Reprinted from Ink Spots column by Harold Aardema
There is a name to remember. In the long history of Doon's many cold and colorful characters she is most wonderfully memorable.
Just when Josephine came upon the Doon scene is lost in the misty past. The church burial record states only that she died on October 16, 1947 at the age of seventy-two. She was born in 1875.
Manus DeJong...also deceased, once told me his recollection of Josephine as his seventh grade teacher at Rock Township No. 5, located six miles south of Doon.
"We liked her," he said. "She was odd but easy going and we had lots of leeway with Miss Schultz. She stayed with our family two nights each week. Those were the nights I took piano lessons. Her horse was peculiar too. It had a belly rupture and Miss Schultz tied the belly with a band of cloth. She was kind to her horse."
How long her teaching career lasted is also a matter of conjecture. Probably she did not retire old for her eccentric ways kept getting in the way of her acceptance. When she asked to make her living quarters in Peterson Country School, two miles east of Doon's southend, the board had had enough and terminated her.
She kept house for a couple in Rock Rapids, an old timer recalls. Later she made her home with the Darlings, a hard luck Doon family that lived in a tiny house in the southeast part of town. It was the house that later became her last home. The location was the present site of the Anthony Teunissen home.
She gave music lessons on an old pump organ. She painted pictures and sold them and did tinting of photographs. She must have saved some money for she had scant income in her later years. But her savings at best must have not amounted to much for she lived poorly. Many lived poorly in Doon in the 30s and 40s but few so poorly as Josephine Schultz.
Who was this strange woman? She was a schoolteacher. She was a lifelong spinster. She was reputed to be possessor of a master's degree in music. She had artistic talent. She was Catholic in a mostly Protestant town. She was the bearded lady. She dressed in rags. She was terribly odd in her ways. She was not understood, she was often laughed at. She was most comfortable with children and young people.
She wore always that misshapen hat, a tattered sweater and a wrinkled, ill matched skirt. She walked with her head bent slightly forward as a bucking a headwind. She was soft spoken, sincere, closer to earnest. She seldom laughed but she was not at all melancholy.
These little odd things are remembered about her: she canned wieners, she walked each evening to the Old Omaha depot to get the time of day, she collected orange wrappings from C. Ross's store for use as what we politely call today bathroom tissue.
I remember Josephine Schultz with a mixture of curious amusement and of affectionate respect. In our childhood and teens we loved that crazy old lady. She gave us no treats. She had none to give. We had to endure her exhibition of still life paintings and sometimes her playing on a wheezy old pump organ. She rewarded us with a peak into her impossibly disordered little house, as we walked through narrow winding passages between boxes stacked high. But mostly she was just nice and utterly free of show and pretense.
One Sunday morning Josephine did her finest act of defiance against a world that was too often cruel and mocking. It happened of all places in the church she loved. Saint Mary's Mission in Doon's northeast corner. Father Buckholtz was priest and he was known as a somewhat grumpy fellow. Her little balled fist of a gesture may have been directed at Father Buckholtz, or maybe in protest against her not being asked to play the organ but told expressly not too. In may have been something else. Each Sunday morning she would sneak up into the loft where the organ was and she would go through the motions of playing but not really. That heroic morning Josephine did her finest playing. She pumped hard, pulled out all the stops and right in the middle of grumpy old Father Buckholtz' mass, she played "Yankee Doodle." There was horror below in the sanctuary, but in heaven the angels must have laughed lustily, and no doubt even today that oldie is dusted off with. "Did you hear this one from down on earth...?" She was the talk of the town.
Some months before she died she was again the talk of the town. A rumor surfaced in Doon. Josephine Schultz has taken to drink. At first she took the Great Northern train to Alvord to get her store secretly. Later she openly sat in a rear booth at August Kahl's Corner Cafe and with the raising of a silent finger ordered yet another beer. Most folks thought it was 'just awful.' A silent few knew it was Josephine's way of coping with her terminal illness and final loneliness.
She was found one gold and blue day in October in the year 1947. She was found ill to death in her tiny home with rooms stacked to nearly the ceiling with boxes of all sorts. She died a day or two later in the hospital in Rock Rapids.
Mention her name even today and Doon's older residents remember. They remember and each has a Josephine Schultz story to tell. They remember with a sign of regret and a wish that they had been a little kinder to her.
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