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An Ode to Uncle Chuck

The circle of life is hard. The older we get. The more frequently it happens. This week, I received the news. Another loved one gone too soon. It leaves us with so many questions.

I was born in Pipestone, MN — a small town in the prairie near the border of South Dakota. My grandparents, Mark and Hazel (Jensen) Schroyer, called it their homestead. The six sibs grew up there. Everyone left except for my mom’s baby brother. He was my absolute favorite.

His obituary was rather simple — the usual. Richard “Chuck” Schroyer was born in Pipestone. He played football and threw for the Arrows. Chuck did the same in college. He graduated. He later earned a Masters. Chuck taught high school biology and coached football and track for his alma mater. He enjoyed teaching and working with youngsters. Chuck retired in 2020. He then scored a part-time gig at the Pipestone National Monument.

Chuck loved the outdoors. He enjoyed fishing, hunting, football, and golf. Chuck also loved to travel. He was a solid grill man. A great singer. A walking karaoke machine. Chuck was so good to his four grandsons. He and his wife Deb were fantastic. They were the life of every function. They had been married for 41 years and had just returned from a lengthy pilgrimage to New Mexico. Chuck was so proud of his two sons, Justin and Creighton. Jessica and Tanya are cool, too.

The wording continues. It mentions the family members who passed and those of us who are still living. Uncle Chuck was 62 years. A rather tough one to swallow. He was in his prime. Chuck was just getting started. Man. He was looking great. I feel for those 1,200 miles away. I wish we lived closer. Plane tickets are expensive. There aren’t enough hours in the day. But then I remembered. This is a no-brainer.

Uncle Chuck kickstarted several of my passions. He introduced me to golf. It is all my uncle’s fault. We routinely played nine holes at Pipestone Country Club. Chuck also expanded my love for fishing. From trolling for Walleyes or catching Rainbows in Wyoming. We got older, and those fish got bigger. Chuck sparked my interests with US History and Geography. He was a wealth of knowledge — a great teacher. Chuck was a great resource in terms of coaching. We had many conversations about dealing with administrators and parents. He taught me how to throw a football. I preferred hoops. Chuck was so supportive throughout the years. I could go on forever.

Chuck was the man. Oh, we had so many great memories. He and his kin would join us on our family vacations. Multiple Schroyerfests. The Badlands. The Black Hills and Yellowstone. Chuck would do most of the cooking. Our fireworks displays were legendary. Pipestone PD was always watching. Run like hell, boys. It’s cool, officer. I’m Coach Schroyer’s nephew. Chuck was always singing. He had a beautiful range. Gordon Lightfoot to Chris Stapleton. Led Zeppelin to Neil Young. Uncle Chuck was a musical influence. I finally kicked his tail in our yearly karaoke contest. Thankfully, I still have the footage. I never imagined that those would be our last songs together. Life is too short, kids. I remember and cherish all of our special moments. He made an impact. Cheers.