If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
Editor’s Note: Vernon Schindler served as chair of the Town of Howard for 50 years. He passed away December 15, 2020, at the age of 78. Schindler was a graduate of Colfax High School.
By John R. Andersen
COLFAX — A generation is passing.
Vernon Schindler of the Town of Howard is a man to be remembered. I certainly will.
I am joined by hundreds of other people in the Town of Howard and the greater Chippewa Valley who shared Vern’s life with him. I had the privilege of knowing Vern for almost 32 years.
Vern was a force of nature who could be quick to anger and quick to smile.
His death leaves a void in our community.
Like many people in my life, Vern entered it through the Chippewa Fire District. I do not remember the exact year, but I know the circumstances.
The Chippewa Fire District had been called to several fires in the Town of Howard in the late fall and winter of 1987 or 1988. In fact, I was working one of the fires when I was struck in the eye with debris and was sent off to St. Joe’s ER.
The fire district was assisting the Bloomer Fire Department or the Colfax Fire Department. We had no contract with the Town of Howard. We billed them for our services. So did Bloomer and Colfax. These were large fires, and the bills to the Town of Howard reflected the size of the fires.
Vern was not happy at all.
I was in the old Hallie Fire Station when Vern came in to see then Chief John Neihart. He was direct and to the point. “Want to see the Chief!”
The chief’s door was open, and Vern walked in to meet with Chief Neihart.
The door closed, and they were off to the races.
Voices were raised, the desk was pounded.
Then the meeting ended.
A parting remark from Vern included his memorable phrase, “You’d better sharpen your pencil!”
Well. Vern sharpened his pencil, and Howard joined the Chippewa Fire District.
I grew up in a city and never had the experience to get to know town chairmen. I was not familiar with town government until I moved to the Town of Hallie. I found out just what town government is and can become.
While town government is perhaps the last true democracy in Wisconsin, I found out from time to time that it can be petty, vindictive and downright awful.
It takes a very special person to be a town chair. Vern was the town chair of Howard for 50 years. He had his moments, but for a person to remain in any public office for that amount of time is incredible.
Vern was thrifty with taxpayer money. I know he was thrifty with his own. I would rib him about the cost of pigs and farming in general. He, like the late Wally Bowe, would often say he would keep farming until he lost all his money.
He was always asking the fire board to sharpen its pencil to keep taxes low.
Yet there was a side to Vern that many people may not have known.
Every year, Station 6 – Howard hosts a breakfast during Fire Prevention Week. That breakfast is like a great old time family breakfast. The food is outstanding, and the company is great.
I would look at Vern as he walked through the packed town hall, greeting everybody and sitting down at each table. Vern was like a father or grandfather with a large family around him. I knew that he cared a great deal about the people of the Town of Howard.
When a sand mine went into Howard, I know he was very conflicted about it. He saw the economic benefits, but also the impact on his friends and neighbors.
Despite the bluster and the “sharpening of the pencil,” Vern Schindler was a very good man.
Vern and I were talking one time about my grandfather-in-law (who), like Vern, was a long-time farmer, town board member and a farmers union board member. I mentioned his Sheepshead playing — and we were off to the races.
Vern was a man of his time. A man of strong belief, a man for and of his family. A man who was proud of his profession and his life’s work.
As the disciple Matthew wrote, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”
God-speed Vern, you will be missed.