Live Streamed Service
Saturday, October 17, 2020
11:00 AM EDT
With everyone’s health and safety being a top priority, a private celebration of life will be held on Saturday, October 17, 2020 at 11 am. The family is inviting friends to join them for the service via zoom. Please pre register at the live stream link above.
At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
WMU Foundations Anastasia E. Schauer Memorial Scholarship Fund
WMU Foundations Office of Veterans Affairs
The Congregation of Sisters of Saint Joseph at Nazareth
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
As her family and friends can attest, Geraldine Schma truly understood the secret to a life well lived. She continually served others and touched the lives of everyone around her in a special and meaningful way. Gerry’s heart of gold enabled her to love others without condition, and to fiercely advocate for those in need. Dearly loved, Gerry will be forever missed.
Gerry was born on February 20, 1942 to Henry and Elizabeth Roy. She was raised in Detroit as the middle child of three girls as she was joined in her family by her sisters, Janette and Louise. Gerry’s parents were proud small business owners as they operated a local toy and bike store. She would bestow a love of Schwinn bicycles on her family, and rarely was another brand purchased. She was always proud of her Detroit roots, and fondly recalled trips to Boblo and Belle Islands and never passed an opportunity to enjoy a Vernor’s ginger ale. Gerry worked hard as a student, forming the foundation for her strong work ethic that would serve her well for her entire life. She graduated from St. Cecelia High School in 1959, then entered the convent at Nazareth with the Sisters of St. Joseph in Kalamazoo. Gerry went on to graduate from Nazareth College.
Drawn to children and literature, Gerry began a lifelong career in the field of education. She taught fourth grade through senior high school English and reading at both St. Monica’s Parish in Kalamazoo and Bishop Foley in Madison Heights. Gerry also instructed students in film study and library science. Even after leaving the convent in 1968, Gerry remained close to her classmates and the Sisters there. She was able to apply the valuable lessons she learned throughout her time with them to all aspects of her life.
As Gerry continued down her teaching path, life created an unexpected opportunity when she was casually introduced to a young seminarian named William Schma in 1964. They became friends, and in time their friendship developed into something much deeper. Gerry and Bill navigated significant soul searching as they realized their love for each other required a different path. This experience created a strong foundation of communication, partnership and trust which would be a cornerstone of their relationship forever. They were married in 1969. After living in Benton Harbor and Detroit for a time, they settled into their home in Kalamazoo in 1975. Over the years, their family grew to include their two beloved daughters, Joann and Suzanne. Gerry treasured her family above all else, and she and Bill shared an unwavering love throughout their marriage. So many who knew them, and the love they shared, cite them as a model in partnership.
Gerry never lost her passion for learning and teaching others. She received her master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame, at a time when few women did. While never boastful, earning this level of education was a point of pride as she was the first and only member of her family to attend college. She began her higher education career as a professor of children’s literature at Western Michigan University before entering administration. Gerry also became director of the Office of Self-Instructional Programs for correspondence study. She later established the Department of Distance Education for the school, leaving her mark on education forever. From there, Gerry initiated a statewide MBA program via satellite television. It can be said, she did Virtual Learning long before it was the thing to do!
When Gerry saw a need, she sprang into action and in 2007, she founded the university’s Advocacy Office for Military and Veteran Affairs, which helped active duty military and veterans pursue a higher education. Veterans held a deeply special place in Gerry’s heart. Her leadership earned her many of WMU’s most prestigious forms of recognition. She was honored with the Distinguished Service Award in 1997, the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2010, and flanked by two veterans, was recognized in 2020 for her creative vision in founding of the office of Veteran Affairs. Even at the end of her life, she was devoted to her students, and any awards she received for her contributions were secondary to the honor of knowing that she was helping those in need.
Of all the things Gerry loved in life, she valued the time spent with her family, and Bill in particular, most of all. She enjoyed traveling, including a yearly trip to Florida where she liked to swim in the pool, go shopping, and dine out with good friends. Gerry’s children and grandchildren also regularly visited Florida, and nothing could contain the excitement she felt when she greeted them at the airport. Vacations to France and Italy were also highlights and where she made some of her most treasured memories. Gerry was thrilled to become a grandmother, and she took every opportunity to dote on her grandchildren. She had a lifelong love of reading, and she nurtured the same passion in her children and grandchildren, with frequent outings to the bookstore and always, a start of summer trip to the library. She also enjoyed gardening and going to the movies, and was ever a loyal WMU Bronco fan. With the nickname, “Christmas Carol”, she especially enjoyed the holidays, and was known to search for the perfect gifts for her children and grandchildren, which usually included the most in-demand toy of the year. She would start preparing early by buying stocking stuffers in the summer…and often misplaced them by December. Searching for lost gifts would become a well-loved Christmas tradition at the Schma house.
All who knew Geraldine Schma would agree that she continually strove to serve others. She celebrated even the smallest joys in life, and was gifted with a beautiful, joy-filled, laugh, remembered by many. Gerry was a tireless advocate for others and never hesitated to show someone how much they were loved. Gerry leaves behind a priceless legacy of advocacy, determination and tireless love, that her family will proudly carry on in her footsteps.
Geraldine “Gerry” (Roy) Schma, 78, of Kalamazoo died peacefully on October 2, 2020. She is survived by her husband of 51 years, Bill Schma, and their 2 daughters: Joann (Brian) McMahon and Suzanne (Bryan) Lepley. She had three grandchildren, Ellie and Gavin Lepley and Rob Gibson, and one surviving sister, Louise Roy. She was preceded in death by her parents and her sister Janette Kwapis, and will be interred following a private ceremony. A public Memorial will be held in the future.
Livestream services will be held on at 11 am on Saturday, October 17th. To participate you will need to preregister at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_nhUTb_I_SRCI6TrEcjAyAw. Please see Gerry’s personal web page at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guestbook. If you are inclined, please consider a gift to Western Michigan University Foundation’s Anastasia E. Schauer Memorial Nursing Scholarship Fund, Western Michigan University foundation’s Office of Military and Veterans Affairs, The Congregation of Sisters of Saint Joseph at Nazareth, Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan or a charity of your choice.