late Christmas celebration. We had no Wi-Fi and no telephone service… just electricity. It’s the greatest way for family bonding. Praying with your kids and grandkids is important but playing is as well. I have memories of running up and down playground equipment playing tag. Larry has been described as a little boy in a big boy’s body. Camping is another wonderful way to bond. There is something wonderful about our memories of camping at Devil’s Lake while sleeping out under the stars as a family. But we have even slept in our backyard minus a tent well before mosquito invasions. I guess the main point is breaking the routine. Yes, the family that prays and plays together stays together. Now how do you create memories with your loved ones?
This past week’s weather brings back memories of the winter of 1978. The ample amount of snow and cold made it a record breaking winter—the kids had four days off of school. Larry ordered a sewing kit from Frostline to make his own sleeping bag and coats for the kids. Yes, Larry is the seamstress in the family. Construction of any sort is his forte. After constructing his sleeping bag, he wanted to test it out to see if it was really good for -20 degree temperatures as it claimed. So he built a snow cave in the front yard of our house on Rt. 31 in Crystal Lake, IL. We had so much snow the winter of 1978 that the kids could jump off the garage into large snow drifts. Our mailbox was decapitated by the snow plow — we just stuck the poleless mailbox in the drift and got our mail that way. The snow plowers were so far behind in getting to their customers that Larry had to cross-country ski groceries to our friends trapped in their home.
But Larry was made for winter. He relished in it and always grew a beard in the winter to keep his face warm. It didn’t take him long to build a prize-winning snow cave. He kissed me and our three kids good night and off he went into below 0 weather to test his new bag. Samson, our trusty St. Bernard, lay at the front door as a guard dog in case of an Eskimo invasion.
I was warm and comfortable under my blankets thanking my lucky stars that I didn’t have to join him in this experiment. By 5 AM I heard the door open and my 6′ 2″ husband now in the shape of a pretzel and frozen like a popsicle snuggled up to me and awakened me with frozen pea like toes on my warm toasty legs. He then said,” My knee was bothering me too much to stay out all night.” When adventure doesn’t come to you, make your own by winter camping in your front yard. You too can freeze almost to death and live to tell your grandchildren. Stay tuned in—there were other winter camping experiences that I did not escape.
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 46 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 agreed 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
We have experienced many of the same problems other couples face like financial woes, differences of opinions, and accidents. But we always have lived life to the fullest. Somehow we were certain we could overcome any trial we faced with our own ingenuity and God’s help. We learned to forgive and forget, to concentrate on the positive actions of our spouse and to hope for the best. Larry will always forget to shut doors and leave a pile of clothes by the bed. I will fail to turn off the bathroom light and mess up anything mechanical. But we accept one another with our weak and strong points. We normally go on volunteer trips together. We have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, Samaritan’s Purse and Love INC and currently, American Blind Skiing Foundation. But this time I will be staying home. Larry will be going to Galena, Alaska with Samaritan’s Purse to rebuild homes destroyed by the flooding of the Yukon River. They want people who have expertise in carpentry which I do not have. I hope by sharing our secrets to a happy marriage, you also will find wisdom to build a strong marriage as well.
safety (Click here to see the video)
Larry has been working with my son-in-law on remodeling their house. Yesterday they worked on installing electrical sockets, etc. As a result they both got mild shocks—-they soon discovered the problem. Larry has worked in the construction field as a contractor, a teacher, and now in retirement. Click on the above link to see the Blitz Build safety video he shared with a team at Willow Creek Church before going to help Katrina victims in Bay St. Louis. Not only is it helpful, but quite entertaining. He mentions and shows footage of Mike Breau giving a message and accidentally stapling himself. Enjoy and learn some tips.
There’s nothing like seeing a bison come ambling down a hill behind you as you cross-country ski on Tower Falls Trail in Yellowstone at 6278 ft. elevation and – 6 degrees. Yes, Life with Larry has given me another first time experience with extremes. Our son, Aaron Schuerr, is a chip off the old block. He arranged the two night winter get away at the Yellowstone Institute in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park. When I heard that it was predicted to be bitterly cold, I assumed we would be canceling. But the word cancel is not in the Schuerr vocabulary. I was comforted with the fact that the cabins we would be staying in were heated; nevertheless my bottle of water turned to lumps of ice by the morning. I tried to negotiate with my bladder at 1:10 AM telling it to shut up and let me sleep. But it persisted so I grabbed my fleece coat and gazed at the breath-taking stars that filled the dark sky until I remembered that I had to be on the look out for stray buffalo who often wander into the camp. I heard the sound of a coyote in the distant and hoped it was not hungry for a short squat Norwegian-American. Finally, I made it to the bathhouse 50 ft. away which doesn’t sound like much of a feat, but it was -28 degrees. “But it’s a dry cold,” they say.
