Originally Print in 1979
I love children
By Patrice Hernak
“I was born here and I’ve been here since – except for a few board of education meetings.” Said Leon Schumaker in his half-serious, half-joking manner.
He was born 66 years ago on the Schumaker farm located on Francis Road, seven-miles south on M-21 at the intersection of Pratt and Frances roads. Riley Township and Leon Schumaker have been hand and hand ever since.
But, just as he and Riley Township have had a longstanding relationship, so have Leon and the St. Johns Board of Education. In fact, Leon’s served on the board for the past 19 consecutive years – longer than any other board member.
At 66 years old, however, he has decided it’s time for someone else to worry about the schools. He’s done his duty and now it’s time for someone else to serve on the board of education.
His last board meeting will be Wednesday, June 13, barring any last minute special board meetings before the new board members to be elected June 11 take office in July.
Leon was only 47 years old when he took office 19 years ago. Three outlying school districts, Pratt, Boughton and Hill, had recently joined the St. Johns school system and people in that area asked Leon if he would fun for the board of education to represent them.
And so he did.
That was years ago, but in Leon’s mind the time has flew swiftly.
His daughter, Jane, who was in school at the time when Leon first went on the board, is married and residing in Phoenix, Arizona with her family and husband who is an executive for Ramada Inn.
His other daughter, Linda, is married to a Lutheran minister and she and her family also live in Phoenix. Between Leon’s two daughters, he has eight grandchildren.
Last winter Leon and his wife, Louise, spent two months in Phoenix, visiting their family. This took Leon away from the school board, and he said that is another reason why he feels it’s time for someone else to serve.
Why has Leon served so long on the St. Johns Board of Education?
“You know, I wonder that myself,” he said in the dining room of his rural farmhouse. He was dressed in bib overalls and looked the part of a farmer with 280 acres planted in soy, beans, corn and wheat, with a few cattle here and there.
After thinking of that question a little longer, he said, “I’ve been interested in it all along.”
He though about it a little longer and then said, “I’ve always liked children and I always felt I could do something for the community in my own way.”
“You have to do something to make the world a little better before you pass through,” he summed up. That was probably the foundation of his reason for staying on the board for 19 years.
His love of children is a close second.
He gets a kick out of their stories and their perspectives on life. He said he has fun talking with them, and one could tell by the way he said it and the little story he had to go along with it about a youngster he spoke with not too long ago, that he truly loves children.
Leon, himself never received a high school diploma. He graduate from Pratt School in the eighth grade, receiving a diploma and then going to work on the farm with his father. Graduation from the eighth grade was par for the course back then.
Since he has served on the St. Johns board, the district has consolidated, built the high school and built the outlying elementary schools: Riley, East Olive, Essex Center and Eureka.
In addition to his regular monthly board meetings, he also found time to serve on the county Agriculture Stabilization Committee for 15 years and the Central National Bank Board of Directors for about 20 years.
It hasn’t been all roses for Leon during his tenure on the St. Johns school board. He looks to the future and sees that no rainbows are on the horizon, either.
Disciplining children is becoming more of a problem, he said and his successors are going to find it rough to operate a system on less and less operating funds. The school budge is a lot tighter now than it ever was, he said without even deliberating.
But, those will be someone else’s problems. He and Louise are going to travel next – to Hawaii again, or back to Florida, Washington D.C., the East Coast. There certainly will be trips to Arizona.
It’s been 19 years with Leon serving on the board. He can now relax and say he had made his contribution to his community. Certainly, he has done more than his share.