Remembering Maxwell's 'Old Settler,' a woman who loved her little community
Editor’s Note: For about 38 years, Bonnie (Bowen) Schauper of Maxwell was a regular columnist for the Tri-County Times and Nevada Journal. She wrote mostly in the summertime to keep readers of the local newspapers updated about plans for the annual Old Settlers celebration. Her column was titled, Old Settler Sez. In honor of her many years of writing for us, I wanted to write a tribute story about her.
“Her love for Maxwell was unequalled,” states Jeanie Birchmier, daughter of lifelong Maxwell resident Bonnie Schauper, who passed away earlier this year on Sept. 27.
Schauper was the fourth generation of “Bowens” to live in Maxwell. She was born in her Grandma and Grandpa Fish’s house on Maxwell’s Main Street. Arriving into this world in the center of town was something that apparently stuck for Schauper, who certainly was “central” to the activities of the community for most all of her 88 years.
“Besides her family, mom was dedicated to volunteering time to her church and community,” Birchmier said. “She simply loved volunteering and felt it was important to help keep Maxwell the best little town possible.”
Many might remember Schauper saying, “Volunteerism is what we do for the privilege of living here on earth.” It’s what she believed, and it’s what she did for Old Settlers for many years, volunteering to help with the event and volunteering to write the column about it for the newspapers, year after year.
Her daughter suspects that her mother’s continued involvement in the small-town celebration was something she did because it was such a long-time tradition and she didn’t ever want to see it end. As a youth, the town celebration was a time when Schauper would get together with her cousins. Birchmier guesses that her favorite things about the festival were the parade and the talent/variety shows.
When this year’s Old Settlers took place in August, Schauper was already living at Senior Care in Nevada, and was not well enough to go. “She was especially saddened that she couldn’t attend her 70th class reunion at the Maxwell Alumni Banquet,” her daughter said.
Moving to Senior Care, Birchmier said, was probably the hardest thing her mother ever had to do. But by the end of July this year, she realized it for herself, said her daughter. “She was having increasing difficulty swallowing her pills and food. Her energy was decreasing, along with a number of other health issues. She was also becoming very lonely.”
After two ambulance calls to her home, Schauper decided it was best to leave her house, to which she was so emotionally attached. It was a structure she spent 10-15 years building with her husband, Bud, who preceded her in death several years back.
“When mom and dad first married, they bought some land which was, at the time, a cornfield, so much work needed to be done,” Birchmier explained. “They lived in a new basement, with six rooms,” she said, and they spent the next 10-15 years finishing the rest of the home. “The outside was constructed with Russ Stone, that was invented and manufactured in Maxwell. She was so proud of this. As I remember, in addition to laying the block themselves, they did all the interior, electrical, plumbing and woodwork.”
Bonnie was able to live in that home nearly 70 years, her daughter said. During those years, she worked part-time for Donnelley’s in Nevada and also worked part-time at Logsdon’s Grocery for a spell. But more of her time was spent volunteering and caring for her parents and other family members than working at a paying job. She also was passionate about giving her time to her church family at Maxwell Presbyterian, where she served as the church organist for 60 years, as well as being of service there in other ways.
Giving up her home and activities this past summer was hard on Schauper, her daughter said. “She talked a lot about family history and Maxwell and wrote many, many notes. She loved to share memories about everything. We spent a lot of time discussing all the scrapbooks she wished she would have gotten done.”
Thankfully, she got one of her most important scrapbook projects done several months before her death. That was the Maxwell Centennial scrapbook, to be housed at the Maxwell Museum.
The loss of Schauper brings about a loss of community history, as so much of what the older generation knows cannot be “googled” when younger folk want to learn about something. Schauper worked extremely hard on many Maxwell events, and knew a lot of the local history. When people came to her and she didn’t know something, she’d research it until she found out, her daughter said.
Schauper always credited her “giving” nature to her own father, who Birchmier remembers her mother saying, was responsible for “instilling in her the value of giving back more than you take.”
As she sorts through the many boxes of notes, memories and pieces of her mother’s life, Birchmier said it’s therapeutic for her. “I feel that I’m getting to know her better and have come to realize the importance of all she has collected for the many years she lived.”
Birchmier is proud of her mother. “I’m most proud of the way she lived her life, taking care of many of her elderly family members and spending countless hours volunteering her time to the school, church and community, expecting nothing in return.
Schauper’s legacy, her daughter said, is this: “Personification of serving others.”