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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Sharon Lee Schaal

Issue Date: May 11, 2022

So God made a caregiver"

How do you pay tribute to the best, most selfless mother, grandmother and great-grandmother in the world? These few words are hardly adequate, but we're limited, so here we go.

Sharon Lee Schaal, nee Page, born on July 19, 1944, went to meet Jesus on Saturday, May 7, 2022, at the age of 77. Knowing Mom, she probably took a bag of candy with her to hand out, just as she often did at her grandkids' games.

Sharon was born in Green Bay, WI to Oliver and Eyla (Mattox) Page, She and her siblings enjoyed playing in Duck Creek as youngsters. Their dad died while the kids were young, leaving their mom in dire straits, with few means to support herself and eight children. The county took the kids and placed them in various foster homes. Sharon and her sister closest in age (Sylvia) went to live with Chester and Irene Raaths in rural Cecil when Sharon was about 11 years old. Chester and Irene were loving foster parents to the girls.

Sharon graduated from Gillett High School, and then went on to Bellin College of Nursing,where she discovered her true calling, which was caring for others. 

While attending Bellin College, Sharon began dating and then eloped with David Schaal, a farmer from Gillett. After returning to college and signing a test with her married name, Sharon was called into the dean's office, where she was asked why she had signed her test with the last name of "Schaal." She told the dean she had gotten married, and her last name was now Schaal. This was a real dilemma for the college, as they had a strict policy against allowing married students to attend the school. But Sharon was a good student, and the school didn't really want to kick her out of college simply for being married. So, the school changed the rule, and that is how Sharon Schaal became the first ever married student to graduate from Bellin College of Nursing.

Sharon worked as a nurse until she and Dave started a family at their farm in Spruce. After the barn burned down, they moved to the family farm in Gillett, where they spent the rest of their lives. Sharon supported Dave in his farming endeavors by holding down the fort at home, faithfully and uncomplainingly, as he worked long hours to grow the farm and support the family.

Holding and caring for babies came so naturally to Sharon it must have seemed like breathing to her. Never was there a woman more nurturing, loving, patient, and steadfast than Mom. She spent her entire life putting others before herself. Humility and selflessness were the essence of Mom. Her home was a welcome place for generations of kids. She was never happier than when her home was filled with kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, nieces, nephews, and other family and friends.

Upon entering her home, Sharon's guests would immediately be offered something to eat. Even if the offer was politely declined, she would often ignore that and proceed to heat up a dish of food or place some sort of food or sweets in front of them. She was what we lovingly referred to as a "food pusher." It was just one way she demonstrated her love.

As much as she loved feeding her loved ones, she had her limits. One time, after feeding the whole family and farm hands breakfast, Dad said it was time to get back outside and get some work done. One of the boys said he hadn't even gotten his second waffle yet. Mom, thinking he had just dropped the "F-Bomb," very uncharacteristically smacked him so hard he flew off his chair. With the rest of us looking on in shock, and our brother holding up two fingers to indicate he had only said the word "second," Mom realized her mistake. She felt terrible. We kids enjoyed ribbing Mom for years about the breakfast incident. 

If a baby came into Mom's view, it didn't matter who that baby belonged to, or whether or not she knew the parents, she usually made a beeline straight to the baby. To our knowledge, Mom never actually wrestled a baby from its mother's arms, but we can't say with 100% certainty that she did not. It became a running joke in the family that if you wanted to hold a new baby, you had to get to it before Mom did. She just couldn't help herself when it came to babies.

And that love for babies was a literal blessing to hundreds, if not thousands of babies born in Northeast Wisconsin, for Sharon worked as a labor and delivery nurse for 30+ years in area hospitals. The majority of her career was spent at Oconto Falls, Shawano, and Green Bay (St. Mary's) hospitals. 

Being a true night owl, Sharon was happy to work nights, which is what she did for her entire career, so that her days could be spent attending her kids' and grandkids' sporting and other extracurricular events. She never missed a sporting event, no matter how exhausted she might have been from working the night before.

Sharon and Dave made a great team raising their five kids. So great, in fact, that it only seemed natural for them to take in their nephew, Dallas, after his mom (Sharon's sister Sylvia) passed away when Dallas was 9. They treated Dallas as their own, and when asked how many children they had, they always said they had six.

Sharon was also a loving aunt to her nieces and nephews, especially to Ben and Patti's seven kids, who grew up right next door on the farm. Aunt Sharon's door was always open to them, and she truly loved them as part of her immediate, nuclear family. 

Mom not only nurtured babies, she nurtured her siblings, caring for many as they suffered through bouts of cancer. Notably, she nursed her sister Shirley back to health, feeding her literally with a baby spoon until she could start taking more food after a particularly close call. She also cared for Shirley until her death this past January, despite her own health concerns, after Shirley suffered a stroke and became incapacitated. 

Left behind to try to fill her impossibly big shoes are her children: Brad (Julie), Tom (Janelle), Tammy (Pete), Bret (Lisa), Ben (Michelle), and Dallas (Michelle).

The void left in the hearts of her grandchildren may never be filled, though each of them knows how much their grandma loved them. Those adoring grandkids are: Justin (Angela), Jeremy, Stephanie (Jake), Shannon (Cameron), Sammy (Tyler), Brett (Cindy), Kyla (Jordan), Nicole, Caleb, Colton, Baldwin, Elijah, Kaitlyn (Taylor), Karissa (Brice), Jordyn, Jensyn (Tess), Sylvia, Kasey, and Lily.

She also leaves behind several great-grandchildren, including Josalyn, Madalyn, Lextin, Tessalyn, Gracie, Oaklyn, Boone, Wylee, Lara, Conor, Kenley, Dean, Hannah and Raelynn.

In addition, Sharon is survived by her sister and brother-in-law Lou and Mel Vandenberg, and brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Ben and Patti Schaal, and numerous nieces and nephews.

Welcoming Sharon in Heaven were her husband of nearly 55 years, Dave; grandson Wyatt and great-granddaughter, Jalyn. Also preceding her in death were her parents; foster parents and her siblings and siblings-in-law, Barb and Mel Nylund, Shirley Martin, Sylvia Page, LaDonna Knapstein, Allen Page and Myron Page.

Per Mom's wishes, no services will be held.

The family would like to thank the nurses on the second floor at Bellin Hospital for caring for Mom this past week.


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