Life of Viola Schneider

Died October 15, 2004

Eulogy presented at graveside service


Written by
Cynthia Walsh, Daughter of Viola Schneider

Presented by
Dr. Alvin Chambers, Patriarch, Pueblo Stake of the
   Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Viola would have been happy that each of you cared about her so very much. She would have greeted you each with a kind word. That was Viola’s way. She had a unique relationship with each one of you. She touched our lives individually or you wouldn’t be here today to mourn her passing. Each of us was important to her life and helped to make her have a richer and fuller life by sharing yourself with her. She loved to have company. In her later years, she looked forward to have people chat with her on the telephone.

Viola was born in Sanford, Colorado in the beautiful San Luis Valley. She was surrounded by her sisters and brothers, her parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. And, present today are two of her sisters, Dorothy Ong of Pueblo; and Martha Riedel from Haggerman, Idaho.

Viola graduated from the ninth grade in Sanford. Due to financial hardships, she was unable to continue her schooling. It was the Great Depression. However, she was determined to obtain additional education and with the help of her sister, Mae, she was accepted three years later to the Bureau of Indian Affairs education program, Haskell Boarding School in Lawrence, Kansas. She participated in a work study program and completed her high school education through this assistance. She graduated high school in 1940. With the help of the staff at Haskell, she was admitted to Sage Memorial Nursing School on the Navajo Nation. Viola was always deeply grateful for her education at Haskell. It allowed her the opportunity to accomplish many things that would have otherwise been denied to her.

Viola attended Sage Memorial Nursing School from 1940 - 1943. Her patients were brought in by buckboard wagon. At other times, she would travel by buckboard wagon to the remote hogans to treat the Navajo patients. During this period, Viola learned to speak the Navajo language which is considered one of the most difficult languages to learn. She graduated as valedictorian of her class. She was so proud that she had been given a set of surgical nurse instruments for her academic success. She wrote back to her teachers at Haskell to thank them for what they had helped her achieve.

Shortly after graduation, she enlisted in the US Army and was originally stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado doing surgical duties. For the most part, Viola assisted with surgical amputations from battle field victims. She always had vivid memories of the mounds of amputated body parts and the horrific stench. She was then transferred to California and was eventually shipped out with 300 other nurses from Hawaii bound for Tokyo. Upon arrival in Tokyo, shortly after the atomic bombs were dropped, Viola was appointed head surgical nurse at the 42nd General Hospital with a five room operating theater. She treated survivors of the Bataan Death Camp and Corregidor. She attained the rank of 1st. Lieutenant Viola would frequently see General MacArthur briskly walking the hospital corridors. It was during this time that she met her future husband, Herbert Schneider, who was also in the US Army. They would eventually marry in 1948 and were married 53 years.

Viola enjoyed telling the story of her pet goldfish, Goldie. It died while she was stationed in Tokyo. Viola was double-dared to send the deceased fish to have an autopsy done because the doctor who was head of the lab was known to be a cantankerous man. Always up to a dare, Viola sent Goldie to the lab. Three days later, the autopsy report arrived on an official US military document giving minute details of the status of the once healthy goldfish. Not only did Viola and her peers have a great laugh, but the episode turned the cantankerous old physician into a rather jovial fellow. He could be heard weeks later chuckling and muttering to himself that he was nothing more than a "fish doctor."

When she was discharged from the Army in Washington state in 1945, she was going to take a bus from the military base to Seattle to make connections to head back home to Sanford, Colorado. Viola recalled that her brother-in-law, Bill, told her that he would not allow her to make such an unsafe trip through an area of high crime. Viola was grateful that Bill was so concerned for her safety that he drove to pick her up from the military base and take her to her connecting transportation site to head back home to Sanford. Such acts of kindness were always appreciated by Viola and retold to her family in remembrance of such thoughtfulness.

After Herb and Viola married, Herb studied medicine in Switzerland. During this period, Viola used her GI Bill to study foreign languages. She became fluent in seven languages.

Viola was very proud to be an American veteran and to have served her country. She always wanted to stop at the Veterans Memorial in Conejos County just north of Antonito, Colorado to see her name on the memorial. It acknowledged her service and those of her brothers who served during World War II. When the opportunities came in recent years to be interviewed by various organizations about her military contributions, she was always willing to discuss her experiences. Her stories have been presented at national conferences on women veterans in Wyoming, New York, and next year in Washington, D.C. These were often printed in international newspapers, and archived from coast-to-coast. Some of Viola’s nursing and military experiences were recorded this past spring in a book "Images of America: The Catawba Indian Nation of the Carolinas" by Dr. Tom Blummer due for release on Herb Schneider’s birthday, October 29, 2004. Viola would have been pleased to see her name and pictures in print. She had been so excited and honored to have been invited to be part of this book.

