Reverend Richard Lee Schaefer moved onto his new heavenly priest assignment on July 9, 2020. Father Richard Schaefer (or Father Dick, as he was fondly known) was born in Bellevue, Iowa on September 10, 1942, a son of Albert and Eileen (Schilling) Schaefer. Raised on an eastern Iowa farm, Fr. Richard regularly recounted those experiences. Richard was a student and writer of many talents. After attending St. Joseph’s Elementary School, he graduated as valedictorian of his class at Marquette High School, while also lettering in basketball and baseball. He was also very successful in the State of Iowa Speech Contest. As an entrant in a literary essay contest sponsored by the Rural Electric Cooperative, he was awarded a trip to Washington, D.C. Fr. Richard wrote columns for the Marquette News portion of the Bellevue Herald, leading to a summer job at the newspaper covering sports.
A man for all seasons, while attending Loras College in Dubuque and graduating magna cum laude, he participated in Vested Choir, was on the debate team for three years, won the annual Loras College Essay Contest, wrote for The Spokesman, the college literary journal, and received a minor letter in track.
Fr. Richard studied for the priesthood at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium receiving an M.A. and S.T.B. in Theology. There he served as historian and was the first literary editor of the International Technological Journal, Louvain Studies. His ordination to become a priest occurred July 13, 1968 when he was installed by Archbishop James J. Byrne at Dubuque’s St. Raphael Cathedral.
His first assignment in 1968 was at St. Anthony’s Parish in Dubuque, teaching elementary religion and leading the Catholic Schools of Dubuque junior high school athletic program. The position of responsibility for liturgical or worship music enabled him to introduce modern music into religious services. Father Richard also taught at Wahlert High School.
With a transfer to St. Thomas Aquinas Parish and Student Center at Iowa State University in Ames, his contributions were a part of the four-person team campus ministry. Assistance was also provided to Msgr. Daniel Tarrant, to write and develop liturgies used across the country.
Fr. Dick went from St. Thomas Aquinas parish to studying theology at Marquette University in Milwaukee where he lived and worked in an inner-city parish. Upon completion of the studies in Milwaukee, he returned to Loras College, to teach theology and religious studies. He also led a Catholic women’s book club. Rev. Richard served under five bishops as the Censor; or reviewer of whether a book’s publication would be certified with a “Nihil Obstat”, the confirmation there was no doctrinal objection.
Rev. Schaefer served for years as Medical Chaplain for Mercy Hospital, in Dubuque, on call 24 hours for counseling and tending to the needs of patients of all faiths. This was perhaps his most challenging and rewarding assignment. Counseling to those in critical medical need requires a special calling. Fr. Richard was blessed with this gift.
More recently, Fr. Richard celebrated Mass regularly at Hawkeye Care Center and Bethany Home, both Dubuque retirement homes. Fr. Schaefer served as a fill-in pastor for the retirement home in Galena, St. Mary’s parish in East Dubuque, St. Michael’s, St. Mary’s parishes in Galena, and Holy Trinity in Scales Mound.
One of his passions was the support of the Right to Life movement and thus he participated in many events to keep the public aware of this issue. Fr. Richard served for many years on the Board of the Dubuque Area Right to Life Committee and traveled to Washington D.C. for several January nationwide rallies. Through his over 50 years as a Catholic priest, Fr. Richard performed countless religious services, baptisms, weddings, funerals, and counseling sessions.
Fr. Richard loved sports, especially baseball. Father was a Dodger fan since he first saw “The Jackie Robinson Story” at the age of eight. He was a walking sports encyclopedia and frequently shared information regarding Dodger players, key baseball events and lore. Father had opposing view insight, provided deep thought to complex issues, and possessed a whimsical sense of humor. He loved to tell jokes including puns and especially those he made up. Fr. Richard was fond of inventing combinations of words, such as “gladitude.” His huge collection of every imaginable style of hat matched his quipped words; “the world does not have enough hats or puns.”
Rev. Richard Schaefer’s care, memory of people and events, his writings, dedication to the Catholic faith, love of family and support for others were outstanding.
He was preceded in death by his parents, aunts; Rosemary (Schaefer) Salm, Sister Julaine (Eleanor) Schaefer, Mary (Schilling) Kueter, Dorothy (Schilling) Meyer, and Bertha (Schilling) Hallahan, uncles Rev. Aidan (Orville) Schaefer, Floyd Schaefer, and Lawrence Schilling.
Father Schaefer faithfully fulfilled the devotion to his ministry and will be missed by his many friends, by his siblings Joe (Carol) Schaefer, Larry (Kay) Schaefer, Bob (Kathy) Schaefer, Tom (Margaret) Schaefer, Jim (Carol) Schaefer, and Mary (Ron) Grecco; nieces and nephews Amy (Ken) Akers, Sarah Schaefer and her husband Brian Pierce, Brian (Liz) Schaefer, Carrie (Patrick) Weston, Michael Schaefer, Katie (Brad) Stapleton, Megan (Matthew) Murphy, Katie (March) Hom, Mark (Lauren) Schaefer, Valerie (Jason) Lawler, Pam Schaefer, aunt Bernice (Kueter) Ehlers, uncles Russell (Joan) Schilling, and Lester Schilling, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and grand-nephews.
A memorial service is being planned and will be announced at a later date. Father Richard often said, “There will be chili and brownies in heaven.” All know Rev. Richard L. Schaefer is now enjoying that heavenly feast.
Leonard Funeral Home & Crematory, 2595 Rockdale Road is assisting the family.