After a hardy breakfast, we covered nearly every inch of skin and donned our cross-country skies to face the -6 degrees. I didn’t want to get out of the truck until August, my 10-year-old grandson said, “Suck it up Grandma,” ——such inspiration. I shut the door on the van as my thumbs were the first thing to freeze and my toes felt like frozen peas. But soon the constant activity, lack of wind and beautiful sunshine warmed me like slow pouring heavy syrup. “It’s a dry cold,” Larry would remind me. When we got to Calcite Springs, we poured cups of tea and nibbled on Cheesites. A hot toddy was what I had in mind. But that would have to wait.
Montana winters didn’t bother Larry. He must have been born in a deep freeze. He even made himself a Frostline tent when the kids were little. We had a lot of snow that winter so he built an igloo in front of our house on Rt. 31 in Crystal Lake, IL. It was Larry and our St. Bernard dog. But he came in at 5 AM in the shape of a cramped pretzel. That night he was testing the quality of his sleeping bag. “My sleeping bag is only rated to -20 degrees.” he said—-his excuse for coming in early. These days we are happy for cabins.
I made it to 2:30 AM before my second trip to the distant bathroom. As it turned out, the temperature improved to a balmy 10 degrees the next morning so we put on snow shoes, a first for us, and became Louis and Clark explorers. By 1 PM Grandpa and Grandma said good-bye to the hardy campers and headed to Chico Natural Hot Springs in Pray, MT to thaw and recuperate knowing that tonight we would sleep in a real bed with real heat.
It was an adventure, I’ll never forget.
All little boys growing up in the 50’s were influenced by the cowboy characters, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy and John Wayne. The good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black. Of course, both were always fighting the Indians. Larry, whose nickname was Skip, was no exception. He and his two younger brothers, Bill and Ken, were glued to the TV screen soaking up the many lessons to be learned about how to be a real cowboy. They were thrilled to have electricity and a TV in their small primitive summer cottage supported on posts. It was located in Lilymoor just outside of McHenry——a better place than the city for three boys to grow up.
In 1952, Skip’s dad bought the summer cottage from his half-brother who used it as a flop house, a place to get inebriated on the weekends. The goal was to convert the summer cottage into a year round home. Insulation, heat and indoor plumbing were non-existent, and they had to take a bucket to the hand pump on the front porch to pour the water down the indoor outhouse to flush it. The wood burning stove sizzled with scraps Skip’s dad brought home from his carpentry jobs.
“We’d wake up in the morning to snow on the floor,” Larry recalls. “With room for only one bed, we nestled close to one another for warmth. For Christmas each of us received two presents—-a piece of clothing and one toy and when the VFW came to the door with a turkey and a box of food, I saw my dad cry for the first time, “said Larry.
Larry’s dad, a man whose arms resembled Popeye, dug a well and installed a pump by the sink in the kitchen similar to what we had seen on the TV series, Lassie. After the wood stove was installed, the next ongoing project was to dig out a basement under the house. First, walls with windows were built. When Larry and his brothers got home from school, their job was to remove five wheel barrels of dirt through the basement window where later it would be hauled to the dump. This was a Herculean task for three young boys.
But at least the cottage was theirs, and the TV provided a mental escape to help them endure. There were trees to climb, sticks to turn into guns and plenty of new places to explore.
Ken, the youngest of the three, was often the target for taunting. When it was Ken’s turn to swing from the rope on the tree, Skip the chief, would tell him when to jump. Of course, the oldest brother was always right.
Ken would yell, “When should I jump?”
“Not now,” screamed Bill and Skip.
With their early understanding of physics, they would wait until the distance between Ken and the ground was greatest and then they would yell, “Now”.
As would be expected, they all got wounded regularly just like the real cowboys and Indians on TV and Dad, the medicine man, was an expert at making butterfly bandages. Going to the hospital was out of the question.
Another time, they ventured into a dairy farm behind them and visited the cows. Bill and Larry talked Ken into grabbing the tail of a Holstein cow to see what would happen. When the thrill of seeing their brother fly on the end of a cow’s tail passed, they yelled.
But the shock of being dragged by a moving cow, made Ken grab on even harder.
“Let go,” yelled Bill and Skip even louder.
But Ken continued to grab on even harder as he bounced off stones, sticker bushes and manure patties. Now that was enough adventure for the day.
Rainy days were really a recipe for disaster for the growing family who lived in the space of a double garage. Mom and Dad were playing cards with friends down the road and the three got to rough housing. It wasn’t long before they put a hole in the thin wall.
“Mom is going to kill us?” they screamed in unison.
