We’ve all heard the cliché “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, you might be able to come up with a thousand words by looking at this photo of Vern and Jan Schroeder yet, here are some words about the backstory of what you see.
Jan, the oldest of four children, was born at Axtell Hospital here in Newton. Vern was the last of nine children born to his parents at St. Francis Hospital in Wichita. In 1973 they met at East Side United Methodist Church, Newton. Vern had noticed Jan’s wiggling little children sitting with her in worship and acted upon his hunch that someone (him!) needed to come to her rescue. In 1977 they were united in marriage.
Vern, also a father of two children from a previous marriage, had served in the US Army National Guard stationed at Fort Carson, in Colorado for nineteen months before returning to Kansas and Newton where he resumed employment at the Santa Fe Railroad Rail Shop in 1966. He worked on railroad “frogs and switch points” (the hat he’s wearing shows the logo depicting them). His colleagues would say “[they] made everything but the croak” referring to the “frogs,” get it?!? In December 1994 Santa Fe sold the Shop and Vern began working for ABC Rail for five and one-half more years until he finally retired in 2004.
In 1986-87 Jan was able to accomplish a long-time goal by completing her degree in accounting from Bethel College. She has served as the pianist/accompanist at East Side United Methodist Church for some forty-eight years and made the seamless transition to playing an auto harp while Vern keeps pace on his Martin guitar. For a while they enjoyed RV life in their motor home, playing music and attending bluegrass festivals. Now, twice a month they join friends for a jammin’ good time at our local Senior Center.
he impressive circular painting hanging behind Jan and Vern in the photo was a creation of Jan’s daughter, Grace McCammond, who while living in Montana, was commissioned to paint this work for a Six Nations Powwow depicting the Nez Perce people, their ceremonial celebrations and sacred symbolism in her artwork. Residing in St. Louis, Grace also employs computer technology to execute impressive, large-scale commissioned murals for buildings. Needless to say, the warm ambiance in the Schroeder’s home is greatly enhanced by the artistry and artworks of many generations of family artists.