Mike Kellems, and all of us at WNLP, salute and mourn the late Fern Eddy Schultz

 

Fern Eddy Schultz stands in front of the Fern Eddy Schultz Research Library at the La Porte County Historical Society Museum in 2017. (WNLP photo by Bob Wellinski)

(Editor’s note: WNLP will be re-sharing some of Fern’s columns in future weeks.)

Column by WNLP’s Mike Kellems

La Porte County lost a true treasure last week when Fern Eddy Schultz passed away. For those who may not have been familiar with this juggernaut of local history — and I can’t believe there are many who didn’t know of her — Fern was La Porte County’s Historian. And I am here to tell you that Fern knew the history of our county like the back of her own hand, and what she couldn’t recall from her vast memory, she would meticulously research and gladly share her findings.

Fern was often a guest columnist for WNLP and every time I saw an article she had penned, I read it immediately and I always learned. Fern had such an amazing impact on our community that her likeness was added to the mural at Plaza 618 in downtown La Porte.

Mike Kellems

A few years back Fern was putting on a presentation at the county museum, where the research library is named in her honor, on the history of the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant, a place she knew well because she herself had worked there. I showed up for the presentation about 20 minutes early and stood outside waiting to get in. As it turns out, so many people were there, those of us who were outside were turned away. Even though it wasn’t planned, they had a second session later that day and it was equally packed. That is the kind of star power our historian had.

More recently (and I can’t recall what led to this), in 2017 I became curious about the small, gothic-looking chapel at Pine Lake Cemetery. I crossed paths with Fern somewhere and asked if it was ever open for tours. Fern, who served on the cemetery board, explained that it used to be open on Memorial Day weekend, but it was getting difficult to find volunteers to help for the tours. I told her right then and there that I’d gladly help her in any way possible. My eagerness was twofold; I wanted to see it, but more importantly, I wanted to spend time learning from her.

So on Memorial Day 2017 I met Fern at the Eason Chapel, where I was fortunate to spend some quality time with her as she shared its history, the efforts to repair the chapel and many other fascinating facts. Fern was the “super soaker” of historical knowledge and for several treasured minutes, I got to be the sponge. In short order, visitors started rolling in and for the next few hours Fern shared her vast knowledge with seemingly everyone. More than 100 people visited that day and I vividly recall one impression I was left with: the twinkle in Fern’s eyes and her constant smile that outshone the sun in the bright blue sky that day.

Fern was much more than a historian; she was a community servant. No better example of that was her service as a member of the Center Township Volunteer Fire Department’s Fire Belles. The Fire Belles were a group of ladies who supported the fire department by holding ice cream socials and the like. They also responded to fire scenes and provided food and water for the firefighters. As I was preparing to write this column I spoke with Terry Prast, a retired La Porte County emergency medical technician who served alongside Fern in the Fire Belles. Terry echoed what many have said over the years: “Fern was a wonderful person who was absolutely the sweetest person, always giving of her time.” Mike Turner, a longtime former member of the department who served as chief for many years, said, “Fern was simply magnificent. She worked tirelessly to raise funds that helped us operate the fire department. She was a wonderful person who was so giving of herself.”

Yes, Fern volunteered for the volunteers. That sure does say a lot about her character.

Fern spent three decades volunteering at the county museum as official Historian, a researcher, a lecturer and so much more. When she retired this past November she was named “Historian Emeritus.” I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this unique, one-of-a-kind lady touched more lives than practically anyone else in our community. She didn’t do it for money, fame or prestige. In fact, Fern was a very humble and unassuming lady. No, Fern shared her gifts, her time and her knowledge because she so dearly loved La Porte County.

If you’ll permit me, I’m going to step up on my soap box for a minute. People in this world give way too much credence to beauty, fame, money and power. Fern Eddy Schultz exemplified culture, wisdom, care, dedication, and most of all, love. If folks would spend a fraction of their time sharing about this wonderful treasure who is now doing genealogy in Heaven, well, that would be a story worth telling.

I am extremely thankful for the time I was able to spend with Fern and I’m sure many of you are as well. On behalf of the entire staff at WNLP, our most heartfelt condolences go out to Fern’s daughter, Lannette, and their family. We are forever grateful for the talents she shared with our readers. They broke the mold when they made Fern.

On December 2, 1928, God gave Fern to us, and on March 11, 2021, He took her back. For the time we had Fern, we will be forever thankful.

18 Responses to “Mike Kellems, and all of us at WNLP, salute and mourn the late Fern Eddy Schultz”

  1. Lynn Lisarelli

    Mar 16. 2021

    Oh, I am so very sorry!! She was indeed a very special treasure. Thank you, Mike, for a very nice article.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Jiminy Christmas

    Mar 16. 2021

    There was also a gentleman who was an expert with the geography of the region. If I remember correctly, his last name was “Gustofson”, and he would share his knowledge by regularly writing letters that were published in the Anvil Chorus column of the News-Dispatch. There is a saying that “when an old person dies, a library burns to the ground”, meaning that their vast knowledge is lost when they die. We should be thankful that some choose to share their knowledge, as Ms. Schultz and Mr. Gustofson did.