“We’re dead meat,” cried Bill
Skip came up with an excellent solution. They would move the refrigerator to cover the hole——-Mom and Dad would never notice. With a great deal of pushing and shoving, the hole vanished behind the mayonnaise, mustard and sour cream.
When Mom and Dad came home, they asked who moved the refrigerator.
“Not me,” said Larry
“Not me,” said Ken,
“Not me,” said Bill
That left their little sister, Mary, cooing in the corner.
Digging out the basement was an ongoing project. By then real plumbing was installed and Shirley, their mom, decided to have a Tupperware party.
As usual, the boys came home from school and worked in the basement shoveling the dirt out the window. The boring, laborious work cried for adventure. The three Indians remembered seeing a special episode of Roy Rogers where——–
The memory was crystal clear in Skip’s mind and he diverted his attention from throwing dirt out the window to digging a large hole. He coaxed Bill, the cowboy, into climbing into it. Bill obediently jumped in. The Indians, Ken and Larry, buried their victim up to his neck. All they needed were cowboy hats and feathers—–until Bill’s piercing cry.
“Help! Get me out of here.”
The Tupperware party was in full swing upstairs as the ladies inhaled their Lucky Strike cigarettes, munched on brownies, and practiced burping their new lettuce containers.
But the call persisted, “Help, Help, Get me out of here!”
Ken ran upstairs and whispered in his mother’s ear. “We need you downstairs,” said Ken as innocently as possible.
“Go play,” said Shirley
“We really need you downstairs,” pleaded Ken
“Why?” said Mom
“We buried Bill,” said Ken.
Shirley politely said, “Excuse me ladies. It looks like I’m needed below.”
Stomping down the basement stairs, the first thing she saw was Bill buried up to his neck and then Skip standing in the distance with a shovel trying to be an innocent bystander. The spell was now completely broken—–the Calvary had arrived.
She grabbed a shovel and furiously began to excavate her middle son promising,” I’m going to kill you guys.”
In the next breath she called upstairs in a never heard before—- sweet voice, “I’ll be with you in a minute, ladies.”
She shoveled some more while Larry and Ken flew up the stairs at a speed that would have given the FLASH a run for his money.
Two weeks in the woods might give their mother time to settle down. They remembered many episodes about how to live on roots and bark.
But it wasn’t long before the Indians, forgetting the pain, escaped into the wonderful world of Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Tonto—–with visions of future exploits dancing in their heads.
By Sue Schuerr/ with Larry and Ken Schuerr
While writing this entry, I’m sitting downstairs in front of a roaring fire in our wood burning stove which feels good today considering it is November 15th and we woke up to 18 degree temperatures. Not exactly what one would expect this early in the season. But that has not deterred Larry. For the last two weeks, he has been gathering and cutting wood. We have enough wood for the next three years; but he just can’t control himself. The free wood is calling out to him,”Come get me. I may never come this way again. ” Yes, the power company in the Fox River Grove/Barrington area has been cutting down whole trees under the power lines. This may not happen again for another 10 years.
Now Larry not only cuts wood for himself but for the elderly neighbor across the street and people he doesn’t even know on Lincoln Avenue. He just can’t stop gathering and cutting. What should I do? Is there any therapy for WOOD LUST??
A favorite place for us to camp when we are in the Bozeman/Livingston area is in Hyalite Canyon. In the springtime when the water is high, there is a spot in Chisolm campground where our grandkids August, Jasper and August like to fish with their Grandpa Lou. It’s a place where the creek comes in and it’s a supermarket for catching large cut-throat trout. Now the grandkids are fortunate because they have two Grandpa’s who like to fish—–Grandpa (Owie) Larry is a fly fisherman and Grandpa Lou is a spin casting “dirty worm dunker”.
We were out on our summer visit to spend time with our Montana grandkids. The oldest, August, hit a snag and didn’t want to snap off the hook. “I’ll wade out and clear the snag,” said Grandpa. It had been thigh deep which is perfect when wearing waders. “ I started to walk out and found out why there were so many large fish congregating,” said Grandpa Larry. “I took another step and discovered the second reason why the fish were so large. On the third step, I discovered the second most important reason why the trout were hanging out there when I went from knee deep water to water that was frigid and over my head. Trout love deep holes and I found a very deep hole. The first was the in-coming creek which washes in insects that the trout feed on and the second was With one step, I went from knee deep to water over my head. Fortunately waders have a waist belt and an elastic cord around the top of the waders. Both are designed to keep the water from rushing in. But regardless, as I crawled my way to the shore, frigid water began to trickle into my waders and ran down into feet. Whatever water comes in stays in. My grand kids roared with laughter to see my demise. But all’s well that ends well.