Viola and Herb had three daughters -- Brenda, Cynthia, and Debra; all of whom are married. Viola is survived also by her three sons-in-law: Edward, Dwight, and Bruce and her two grandchildren: Aric and Lilly. Viola and Herb often talked about how their adult children and their spouses were doing and the things they had done together as a family including spending holidays together; family vacations to Hawaii, Mexico, and Las Vegas; and birthday celebrations. Being together as a family was a cherished value of Viola and Herb and brought a great deal of joy, contentment, and peace to both them to have their family around them.

Viola loved music and singing. Her sister Dorothy has said that Viola had the most beautiful singing voice. When Dorothy and her were children and herding the family cows, Viola would often sing. Even when she was recently hospitalized, she would try to hum along to taped piano music played by her son-in-law Dwight which contained her old favorite songs she used to sing, "Que Sera, Sera" and "Catch a Falling Star".

Her nephew David Garce has a favorite story of visiting Viola some years ago. They were walking in Viola’s backyard and David stated he admired Viola’s large turquoise ring that she was wearing. In typical Catawba fashion, she immediately took it off and gave it to David. It has been a treasured gift and story since.

She tried to look on the bright side of things. Even in recent months when her health was declining, after stating her health problems she would say, "Could be worse."

Viola valued her family and her friends. Viola appreciated the kindnesses of others. When she was told that following her fall in August that her neighbor, Joy Demler, had wanted to ride in the ambulance with her to the hospital, Viola declared, "Don’t I have the nicest neighbor!" Her niece Mindy Beck had visited her many times in the hospital and drew a get well message for Viola. And Viola said, "Isn’t she the sweetest little thing!"

When Janice Beck was visiting Viola in the hospital, she said, "Oh, Vi, I am sorry you aren’t feeling well." And Viola responded, "Oh, always be thankful for the good times and the bad ones." Viola always was looking for the positive and encouraged others to do the same.

Even when she was ill, Viola never lost her sense of humor. While in the hospital, the nursing staff was moving her from the bed to a chair and Viola said to the nurses, "I’ll give you $700 if you let me stay in bed!" The nurses chuckled but could not be bought.

Viola often said that she had a wonderful childhood living on a farm in the beautiful San Luis Valley. She lived a year on the Catawba Nation in South Carolina before attending Haskell Boarding School and witnessed the dust bowl effects of pitch black dust clouds rolling across the Kansas plains. She served her country and traveled the world. She loved animals, birds, flowers, sunsets, snow falls, the smell of a fresh mowed alfalfa field, fishing on the Conejos river, windy days, attending family reunions, the caw of the crows, and star filled nights. She loved her husband, all of her children, her sons-in-law, and her grandchildren. She tried to be a good friend and a good neighbor.

Viola’s life was one of a life-long learning process. She valued education. Her life was about appreciating the good things in life and trying to minimize the negatives. She was about sharing, caring, compassion, and embracing others. She was about including everyone into her life and making them feel welcome and loved. Thank you to the caring nurses and staff at Parkview Hospital. And, thank you to those that visited Viola while she was in the hospital because you brought her joy, companionship, and your kindness of caring for her. Others sent cards, flowers, and simply good thoughts that were appreciated.

When people heard of Viola’s passing, messages of sympathy were sent. The following sympathy message was sent to Viola’s family by one of the women who had interviewed Viola about her military experiences. Ms. Shirley Chase is a young Navajo woman now in graduate studies in Roanoke, Virginia. She sent the following message and it is now conveyed to all of you with her permission. It has been slightly edited so that all those present can follow:

"My sympathy to your family. It is a great loss-- yet it is not at the same time, for the world your mother is going to is far more better than we live in today. I know what it feels like when a loved one passes on. With much loss in my family, I still feel the pain of those losses. Still, when we look into the horizon of life, we know the sun will shine, the wind will whisper, the warm will hug(1), and the silence will understand. On my walk this noon, I was looking into the hill of Roanoke, thinking about how wonderful it is to see the leaves changing into flaming fire. It’s like a promise living on forever and faith returning the joy. I am most honored to have known your mother and it makes my world complete. Thank you for sharing your mother with the world, for today she stands with honorable women in the other world. Keep in touch, for it is only a beginning for us."

Thank you all for caring.

1. Note: this is a cultural view -- not a typing error