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Schroeder, former Iroquois Co. board chair, dies

Ron Schroeder wore many hats during his life.

Following his 1961 graduation from St. Anne Community High School, the Papineau Township man worked at the then-thriving Kankakee Roper manufacturing plant.

He later had a 10-year career as an Illinois State Trooper, having worked out of the Pontiac and then the Ashkum districts.

 

However, following a 10-year stint of patrolling the maze of district roads, Schroeder found his true love — agriculture — as well as a dash of politics.

Schroeder died Jan. 10 at Loyola University Medical Center following an extended illness. He was 80.

The former 24-year Iroquois County Board member, who represented the Papineau Township region, which bumped up against the Kankakee County line, also served the final nearly 11 years as board chairman.

Former Iroquois County Board member, Russ Bills, whose 27-year county board tenure bookended Schroeder’s, said while he didn’t always agree with the former chairman, he always respected him.

Bills said when Schroeder dug in his heels on a subject, he would not relent.

“He could be very aggressive,” Bills said.

He recalled an instance in which several members wanted to update a fire alarm system in a county building. Schroeder was at a loss. He stopped the committee meeting, walked out of the room and pulled a fire alarm.

It of course sounded, and emergency responders arrived.

He walked back to the meeting room and said it appeared the system was functioning.

“It was one of the biggest tee-hee moments I can ever remember,” Bills said. “They never talked about the new system again.”

Bills said he often met Schroeder at his farmhouse to talk one-on-one regarding county issues.

“His heart was always into Iroquois County,” Bills said. “He wanted people working together to accomplish things. He wanted to get things done.”

 

At one time, Schroeder was also a member of the St. Anne Grade School Board.

While he enjoyed police work, it was not his passion.

“Ron was too independent to be a trooper. He was too independent to follow directions,” explained wife, Linda “Cookie” Schroeder, who was also his farming partner. “The tractor seat is where he wanted to be.”

And, there was one commonly known fact in the agricultural world of Iroquois County, Cookie explained.

“If Ronnie beat you to the field, you were in trouble,” she chuckled. “Ronnie was not a morning guy. He would work late into the night, but he hated getting up in the morning. He didn’t like to get out of bed.”

 

Despite that agriculture oddity, Ron was in his element working on a farm which at one point reached about 700 acres. The couple also raised an assortment of livestock, ranging from hogs, veal calf, sheep and a sprinkling of chickens.

Farming neighbors noted that when Schroeder did start his day, he was not only dedicated to his farm but also to those of friends and neighbors.

One of those farming neighbors was John Schoth. The two knew one another for some 50 years.

“He was a community man and just a good guy,” the farmer said.

Schoth said there was one key rule most people adhered to: Don’t talk politics with Ron.

“I stayed out of the politics with him,” he said. “He had his opinions. He liked to be in control of things, and he was smart. Ron was no dummy, and he was not going to back down. If he had an opinion, he wasn’t going to get off of it.”

Another farming neighbor, Ben Reichert, recalled several off-the-farm trips he took with Ron to the Joliet gaming boat.

Schroeder was known for his sweet tooth and, with a buffet line filled with meats and side dishes, he bypassed all of it. He traveled straight to the dessert tables and loaded up on sweets.

“Whenever I would stop by Ron’s to talk, he always had a box of donuts,” Reichert said. “He was a great guy. If I ever needed something, Ron was always there to help.”

Like Schoth, Reichert shied away from political conversation. That tactic didn’t mean they never talked politics.

“Let me just say he wouldn’t take political advice,” he said. “I would offer some, but I don’t think he ever used it. I think I can say he never used it. But I will say, Ron was a good guy.”

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