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Barb Schmidt, a founder of Shawano Area Community Foundation, dies at 90

Photo by Shawano Area Community Foundation (SACF) Board member Curt Knoke.

Barbara Schmidt

Barb Schmidt is being remembered for her life of serving Shawano County through her many years of leadership. As co-founder of the Shawano Area Community Foundation (SACF), in 1990, her legacy will impact the community forever.

“Barb provided the push to get the SACF started. She was a very dedicated woman and committed to the foundation and the community. She was an extremely hard worker, a pleasure to work with, and an inspiration to all,” says Ellen Swedberg, former SACF board member.

Current board member Curt Knoke shared some thoughts and memories of his time working with Barb:

“After nine years of service on the SACF board and serving as Chair for several of those years, I closed out my 2007 annual report ‘Message from the Chair’ saying, ‘We are all indebted to those who founded SACF and served before us. Without their insight and perseverance, we would not exist.’

Curt Knoke and his wife, Martha

“Of course Barb was one of those founders who’s insight, perseverance, energy and infectious enthusiasm ensured that SACF would become a mainstay in the greater Shawano community. She remained on the board until 2008 when we were well on our way to success with close to $2.5 million in endowment funds. Currently we are approaching the $10 million mark with nearly 90 funds in the SACF family of funds. I was privileged to have served on the board when Barb was Chair and am so grateful for that opportunity. Thank you Barb!”

Here is a feature article about Barb and her legacy from the Shawano Leader/NEW Media Inc., reprinted with permission:

Barb Schmidt represented what dedication to a life of service can mean for a community.

Barbara Faye Schmidt, Shawano, passed away on Jan. 20 at 90. She spent most of that 90 years in Shawano County, where she operated a business with her husband, worked in banking, served on the Shawano County Board and served on or created charities that served not only the city of Shawano but the broader community as well.

Schmidt was creator and co-founder of the Shawano Area Community Foundation (SACF) and served on its board for 13 years. She was secretary, vice president and president for six years.

Ron Malueg, who co-founded the foundation with Schmidt, said it was “sheer determination” that allowed the foundation to take off in Shawano. “A fair amount of community leaders thought we could not pull it off. They didn’t think it would catch on,” Malueg said.

Schmidt, though, was determined to create a lasting legacy. “She wanted to set something up that was philanthropic in nature and didn’t end. With foundations you only spend the money you generate-you don’t touch the donations. She wanted to give back, wanted to give something that had longevity to it,” Malueg said.

Did she succeed? Absolutely, Malueg said.

A Shawano High School graduate, she and her husband, Robert, owned the Lakeshore Telephone Company. She was the first woman to serve on the National Telephone Cooperative Board of Directors.

Upon retiring from the telephone company, she served for four years on the Shawano County Board, leading an effort to establish the emergency 911 system for the county. She also helped to select the first Shawano County administrator. She was a member of the United Way Board of Directors and served as president of that organization.

Schmidt donated her time to the Shawano County Chamber of Commerce board as secretary, vice president and president. She was instrumental in bringing the Main Street Program to the city.

She also served as president of the Shawano County Advancement Association, which eventually became the Shawano County Tourism Council. During her tenure there, the room tax was created and continues to be a source of income for the tourism council.

Schmidt was also one of the original founders of Shawano County Economic progress, Inc., and served as its first vice president.

She served as a director of M&I Bank of Shawano for 13 years. She has been recognized for her contributions for her leadership in community and economic development by the Wisconsin Extension Community Development Association. She was named Business Woman of the Year for the Shawano area in 1987.

In her leadership roles, Malueg noted, Schmidt actively sought out input from other board members. “She certainly wanted to have everyone’s thoughts on what to do,” he said.

Once that input was shared, though, he said her leadership style was action-based. “Let’s get going and get things done,” is how she approached her role, he said.

Her work definitely had a lasting impact, he said, adding, “She was one of the nicest people I ever knew.”

Private family services will be held at a later date. The Swedberg Funeral Home in Shawano is assisting the family. Memorials can be directed to Shawano Area Matthew 25 in Shawano.

The Shawano Area Community Foundation (our regional affiliate partner), was established in 1990 by community volunteers to preserve and improve the quality of life in Shawano and the surrounding area. It is an affiliate of the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. Read more here.

One Response to Barb Schmidt, a founder of Shawano Area Community Foundation, dies at 90

  • Cathy Mutschler says:

    Oh, so sad! Barb was a treasure.

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