As a family in 2007 my good wife and I, along with the two B.E.s, enrolled in Mike Church’s great beekeeping class, which I described at the time.
At that time, our country was beginning to understand the perilous state of the pollinators who are essential to agricultural production. The class was comprised of a wonderful group of individuals eager to play their roles in helping our apian friends in their struggle to survive.
Jim Schmalz was a particularly memorable student in the class. He was a retired engineer, a Marine aviator from the Vietnam War, who had spent his professional career in St. Louis. His wife Su’s parents, John and Elsie Tolnitch, had retired to the Northern Neck from Dayton, Ohio, in 1971, where they settled into a great Victorian home in Heathsville. After John’s death, Elsie continued to live there until her death at 103 in 2012. In 2004, Jim and Su relocated to a farm outside of Heathsville in order to be on hand to care for her mother.
Once here, the Schmalzs began volunteering in a range of community projects. Jim, with his extensive background in science and engineering, having graduated from Carnegie Mellon University as a mechanical engineer, began mentoring high school students in mathematics and science.
Jim was a born teacher, one who enjoyed every moment with his students, tutoring them with profound dedication, delighting in their progress and always encouraging about their futures. He and Su had lost their eldest child, Steven, at age 15 while playing in a water polo tournament in St. Louis in 1992. They turned their sorrow into service for others, admirably making life better for those in need.
In our beekeeping class, Jim was a stellar student. He took the project quite seriously and was determined to do his part in providing a good habitat for the bees on his property. Unfortunately, we did not meet with the same level of success that Jim did. We started with two hives, one of which died at the end of the first year, and the second, despite our feeding the bees all winter, died out the following summer. Jim persevered, and his hives thrived.
Four years ago, after 14 years here in the Northern Neck, Jim and Su decided to return to St. Louis in order to be nearer their children and grandchildren. Their departure left a huge void in the community. Once back there, Jim found new areas in which he could continue to offer his level of service. He became a volunteer at The Green Center in University City, a large urban park where he instituted a beekeeping program, and where he taught a variety of classes. Wherever he was, Jim gave back to his community with all of his resourcefulness and energy.
Each year, in community emails, Jim would describe his multifaceted activities. Each version showed how greatly he valued life and being able to serve in many capacities. Last week, unexpectedly, Jim died at his home in University City, Missouri. His life was a model for all of us to emulate, demonstrating the fullness of kindness and selflessness.
James Augustus Schmalz, April 29, 1946 – August 27, 2022. R.I.P.