In Loving Memory
Patricia K. Schaefer
Pioneer * Activist * Lifelong-Learner * World-Traveler * Baseball Fan
Born the granddaughter of pioneers who settled the Nebraska prairie in the 1880's, Patricia Kamenky Schaefer was herself a pioneer in more ways than one. Pat spent her early years on her parents Gustav and Isabelle Kamenky's farm outside Greeley, Colorado. Pat moved to town with her mother after her parents' divorce and, in 1945 at age16, graduated from College High School, where she was a member of the school yearbook editorial staff.
Pat then became the first person in her family to attend college when she enrolled at Colorado State Teachers College in Greeley. For more than two years, she studied everything from Spanish and German to aviation and weather forecasting.
At 18, she met and married fellow student and WWII Army Air Corps veteran Irving O. Schaefer, Jr. After a few years of following him to airbases in Alabama, Massachusetts, New York and even Germany, Pat and her husband returned to Colorado to raise their young family, while 'Schaef' finished his degree at the University of Colorado in Boulder under the GI Bill.
In 1958, Pat, Schaef, and their children Karen and Irving III moved to a rural area east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While he worked as a research engineer for Alcoa Corporation, Pat whiled away the hours listening to major league baseball teams on the radio and graph-charting their play-by-play, most especially of her beloved Yankees.
After the family's move to Fort Wayne Indiana in 1960, Pat became an active member and single term president of the Fort Wayne League of Women Voters, where, among other issues, she helped lead the fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. By 1967, she had risen to the position of State Public Relations Chairman and was a frequent spokesperson on local television stations.
That was how she met News-Sentinel Editor and neighbor Ernie Williams, who drew her into a newly- formed group working to curb flooding and improve public access along the city's Three Rivers. Pat served as the founding secretary to the River Greenway project for several years, often offering advice from her own travel experience to places like San Antonio, Texas, which had built similar river greenspace. After more than 40 years, the founders' dream of a citywide network of riverfront recreation and commuter trails is now a reality being carried on by the non-profit Fort Wayne Trails.
While all of this activism dominated her life, Pat didn't neglect her postponed education. Anxious to finish her college degree, in 1962 Pat enrolled in accounting courses at Indiana University, then located downtown. She took mostly evening classes, relying on her teenage children to cook dinner twice a week. She graduated in 1972 with high honors and quickly earned her status as a Certified Public Accountant. She was hired that year by Magnavox Corporation, for whom she worked as a senior account executive until her retirement in about 1997.
Her husband died in 1988, but not before she and Schaef had made international vacation trips to more than fifteen European, Central American and South Pacific countries. After his death, she ventured on her own to China with the League of Women Voters, narrowly missing the Tienamen Square Massacre. Feeding her love of history and prehistory, Pat continued to travel internationally with tour groups to places like Chile, Morocco, Malta, Italy, Hungary, and Britain, often taking river cruises along the Rhine and the Danube. Her travel experiences became some of her most treasured memories in her later age, enhanced by a library of guidebooks acquired around the world.
Patricia K. Schaefer is survived by her daughter, Karen P. Schaefer of Oberlin, Ohio, and her son, Irving O. Schaefer III of Perry, Michigan, as well as by her granddaughter, Sara Angharad (Schaefer Jones) Bishop of Bloomington, Indiana.
Memorials to Patricia K. Schaefer can be made to:
Fort Wayne Trails
Fort Wayne League of Women VotersSchaefer Memorial
A memorial service for Patricia K. Schaefer will be held this Saturday, Sept. 29, in Fort Wayne, Indiana at 2 pm in Foster Park along the St. Mary's River near the soccer fields (see map below). Come share with us your memories of this remarkable woman, who helped pioneer women's rights, civil rights, and clean water through her work with the League of Women Voters and the landmark River Greenway project, which has now morphed into Fort Wayne Trails, a remarkable Three Rivers network of bike/walk/run trails that connect the city and its environs. Location is the second arrow from the bottom of the map. Free parking and refreshments.