Brownfield, Maine – On August 4, 2019, John E. Schaefer (89) passed away at home after a long illness surrounded by his loving family. John graduated from East High School in Madison and went on to earn a BS (’53) and MS (’56) in physical education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was a flying rings specialist on the UW varsity gymnastics team and a lifetime member of the W Club.
A veteran, John served in the US Army during the Korean War. While stationed there, he distributed clothing and supplies collected by Janet to several orphanages. An accomplished photographer, he documented the lives of the Korean people as they struggled to rebuild at the close of the war.
John was assistant professor of physical education at UW-Oshkosh for several years and associate professor and head gymnastics coach at Eastern Illinois University (Charleston) for 21 years. 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.
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 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, Illinois and completed the Boston Marathon, among others. Besides international travel and US road trips, John was an avid walker and longtime member of the American Volkssport Association (AVA), completing volksmarches in all 50 states.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 66 years, Janet; daughters Diane (Mitch) and Nancy (Mel); sons David (Nantha) and John (Pam); grandchildren Edmund, Maddy, Kimberli, John Lyle, Santosh, and Tyler; several great-grandchildren; and sister Charlene (Kurth), along with many cousins, nephews and nieces. He is predeceased by his parents, Emil and Bessie Schaefer of Madison, sister Bernina and brother George. 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.