    Reply to this comment
  3. John Wooden

    Mar 16. 2021

    We lost a beautiful treasure who shared everything! She will be missed.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Rob

    Mar 16. 2021

    Very saddened by the news of Fern’s passing. I met her 30 years ago and we talked about LaPorte history for an hour or two. Such a nice and sweet lady to chat with. LaPorte is richer for having her and we’re poorer for having lost her. RIP Fern, you will be missed.

    Reply to this comment
  5. David Mann

    Mar 16. 2021

    Mike Kellems nailed it. I was allso fortunate to know Fern and work with her at the Museum as a volunteer. She allways had a smile for me. Will miss her.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Charlie Maslankowski

    Mar 16. 2021

    Such a treasure trove of incredible knowledge this grand lady shared with those of us who followed her HA / WNLP columns! The reminder of her contributions will shine forever on “The mural of Great LaPorteans”. Rest in Peace Fern Eddy Schultz.

    God has another keeper! 🙏🌌🌟

    Reply to this comment
  7. Barb Cannon

    Mar 16. 2021

    I only spoke with her a few times. It didn’t take long to realize she is extraordinary! I also read anything I could find that she put out. A loss for LaPorte, for sure. My heart goes to her family and friends.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Jan Boardman

    Mar 16. 2021

    Weren’t we lucky to have known her. Rest In Peace, Fern, and thanks for sharing your vast knowledge.

    Reply to this comment
  9. ILUVLP

    Mar 16. 2021

    So sorry to hear of Ferns passing. What a remarkable lady she was.
    I just watched her on tv last night on Discovery +. It was a new episode of Mysteries of the Abandoned. The episode was called “Terror On Lake Michigan” and part of that episode was on KOP. I about fell out of my seat when I saw Fern.
    I think I’ve learned more about history from her than I did in high school.
    She will be greatly missed.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Barb Wellnitz

    Mar 16. 2021

    I was shocked and saddened to learn of Fern’s passing as I have known her for many years and cherished the time spent with her years ago. She was such a fountain of knowledge about La Porte County and certainly will be missed.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Michael Kessler

    Mar 16. 2021

    I’m at a loss to read of Fern’s passing. I spent a lot of years working with her on the Door Village Harvest Festival, among other projects. She was such a fascinating person with a humble dedication to truth and enriching the lives of others through history. On the plaque at Door Village Church is a phrase about the Rev. James Armstrong (an Army chaplain who founded the church there in 1832 and is buried in the cemetery, where Fern would tell rich stories on the cemetery tours): “He rests from his labors and his works do follow him.” That phrase is fitting for Fern, too, as her many works follow her. Thank you for having enriched our lives.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Rick Lambert

    Mar 16. 2021

    My family and I are very saddened of the news. She was one of the nicest people I have ever had the honor in meeting. Fern was a regular at our family restaurant. She always had a story. She will be missed. I think the County Museum should be named after her.

    Reply to this comment
  13. Richard Reel

    Mar 16. 2021

    Fern helped me in many ways. I needed information on the State of Indiana establishing county fairs and on how the LaPorte Co. fair was started. She researched the information for me in 2 days She also volunteered at the Pioneer Land during the Fair for several years. She was a true Hero to the County in so many ways no one will ever know! She is missed !!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marisa (Wolff) McAllister

      Mar 18. 2021

      Ditto about you, Dick Reel!! 😉😘 You are an invaluable asset to the Fair, and Pioneerland and all that is LaPorte!! I can’t think of the Fair without you there!!! I never knew Fern, but I know of her work! And I know I’ve read her research before. Sad when we lose people like her in our community… 🥺

      Reply to this comment
  14. lawman

    Mar 16. 2021

    it has been said that one who does a job they love never actually has to go to work..i believe Fern fits that mold. we were SO fortunate to have her ”working” for us for so long. God Bless

    Reply to this comment
  15. Bryan Tisch

    Mar 16. 2021

    Great writeup Mike. La Porte lost a wonderful woman but her legacy will live on forever in all of the time she spent documenting and preserving the history and heritage of this great county. Fern was involved in talks with the land owner of the former St. Paul United Church of Christ to facillitate the placement of the 130 year old church bell following demolition of the church in 2013. Yet one example of her thousands of hours of time and dedication to preserving history.

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  16. Drew Buchanan

    Mar 17. 2021

    What a thoughtful and touching write up. Thank you for sharing your experiences with Fern. She was a true servant of La Porte county.

    Reply to this comment
  17. Mary Jo Pflum

    Mar 18. 2021

    I was one of the few who was fortunate, and had the privilege to work regularly with Fern. I volunteered at the museum and then held the job of collection manager (if there was such a title) and I learned so much from Fern. I am not a native of LaPorte, although we lived there for almost 40 years, but when we moved I felt as if it was my native county. I learned so much much about the families and how they were connected. I will treasure my time that I spent with Fern and all her knowledge.

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