By Kelley Brummer and Jean Schulte
Special to The Witness
Editor’s Note: Jean Schulte, a longtime member of St. Mary Parish in Dorchester, wrote the following reflection about her son Reggie with the help of a friend.
Schulte told The Witness why she wanted people to know about her son, the oldest of nine, who died in 1962 at age 7:
“The reason I really wrote this is so people could realize that children at a young age can be understanding of God,” she said, explaining that her son was dedicated to his faith. “(Reggie’s) personality was sort of stunning. I was two months pregnant when he died. Looking forward to this other child coming made me able to accept it. I told (Reggie) before he died that we were going to have another baby, and his face lit up. He smiled and said he sure hoped it was a little girl because (his sister) ‘Kathy already has too many dresses.’”
Reggie was born on June 3, 1955, to Jean and Greg Schulte. He was their oldest. Tall and thin for his age, Reggie had olive skin tone, brown eyes and dark hair. Since Reggie was born, he lived on a farm in Dorchester and had a dog named Puppy.
At age 2, sister Kathy was born, and two years later, brother Kevin came along. In 1960, Jack (Jackie) was born, then Duane one year later, on the same day.
Reggie visited his grandma often. On his way to grandma’s for Kool-aide and cookies, he’d have to walk the field and help Puppy over the fence. On the way back from grandma’s, the cows would follow Reggie and Puppy through the field and through the gate. Then, Reggie, being the responsible 5-year-old that he was, would close the gate behind the cows.
Reggie’s dad would be up at 5 a.m. to milk the cows. His mom would be up shortly after that to start breakfast, and Reggie got himself up at this time too, to set the table. After suppers, his mom would heat up the water to give baths, then his dad taught and listened to their prayers.
In first grade, Reggie asked his mom to read Messenger Magazine to him because Reggie wasn’t old enough to read that good. At the end of the stories were questions. Reggie would pace the floor until he knew the answer completely. Brother Charles taught catechism. Reggie would always be first to raise his hand for the answer. Later, a family friend told Reggie’s mom that Brother Charles wanted to tell Reggie to let some of the eighth-graders answer, too.
Father Duane would make stops at farms, just to visit. Reggie’s dad asked Reggie what he wanted to be when he grows up. Reggie said, “When I grow up, I want to be a farmer-priest.”
On July 2, 1962, Reggie’s mom noticed little mosquito bites on Reggie’s forehead, then he started a fever. Taking Reggie to the doctor, he was put on an antibiotic and was ordered to keep quiet. On Saturday, his mom had no idea that Reggie was very sick, as she continued preparing a large meal for a church dinner at St Mary’s in Dorchester. His dad took Reggie back to the doctor, with the same recommendation: take the same antibiotic and keep still. Monday came, and Reggie’s legs were swollen. Dad took Reggie again, and the doctor said again, to continue with the same antibiotic and to keep still. On Tuesday, the 4th of July, Reggie woke up at 8 a.m. acting like he was drugged, and not with it. Mom was scared and called the doctor. The nurse said the doctor isn’t available and to call back later. Mom called at 4 p.m., and the doctor still wasn’t available. Reggie seemed like he was getting a little better. At 10 p.m., Mom gave Reggie his antibiotic, but he vomited it up. The next morning at 5 a.m., Mom woke up by hearing Reggie having convulsions. They drove him to Waukon Hospital, and that doctor said to call a priest. At 6:30 a.m., Father Warrener, a newly ordained priest associate at St Patrick Parish in Waukon, anointed Reggie. Reggie seemed to be doing better. Reggie said the Angel of God prayer, out loud. He couldn’t receive Communion because he couldn’t swallow. Around 11 a.m., Father McDonald, pastor of St Patrick’s in Waukon, came to pray for him and asked if Reggie could be confirmed. Mom had no idea how sick Reggie was until now. Reggie was confirmed with the name Francis. Dad sat at Reggie’s side. The priest said prayers, and Reggie joined in with the Our Fathers and Hail Marys. Then Reggie asked God to bless individually, his brothers, his sister, his mom, his dad, his aunts, his uncles and his grandparents — his whole family. A couple of hours later, Mom was standing at the end of the bed and Dad sitting on a chair at the side of his bed, holding his hand. Then Reggie took two deep breaths and passed. The autopsy showed spinal meningitis.