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Schroeders make gifts to Catholic and civic institutions

By RENEE WEBB, Globe editor
Dec. 14, 2006

WALL LAKE - When about 250 people were invited to the Wall Lake Community Center by Gus and Lil Schroeder for an evening of socializing, food, spirits and Larger image available surprises, little did they know that this Wall Lake couple would proceed to give away almost $1.4 million to Catholic and civic organizations.

After dinner, at the start of the gifting portion of the evening, Gus, 86, said, "Most of you have no idea why we are having a party. It's not our wedding anniversary. It's not my birthday or Lil's birthday, not our kidsLarger image available birthday."

He then began to call up various groups and presented gifts starting at $5,000 and building to $300,000.

Briar Cliff University in Sioux City received $300,000 from the Schroeders.

"We are incredibly grateful," said Bev Wharton, president of the university. "Gus and Lil are very generous people and they have been so supportive of activities or endeavors that involve Catholic education and community. We are so pleased that they have shared their gifts with us."

Gus Schroeder joined the board of trustees at Briar Cliff about four years ago.

The Diocese of Sioux City received a gift of $250,000.

Following the dinner and awards presentation, Bishop Nickless mentioned that anyone who knows the Schroeders is aware that there are three things that are important in their lives.

"The first and foremost is their family. They love their daughters and their families. They are a great example to all of us of how important family life is," he said. "They've given us an example of caring for people whom they love very much and all of us need to see that today."

Secondly, the bishop said that the Schroeders love their community.

"As Catholics who are committed to the civil arena, they have demonstrated in an extraordinary way their love for the community. They have received so much but they also give so much back," he said.

Thirdly, said Bishop Nickless, it was obvious that they love the church.

"The Catholic Church has meant a great deal in their lives and we are so grateful for their generosity and for the example of their stewardship. They have been given and have been blessed in many ways by God but they have made a prayerful decision to share the blessings God has bestowed on them. They realize the importance to share that and model for others what it means to be a steward of God's gifts on this earth."

Kuemper Catholic Schools in Carroll also received $250,000 from the Schroeders.

"Gus and Lil are two truly amazing people who care deeply for others and are generous beyond words. Sunday evening was a very inspirational and emotional experience for me. We are truly blessed and privileged to be included in their commitment to Catholic education at Kuemper and their generosity for our students," said Sharon Olerich, alumni/special project director.

St. Anthony Regional Hospital in Carroll also received $250,000.

"We are very pleased with the continued ongoing support by Gus and Lil Schroeder. They have been active partners with our community clinic up in Wall Lake and they have obviously given so much to the community there," said Gary Riedmann, president of St. Anthony. "They have also been just as involved at the hospital here."

Another recipient of a gift from the Schroeders was Catholic Charities. The agency received a $100,000 life insurance policy to support their adoption programs. Prior to presenting the gift to the agency, they called Audra Cole of Catholic Charities to the front of the room. About 47 years ago it was Cole who arranged for the adoption of the Schroeders first daughter. Two years later, Cole arranged for the adoption of their second daughter. They presented Cole with a pearl necklace.

"I am very, very pleased in two ways," noted Jerry Eaton, director of Catholic Charities, "pleased for the recognition of Audra and all that she has done at Catholic Charities and for Gus and Lil in that all of the gifts they gave, that they remembered Catholic Charities."

The women enjoyed meeting Cole and offered words of praise to their parents.

"I am really proud to be their daughter," the youngest daughter, Ann Neppel of Armstrong, who added that it was touching to meet Cole. She was adopted in 1961. They received her on Lil's birthday.

Her older sister, Robin Hansen of Keota, Iowa, said she is proud of her parents for doing such good work for the community and the Catholic Church.

Meeting Cole was another highlight of the evening for Hansen, who was adopted in 1959.

"We knew the name of Audra Cole in the last few years but we had never met her - not until tonight. I always wanted to meet her - she's an awesome lady," said Hansen.

Another $100,000 life insurance policy was presented to the City of Wall Lake.

Another Catholic entity that received a gift was St. Joseph Church in Wall Lake. The parish received $50,000.

In addition to the Catholic institutions that received gifts from the Wall Lake couple, the Schroeders presented several civic gifts.

Chuck Brotherton, a member of the Wall Lake Economic Development Committee, said, "Since about 1965, the Schroeders have given over three-quarters of a million dollars to this community."

He mentioned that the Schroeders have given land for several community projects and contributed financial support for numerous Wall Lake endeavors.

Brotherton mentioned that in addition to gifts in which the community is aware of, the Schroeders have given many anonymously.

"There are all kinds of families and kids in this community who had Christmas because of Gus," he said. "There are all kinds of people in this community - the elderly and poor - who have been given new water heaters, new furnaces and things of that nature that they couldn't afford. All of that was done with no fanfare."

Brotherton called the Schroeders an inspiration.

"They make you want to be able to do the same thing yourself," he said. "We don't all have the same resources they have, but they make you want to do what you can."

In addition to the Catholic entities, the Schroeders gave $50,000 to Twilight Acres and $5,000 to each of these Wall Lake organizations Lions Club, American Legion, Historical Society, Fire Department and City Economic Development.

"We are proud to live in Wall Lake and we enjoy this town," said Gus. "We like to call you our friends."