The Lomira Area Chamber of Commerce has selected its nominee for this year’s citizen of the year award. Gene Schroeder has earned the recognition after his continued support of the village for last 50-plus years.
“Put simply, he has dedicated his whole life to this community,” Tom O’Connor, who made the nomination, said. “Much like other lifelong teachers from other districts, Gene has lived in Lomira his whole [teaching] life and has been exemplary in the way that he has carried himself.”
Born in Cedar Falls, Schroeder moved to Lomira in 1966 to begin his 32-year teaching career in the district. “I was a little nervous because I had never taught fourth year math before,” Schroeder said. “With my voice being a little higher, they thought I may have trouble and should work on getting a lower voice.
Thankfully I had good kids so it never really mattered.” Schroeder also taught physics and chemistry in addition to math while in Lomira. Growing up an only child and never getting married, Schroeder said the kids in his classroom quickly became his new family. “I was never married, but I had 120 kids every day,” he said.
“Those were my kids and the ones I had were good to me so I was able to connect with a lot of them.” To this day, Schroeder stays in contact with several members of his first class in Lomira. Students from some of his other classes still speak very highly of Schroeder. “He was just the type of teacher that you always wanted to do something for,” former student Dawn Scharf (class of 1980) recalled.
“If you couldn’t do something, he would tell you that you could do it and he’d make sure you worked through it. I’m not a numbers person at all and he was very patient with me.” Mike Kietzer, another former student, said Schroeder had a way of getting the most out of his students. “He was a very demanding teacher, but he made sure you were learning,” he said.
Scharf added that above all, Schroeder made his students understand they could achieve whatever they wanted to in life. “He always made sure you knew that you could do anything in your life and supported you 100 percent of the way,” she said.
“He taught us integrity and we need more Mr. Schroeders’ in the school systems today.” When he wasn’t in the classroom teaching, Schroeder was likely coaching. He coached cross country, track as well as basketball at the middle school and high school levels. “I just enjoyed being with the kids and watching the sacrifices they’d make,” he said.
The 1968 cross country season is one that sticks out to Schroeder, as he said he felt he had one of the best teams around. Had it not been for a freak accident that landed him in the hospital for nine days near the end of the season, Schroeder thinks that team could have made it to State. “We had a team in 1968 that was undefeated [up to Sectionals],” he said.
“Had I not hit my head on a first down marker, I think we would have made it to State that year.” That incident never deterred Schroeder from the sidelines as he served on the chain gang during football games in Lomira for 40 years. “The facility they have now is just unbelievable,” Schroeder said. “I hope the kids appreciate that because they’ve got a top-rated facility now.”
Schroeder served on the Village Board for 12 years (2002-2014) and has been a Lomira Lions member for the past 42 years. He also served as Lions President in 1990. He’s also volunteered for the Oakfield VFV for many years. He also has been a lifelong member of Camelot and of the Lomira Booster Club. Schroeder has also donated money to sponsor the “Challenge Day” for freshmen students at LHS.
“I’m proud of Gene because he makes the Lomira community a proud one because of people like him,” O’Connor said. Not only has Schroeder been generous with his time in the classroom and coaching, he continues to make various donations to the village.
Most notably is his scholarship fund through the high school where he has donated thousands of dollars to students to help pay college tuition costs. He’s also donated 21 chairs to the athletic department for players on the sidelines and has donated picnic tables to the athletic facility and to Sterr Park.
“He certainly has the district in his heart,” O’Connor said. “For students, many he doesn’t even know, he continues to donate scholarships to. His heart is truly first and foremost all about Lomira.” As he reflects on his achievements over his career in Lomira, Schroeder said being named citizen of the year is near the top.
“I am so honored because I really wanted to get this award, so I really appreciate it,” he said. “It’s a community that I’ve always felt a part of. This is right up there with some of my other accomplishments because Lomira is my home.” This year’s banquet will take place on Saturday, Jan. 26 beginning at 5 p.m. at the Brownsville Community Club.