Kathleen Schaefer

Kathleen Schaefer believed in giving back to her community, and no where was that more evident than in the work she spent on behalf of United Way.

Mrs. Schaefer was a member of the United Way of Northern Ozaukee board for nine years and executive director of the organization for 11 years.

“She was the glue,” former board member Steve Schowalter said. “She was so engaged, and her enthusiasm for the organization was truly infectious. She knew the good work the organization was doing throughout the county and wanted to make sure it was done right.

“There are people who just do their jobs, and those who have a passion for their job. Kathie had a passion for the job. She was low-key but steady and she saw to it things got done, and in the process she left an indelible impression on the organization.

“It was all the better for her.”

Mrs. Schaefer died Thursday, Feb. 21, at Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Ozaukee in Mequon. She was 77.

She died of antitrypsin deficiency, a lung disease also known as Alpha 1, that she had battled for four decades, her husband Fred said.

A native of Waukesha, she was born on Aug. 27, 1941, the daughter of Robert and Kathleen Dean.

She married Frederick Schaefer on July 5, 1969, at St. Robert’s Church in Shorewood.

Mrs. Schaefer earned a degree in English at Marquette University in Milwaukee and parlayed it into a career in education, working initially in California for three years, then at schools in Grafton and Fox Point.

Later, after her children were grown, she volunteered at St. Peter Catholic School in Port Washington, later trading that volunteer post for a position creating the computer lab at Port Catholic School — today St. John XXIII School. She taught children of all ages at the school how to use the technology in the lab.

Even when she wasn’t working as a teacher, education was a thread throughout her life, her family said, noting she would teach anyone willing to listen to her.

“She loved having contact with kids,” her husband said. “She was pretty talented as a teacher.”    

She was also a very organized person, he said, a skill she put to use in her volunteer work.

“She just wanted to be active, to be involved in things and share her talents,” her husband said.

Mrs. Schaefer was a Boy Scout Den Mother, shepherding children through the ranks of Wolf and Bear.

She was also a member of the Friends of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, St. Peter of Alcantara Christian Women and the Port Washington Historical Society.

“We as a family have always been interested in history,” Mr. Schaefer, who is a retired history teacher, said, noting the family took numerous vacations around the country to historical areas. They traveled throughout the country, everywhere but the Northwest, and also visited Europe.

Mrs. Schaefer enjoyed traveling, her husband said, taking trips not just with her immediate family but also her “plaid” friends, a group of seven women who formed a babysitting cooperative when their children were young but remained friends through the years.

She dabbled in art, taking a number of classes, and sewing as well, making a number of items for her home.

Mrs. Schaefer especially treasured time with her grandchildren, often spending time working on a project or educational endeavor.

She loved talking to her family and friends, and often family members would plan conversations while they were taking long drives. Mrs. Schaefer would listen to whatever they had to say, joining in their joy and commiserating in their despair.

Mrs. Schaefer had a special talent for turning strangers into friends, her daughter-in-law Sheila Schaefer said.

“She had an enormous sense of curiosity and caring,” she said. “She was curious about other people and their lives, and she was incredibly giving of her time and her love. She was an amazing person.”

Mrs. Schaefer is survived by her husband Fred of Port Washington; sons Paul (Sheila) of Colorado Springs, Colo., Thomas (Stephanie) of Brookfield and David (Corrinna) of Jacksonville, Fla.; and grandchildren Dean, Kyle, Elizabeth, Zachary, Karina, Ryan and Clara.

She is further survived by her siblings Suzie (Thomas) McKale of Elm Grove, Mary Ellen (Dale) Mueller of Cedarburg, Robert (Karen) Dean of Shorewood, Patrick (Deborah) Dean of Lake Elmo., Minn., and Nancy (Jeffrey) Bassindale of Green Bay.

She was preceded in death by her daughter Elizabeth and parents Robert and Kathleen Dean.

A Mass of Christian burial was to be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27, at St. John XXIII Parish, St. Peter of Alcantara Catholic Church, in Port Washington. Father Patrick Wendt was to officiate.

Visitation was to be held at the church Wednesday from 4 p.m. until the service.

A private interment will be held.

Memorials are suggested to the Alpha-1 Foundation, United Way of Northern Ozaukee or the Friends of the Milwaukee Rep.

Eernisse Funeral Home, Port Washington, is handling the arrangements.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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