John E. Schaefer, 89, passed away at home in Brownfield, Maine, on Aug. 4. 2019, after a long illness surrounded by his loving family.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 66 years, Janet; daughters, Diane (Mitch Shuldman) of Portsmouth, N.H., and Nancy (Mel) of Bridgton, Maine; sons David (Nantha) of Steubenville, Ohio, and John (Pam) of Mattoon, Ill.; grandchildren, Edmund, Maddy, Kimberli, John Lyle, Santosh and Tyler (Brandenburg); several great-grandchildren; and sister, Charlene (Kurth), along with many cousins, nephews and nieces.
He is predeceased by his parents, Emil and Bessie Schaefer; sister, Bernina; and brother, George.
He graduated from East High School in Madison, Wis. He earned a bachelor's and master's from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He taught physical education at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh and Eastern Illinois University (Charleston), where he also served as head gymnastics coach. His team won the 1972 NAIA Championship in their division, and he was awarded Coach of the Year. He also did a Fulbright exchange, teaching at Wigston College in England for a year.
A veteran, John served in the Army during the Korean War. While stationed there, he distributed clothing and supplies collected by Janet to several orphanages. A keen photographer, he documented the lives of the Korean people as they struggled to rebuild at the close of the war.
In addition, John coached children’s gymnastics for many years and was honored by his former students when they celebrated their 50th reunion. He enjoyed music, singing in a barbershop choir, playing the piano and ukulele. He loved animals and working with his hands on handyman projects at home.
After retiring to Maine, John remained passionate about physical fitness and was an all-around outdoor enthusiast — ranging from camping, biking, hiking, skiing and canoeing, to working out at the gym. He had been a member of the Panther Running Club in Charleston, Ill., and completed the Boston Marathon, among others.
Besides international travel and U.S. road trips, John was an avid walker and longtime member of the American Volkssport Association (AVA), completing volksmarches in all 50 states.
He was the kind of dad who built a deluxe rabbit hutch when his 8-year-old daughter rescued orphaned wild bunnies; the kind of dad who stepped in to buy his 13-year-old son a new movie projector at the last minute so the film he produced could be debuted.
The family would like to thank the caregivers at Timberland and Androscoggin Hospice for their care and support.
No funeral is planned beyond a private service for the family.
Those wishing to honor John are encouraged to make donations to their favorite charities.