The obituary of Bath Township resident, Tom Schneider, tells the story of a loving family man who was fully engaged in his community and lived his values. He will be missed by the many people and organizations who he touched throughout the years.
THOMAS RICHERT PATRICK RYAN SCHNEIDER
Bath Township, Michigan
Tom passed away unexpectedly. Values of service and simple living, love of culture, people and family, guided his life. He believed in the simple essence of the Catholic faith.
Born in Providence Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, December 6, 1942, the eldest son of Richert Schneider and Mary Ryan Schneider, Tom was proud of his Irish-German heritage, and loved and respected his parents, who preceded him in death. He took loving care of his aging father at home until his death.
Tom moved with his family to Massachusetts, Kalamazoo, and then East Lansing, where he attended St. Thomas Aquinas School, graduating from Resurrection High School in Lansing in 1960. He trained to be an automotive engineer at General Motors Institute in Flint. In 1964, Tom worked with Peace Corps in Puerto Rico, then as a VISTA volunteer community organizer in Gary, Indiana, absorbing the idealism of the civil rights movement. In the late 1960′s, at the height of the anti-Vietnam War movement, Tom became a conscientious objector and pacifist and a recruiter of volunteers for Peace Corps and VISTA on college campuses throughout the Midwest.
Tom was frugal, to say the least, and saved the stipend from his recruiting job to travel around the world. He spent $2,000 on the entire trip, including airfares, staying with family friends and Peace Corps volunteers, eating local foods, and mostly hitchhiking from place to place. Tom was also patient and thoughtful, so the trip that was supposed to last a year, stretched from 1969 to 1972, from Hawaii to Tahiti, Indonesia, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, all of Southeast Asia and the Middle East, including many countries Americans can no longer visit. From Turkey, he entered Romania, and ended his trip in Western Europe. He spent weeks in many of these places, immersing himself in the cultures, learning all he could, making many friends along the way. Tom often told friends that he and his wife just missed meeting one another in Paris, where they both were, serendipitously, in the same week in 1972.
Travel became a lifelong passion and with his family Tom went across the US, and to Ireland, Japan, and Italy. Tom was part of an interfaith peace dialogue in Northern Ireland. He brought medical supplies to Nicaragua with the Bath Lions Club. Always ready for adventure, earlier this year, Tom went snowboarding for the first time in his life, in Montana. He loved spending time with family in Traverse City, Holland and Macatawa, Michigan. Tom traveled constantly in his imagination from home, collecting hundreds of maps, and consulting atlases to find a certain something or someone. He most often took the route less traveled.
In 1975, Tom and two others founded the Abrahamic Community in East Lansing, a homeless shelter and soup kitchen where Tom devoted his energies for the next six years. Tom often joked that he met his wife, Becky, at the homeless shelter (she was a volunteer.) They married at the community farm, on August 4, 1979. Moving to Laingsburg, Michigan in 1980, they were foster parents for teens, and gave birth at home to their three sons, Gabriel Thomas, Noah Franco and Benjamin Ryan.
In addition to raising his children, Tom worked in 1980′s and 1990′s, as a plant specialist for the USDA Soil Conservation Service at Rose Lake, and at Lorian Farms Nursery in Bath. He instilled in his children a love of the outdoors, attention to the details of nature, and the seasons.
He was an active volunteer, co-founding and serving on the boards of Haven House Shelter in East Lansing, Looking Glass Community Volunteers in Laingsburg, Lansing Sister Cities Commission, and the Peace Education Center, among many other organizations. For over 30 years, he read monthly on WKAR Radio Talking Book, was a caregiver in the homes of family friends, and a presence at many area protest marches, vigils and actions for peace, justice and human rights.
Tom embraced life with zest and enthusiasm. He made countless connections among people, and loved nothing better than a gathering and a potluck meal. Tom enjoyed conversations, listening to anyone’s story, anywhere. Tom appreciated art, music and ideas, visiting galleries, carefully planning his forays to area concerts and festivals, listening to public and satellite radio, and to world news and music of all styles from around the globe. He also liked the freewheeling style of Abba. He relished the opportunity to share his intellectual, artistic and musical tastes with anyone and everyone, especially his kids. Tom had insatiable curiosity and avid interest in many, many topics. He carefully clipped and passed on articles he thought might be of interest to friends and associates.
Tom’s travels changed his view of the world. He became an avid recycler, happily wearing others’ castoff clothing and reusing every conceivable item, collecting throwaways and composting every scrap of leftover food. Tom believed strongly in simple living, often saying, “Live simply, so others can simply live.”
Tom was elected Bath Township Supervisor in 2008, becoming an active member of Clinton County Democrats. He spent many hours committed to improving life and the future for the citizens of Bath.
Tom was proud of his three sons and their accomplishments, delighted when Gabriel and Noah both married “local” girls from Bath, and he embraced both families of in-laws as he did his own, the Schwarz family. Tom was very happy when his youngest son, Benjamin, began the Ag Tech program at MSU this fall. Tom was truly in love with being “Opa” to his granddaughter, Olivia, and was eagerly awaiting details of the pregnancies and birth of his two new grandchildren this coming spring.
Tom leaves behind his loving wife of 32 years, Becky (Bernadette) Schwarz, their three sons and daughters-in-love, Gabriel and Amy (Wilmers) of Traverse City, Noah and Amanda (Snider) of Charlotte, and Ben of Laingsburg, Michigan, and one granddaughter, Olivia Michelle Schneider, of Traverse City. He is also survived by his brother, Robert (Grace) Schneider of Ludington, and his extended Schwarz family and many cousins from the Ryan clan.
Tom’s funeral was today at St. John’s Parish in East Lansing, followed by interment at Rose Cemetery on Upton Road in Bath Township.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a contribution to one of the following in Tom’s name:
Peace Education Center – 855 Grove Street, East Lansing, MI 48823; WKAR Radio – 283 Communications Arts & Sciences Building, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824; Haven House – 121 Whitehills Drive, P.O. Box 961, East Lansing, MI 48826; or the organization of your choice through which you knew Tom.