Monday, December 22, 2008
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Personality of the Week

C. Wayne Schrader: a veteran of veterans' activities

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[December 22, 2008]  C. Wayne Schrader sat in the lounge at the American Legion telling the story of his early days in Logan County. Born on a little farm outside of Burton View, Schrader has been a lifelong area resident.

CivicLaughingly he recalled how when his family moved to the Rocky Ford area, he was one of two first-graders at Briggs School. The class grew, though, and by the time he graduated from the grammar school, there were seven in his graduating class. The school is gone now, used one year by area firefighters as a practice fire. It is obvious by Wayne's tone he has never been fond of that final use of his old school.

Wayne met his wife of 53 years, Marlene, at the old Rec Center, when it was located off the square: "Marlene asked me if I would dance with her, and I said, ‘Sure.' Later she asked me to dance again." Wayne ended up taking Marlene to her prom at Beason High School, and they began dating. When Schrader was about to enter the Army in 1952, he gave his future wife an engagement ring but said he wanted to wait until after he came back before he would marry her.

The Korean War was in full swing, and Wayne didn't know for sure if he would ever come home at all.

Wayne did come home, and the couple were married on Jan. 9, 1955. The lifelong commitment to each other yielded two sons, David Wayne and Randall Scott, and three grandsons. "Still no girls for Marlene," Schrader related.

Wayne had many jobs in those early days as the young couple began their lives together. He was a shoe salesman at $40 a week, worked in a grocery, for the United Way, and he was a debit agent for an insurance company. Eventually, he found his career working for the area utility company that has had many names through the years but is now known as AmerenCILCO.

Although it took Schrader a while to find his career, it took no time at all to find his lifelong commitment to the American Legion. "The day after I came home from the service, my brother Jim took me out to the Legion and signed me up," Schrader said. More than 50 years have passed since that day, but Wayne and Marlene are still very active in the American Legion.

It is obvious when Schrader talks about the Legion that he doesn't consider it just an organization that a person joins and then attends a few meetings. Schrader is an emotional man, and in his eyes you can see the love he has for the organization. It is a part of him more than just a part of his life.

Over the years, Wayne has been the American Legion's county commander, district commander and division commander. He also has been the post's finance chairman, finance officer and served on their building committee. The year he was post commander, Marlene was president of the Legion Auxiliary. "It's been important that both of us have been involved with the Legion," Schrader explained. That way, the two of them have been able to have a time-consuming passion outside of home but still be together all these years.

Schrader has been active in the Legion all the way through the national organization over the years, and that has allowed him to be an expert on what the American Legion is about and what it does. "A lot of members (meaning locally) don't realize all that the Legion does," he stated.

Wayne knows, and he is very proud to be a part of it all. And he is able to tell instantly what program collected how much for whom and what their next year's goals are. Wayne had to smile when he was asked what his current role in the Legion is. "I'm the district chaplain right now," he answered with a grin.

For more than a decade Schrader has been the organizer of the two community programs honoring veterans: one on Memorial Day, the other on Veterans Day. He said that all area veterans' groups, including AMVETS and the VFW, are actively involved in both ceremonies.

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He also is on the Legion's burial detail, which offers the families of deceased veterans in the area to have a color guard and firing squad at their loved one's burial. "We were in Springfield at a burial, and when it was over we were told there was another veteran's ceremony later and that they didn't have an honor guard, so we stayed," he said.

For the last 15 years, Schrader has been the front man for the Legion for their recognition of students throughout the area. He goes to schools to bestow Legion awards on students and had a tone of regret in his voice that he had to have someone else do the honors at a school last year because he was at another school at the same time.

The Legion's student scholarship programs are near and dear to Wayne, and he said that the local American Legion compiles a book of all available scholarships and donates it to the Lincoln Public Library and the high school. It might be the best gathering of scholarship information there is in the country. He noted, "The reason the Legion was founded was to help disabled veterans, and the children and spouses of deceased veterans." Thus, helping children of veterans to be able to afford college is important to him.

Schrader has also been involved with another local organization that is dedicated to youth, the Lincoln Kiwanis. Like with the Legion, Schrader isn't just a member, being the vice president, president and now the secretary for the club in his 25 years with the organization. Kiwanis also offers scholarships and bestows other types of grants to area youth, which fits well into Wayne's model of what he wants to be involved with.

Schrader has but one regret with either service organization. He laughingly lamented his constant roll as a Kiwanian. "Every time we have a fundraiser, I always get kitchen duty," he said. "Just once I would like to not have to wash all the dishes."

With the Legion, his one regret is the terrible fire that ravaged the old Legion building in January of 2002. "We lost so much during that fire," he said. "Records, memorabilia, pictures; it was one of the saddest days of my life."

Schrader was able to save some items before fire officials banned him from going into the building, but a great deal was irreplaceably lost. Again, in his eyes you could see that all that was lost still saddens him.

Wayne and Marlene, with all their activities in the Legion, still have a few hobbies. One is a salt-and-pepper collection that actually fills all the walls and tables of a room in their basement.

Wayne also has a room for American Legion memorabilia that he has collected over the years.

"It probably isn't worth a lot of money, but it's all important to me," he said.

Perhaps not quite as important as Wayne is to his beloved American Legion.



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