County lost ‘good neighbor’
Some things almost have to be said together; peanut butter and jelly and ham and eggs are two that readily come to my mind.
Two items that I’ll never see as one without thinking of the other is a pack of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum and Big Red gum. That’s because of a man I met in 1979 a few months after I moved to Harrison County and began working in Lanesville.
That’s when I first met Peter J. Schickel and his wife, Joan. The Lanesville couple who ran a farm south of town had an egg business that they were quite famous for in this area. They would stop in at the construction company where I worked, usually to drop off eggs for the company’s owners. I remember them as a sweet couple who always seemed to have a smile on their faces and a kind word or two to say. Pete nearly always commented about his wife and I having the same name even though they weren’t spelled the same.
In the late 1980s, I quit working for the Otts and, since I didn’t live in Lanesville, I didn’t see the Schickels again until I began working here at The Corydon Democrat in May of 1991. Our paths crossed numerous times in the past 32 years.
For several years, I covered the annual Tri-County Farm Bureau meetings at which Pete served as the emcee. He would introduce the elected officials in attendance and probably some other people then any media representatives who were there. More times than not, I was the only one. It never failed; Pete would introduce me as “little Jo Ann-y,” which used to annoy me but I later learned to accept as a term of endearment.
I would see Joan monthly in my early years at the newspaper as she was appointed to serve on the first board of trustees when the Lanesville Community School Corp. was formed. She was a dedicated board member.
Joan passed away on Dec. 12, 2020. She was 94. Even after her death, Pete often would say at the start of a phone conversation that it was “Pete and Joan” calling.
The Schickels were always interested in their community, which expanded beyond the town limits of Lanesville. Both Pete and Joan kept up on the local news and would acknowledge what they read or heard about people of all ages in Harrison County either with a phone call, note or in-person conversation.
Each December the news staff could expect to hear from the Schickels, especially Pete, the week after the Hoosier State Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest. He would congratulate those at “your fine newspaper” on its awards the paper and reporters/photographers received. Any phone call was started with “This is your good neighbor, Pete and Joan Schickel, from Lanesville.”
My husband Ray also had a long history with the Schickels, meeting them in New Albany at his place of employment at the time through their egg business. He later became the first paid police officer for the Town of Lanesville, which Pete always asked him about.
Another question Pete frequently asked me was how my son, Randy, was doing. Randy and Pete’s grandson, Brian Hoehn, played soccer together on Corydon Central High School’s first soccer team. Pete always mentioned how fast Randy could run.
The Schickels were founding members of the Lanesville Heritage Weekend Committee, when the event started in 1976, and were active in their church, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, as well as involved in athletic events at Lanesville schools.
There were so many things the couple was involved in, which led to their recognition by the Leadership Harrison County Class of 2014. Class members presented them with the Servant Leader Award.
But the Schickels were known beyond the local level. Pete was honored with the Sagamore of the Wabash award from Gov. Eric J. Holcomb.
I don’t recall when I received my first packs of gum from Pete, but it was several years ago. It didn’t matter where I saw him, he’d reach into his pocket and pull out two packs — one Big Red and the other Spearmint — and press them into my hand. Sometimes, after being out of the office I would return to find two packs of gum on my desk. I knew I had missed seeing Pete.
COVID robbed us of many things: people as well as time we could have spent with them. Not wanting to let Pete’s birthday go by without seeing friends, his family organized a drive-by past the Schickel farmhouse. Ray and I made sure to go by to wish him happy birthday; to make sure he knew it was us, Ray drove the police car. The family said Pete got a chuckle out of Ray give a short blast of the siren.
I think the last time I saw Pete was at an annual meeting of the Harrison County Farm Bureau or Soil & Water Conservation District (the audience of each consists of many of the same people so I can’t be sure which it was) a couple of years ago. I made a point to go over and speak with him. We talked about Ray and I going to visit him and maybe play some euchre but, like many good intentions, it never happened.
Pete called me at work on March 31, 2021; it was my husband’s birthday. Pete had seen that in the newspaper under the “Happy Birthday” listings. I wasn’t in to get the message, which now I’m glad I wasn’t. I recorded the phone message on my personal phone so I could play it for Ray that evening. I listened to it again last week and remembered my “good neighbor” from Lanesville who had died a few days earlier, on Dec. 6, at the age of 99, and smiled while shedding a few tears.
The Schickels were good neighbors, with an expanded neighborhood, to many people. They will be sorely missed, and I probably will most often say their names together — Pete and Joan — because some things you can’t mention without the other.