Life Lessons, is a 2019 project highlighting the life and times of Wisconsin Seventh-day Adventist Church members who are 90 years of age or older, and still actively serving and loving Jesus
Walter Schroeder, born March 20, 1929, is an energetic 90-year-old gentleman living in Arpin, Wisconsin. Just three miles west from Marshfield, he tends to his farmland with his red Allis-Chalmers tractors. As a long-time, active member of the Marshfield Seventh-day Adventist Church, Walter has seen Jesus in his schooling, family, and community.
An Arpin School Boy
The youngest of three siblings, Walter was born mere months before the Great Depression swept across America. His father, Ernest, was a Beekeeper, and tended to 30 colonies that produced between one to two tons of honey each year. With his family busy working at home, Walter started grade school at age 5. By the time he graduated from his elementary education, he was a teenager hungering for a spiritual experience.
To Bethel and Beyond
Walter wanted to go to Junior Camp, and afterwards was interested in attending Bethel Academy. From his Sophomore to Senior year in this Adventist High School, Walter met people who would leave life-long impressions on him. Walter’s face beams when he remembers that he found “the love of my life at Bethel!” Esther Crist, born just 14 days earlier than Walter, was also attending Bethel Academy. These two became close, intimate friends. Two years after graduating from the Academy, Walter and Esther were married on June 6, 1948. These two 19-year-old newlyweds would stick close to Jesus and committed to each other for over 50 years until Esther passed away. Walter reflects that she was God’s love in his life.
Another individual who had a deep impact on Walter during his time at Bethel Academy was Pastor J.C. Michalenko. He was a District Pastor, overseeing 5 churches. Yet, he also was the Bible and Algebra teacher at the Adventist school. Walter had spent his Freshman year at the Marshfield public high school and was a recent transfer to Bethel Academy in the Fall of 1943. In October he broke his arm and was out of school for the rest of the semester. With so much time missed from school, Walter felt that he would be held back a year. To his surprise, during Christmas break Pastor Michalenko visited him. For 2 days the pastor tutored him in algebra. As a result, Walter passed his mathematics with a “C”. Walter was very grateful for the selfless act shown to him by Pastor Michalenko. He reminisces on how he saw Jesus through the pastor’s service. For the rest of his life Walter would strive to be a helping hand to those in need.
Providence for the Family
Walter graduated from the Academy in 1946, and then that summer helped build Wisconsin Academy in Columbus, WI. After marrying Esther a couple of years later, they settled down in the town of Owen. By 1952 they had two beautiful children, Gary and Linda, and now Walter needed to find consistent work to supplement his farming. God answered his prayer via a local co-op cheese factory. They approached Walter to driver their milk delivery truck—and they would honor his Sabbaths. For the next decade Walter would farm and deliver milk.
By 1962 the prices of milk and produce were getting too low to make ends meet. Again, Walter asked for God’s providence and guidance. Just a few months transpired before The Howards—now known as Mid-American Nursing Homes—purchased the Bethel Academy and turned it into a nursing home facility. They asked Walter to be Purchasing Agent, and for Esther to be Housing Supervisor. After 2 years they asked Walter to come to Marshfield and be Assistant Administrator. Then after 3 months, in 1965, he became the Head Administrator. For nearly a decade he would server in Marshfield, and oversaw the program’s growth from 60 to 180 beds. In 1974 he became the Head Administrator in Bethel; a position he would serve in for the next 20 years. Walter states that “his team had a great interest in helping the people.”
Walter’s life mission focused on “helping the people” like his Savior Jesus Christ. As of 2019 he will finish his fiftieth year as church treasurer. Moreover, he served 42 years on the Ritchfield township board—12 years of which he was the chairman. Whether he serves his family, church, or community, Walter has tried to reflect Christ’s loving interest and attention to all.
Jeanmark A’Kessler, Pastor of Rhinelander Church District