I currently write a column Monthly for the DeKalb Daily
Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each month
and be added to the archives.
The Articles started December 2007.
If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates
to catch up.
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Meeting a walking, talking history book
By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................May 7, 2013
Note to readers: Barry Schraders DeKalb
County Life column will appear on the first Tuesday of
Since returning to our roots in DeKalb County about six
years ago, I have encountered scores of people who have shared
their backgrounds, genealogy and historical anecdotes with me,
but none stand out more in my mind than the incomparable Don
When I first met him five years ago, he reminded me of an elderly
Mickey Rooney, both in height and demeanor. But after numerous
encounters I find him probably the most prolific, knowledgeable
and talkative World War II veteran alive today.
As my old newspaper colleague Jerry Smith quipped to Don
last week: Since that time your jaw was temporarily frozen
shut when they pulled you out of a foxhole during the war, it
is probably the last time you were ever shut up
all said in jest and with good intentions.
Don Schoo, now 88, wears his medals from several World
War II campaigns in Europe
If you have met Don or heard him deliver one of hundreds of talks
to young and old alike at Kishwaukee College, in school classrooms
or at a Memorial Day ceremony, you know what Jerry meant. Even
though hes now 88, Don can rattle off names, dates and
battles from World War II as though they were yesterday.
Just to highlight some of his record he fought in the
European Theater with the 80th Infantry Division, as a machine
gunner most of the time. He worked with the French Underground
toward the end of the war. He also volunteered as a truck driver
to help American troops evacuate the Buchenwald concentration
camp at Weimar, Germany.
Belatedly in 2005 he was awarded the Knight of the Legion of
Honor by the president of France and in 2010 received a medallion
from the Buchenwald Camp Association for his help in rescuing
prisoners there. His chestful of war medals include two Bronze
Stars and a Combat Infantry Badge. I can understand why he proudly
displays them during his talks and participation in military
He returned to DeKalb in 1945, and in 1947 joined the DeKalb
Police Department, where he served for 20 years. Next the city
made him manager of the Taylor Airport, and he worked at Northern
Illinois University in maintenance until his final retirement.
Talking about Memorial Day and what it was intended it to be
a day to honor our war dead as well as remember our forebears,
we both agreed people seem to forget about those who gave the
ultimate sacrifice for this country.
From his youth, Don recalls the all-day activities at cemeteries
and throughout main streets, the Gold Star Mothers of the deceased
soldiers riding in parades, flowers being placed on graves by
Brownies and Girl Scouts while Cub and Boy Scouts, the American
Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posted flags at each soldiers
grave. Taps always ended the ceremony, which is still the case
On May 27, veterans groups will repeat the annual tribute
in each of our communities. Try to spend an hour participating
in some way, and if you are lucky you will spot Don Schoo wearing
medals. Tell him and all the other veterans, plus todays
soldiers, how much you appreciate them. A handshake or pat on
the back is the least we can offer them for enabling us to remain
free and safe from tyranny.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115