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Don Schlegelmilch: A Lasting Legacy

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“Hold the door say please say thank you

Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie

I know you got mountains to climb but

Always stay humble and kind

When the dreams you’re dreamin’ come to you

When the work you put in is realized

Let yourself feel the pride but

Always stay humble and kind”

 

As I sang these words at Don’s funeral, I remembered the lessons he taught me. If a song could encompass a man’s legacy, “Humble and Kind” by Tim Mcgraw did that for Don Schlegelmilch. He made a difference to everyone he encountered and especially the youth he influenced. All Don did was encourage people to do their absolute best and he did this especially with me.

When I started showing livestock, I had absolutely no idea how to even hold a sheep and The Schlegelmilchs graciously taught me from day one. That day, I never could have predicted the lasting impact that Don Schlegelmilch would have on me or that he’d be gone so incredibly soon.

It wasn’t long until Don and Karen, his wife, had taken me in as their own and treated me like family. I always knew where to go for a good meal or life advice and I received that from Don until his final days. He’d always remind me to remain humble in my successes and he encouraged me that there would be many of them. Whenever I needed a pick me up, I drove down the road to the Shlegs and they encouraged me that whatever I was struggling with would be okay.

I have so many good memories of livestock shows but the livestock was only the beginning. I learned numerous life lessons and he constantly encouraged me to be the best version of myself. When I began to get frustrated because let’s be honest, sheep are dumb, he told me to stay calm and I learned about patience from him and the whole adventure. As a ten-year member now, I reflect back on my years of 4H and I don’t remember the awards and trophies, I remember the life lessons and jokes that Don was constantly cracking.

I  talked with Lewis Cass Alumnus and fellow sheep showman Megan Mannering about the impact Don had on her life. “Aside from the countless goofy memories I have of Don singing Jimmy Buffett and teasing me relentlessly, I’ll never forget Don’s love for his community. He and his family took me under their wings when I was in elementary school and taught me everything I know about 4H, livestock, and most importantly, the obligation we each have to help those in need. Anyone that interacted with Don could tell you that he was a special guy- generous with his time and talents, absolutely hilarious, and a mentor to me and everyone else in this community.”

Karen, said, “Don wanted to leave the legacy of a good father, friend, and husband. And I hope he is remembered for his sense of humor and his devotion to our family and that of our “extended family.” I also hope he is remembered for always putting others first and making sure everyone felt included.” I think everyone who encountered Don could assure Karen that he is remembered in this way.

I’ll never forget the way Don lovingly called me “varmint” when I walked in the door or any of the lessons he taught me from all the years of showing sheep. Every time I see a younger 4Her struggling with a lamb, I remember Don encouraging me to always lend a helping hand. Every time I hear a Jimmy Buffett song I think back to the numerous times he chanted “salt” while Margaritaville played. Every time I end up embarrassing myself in some way, shape, or form, I remember Don never taking life too seriously and I can laugh at myself because I learned that from him. Don Schlegelmilch was gone too early and anyone who knew him would gladly have taken more days, weeks, or years with him, but we now all live a little different because of the handprint he left on our lives.

 

“It may well be that we will never meet again in this lifetime, so let me say before we part so much of me is made from what I learned from you. You’ll be with me like a handprint on my heart.”

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4 Comments

4 Responses to “Don Schlegelmilch: A Lasting Legacy”

  1. Bill Isaacs on May 17th, 2018 9:11 pm

    Great job! Your sharing personal experiences clearly communicated Don’s legacy. I know he would be very proud of you! You have captured the essence of his impact on others. Proud of you!

    [Reply]

  2. Challi Pullen on May 18th, 2018 8:54 am

    Beautiful words. He truly was a great man. You are a lucky girl to have learned these life lessons from him.

    [Reply]

  3. Greg Caldwell on May 18th, 2018 10:47 am

    McKayla, that is a great story on a great Mann gone way too soon. He taught everyone a lesson. Was always there to help if needed. And the jokes were as lane as could be. But ya still laughed.

    [Reply]

  4. Jim Caldwell on May 18th, 2018 5:22 pm

    Don, was truly a gift to many. Even though he was struggling with cancer much worse than mine, he was mpre concerned about my health. Thank you Don.

    [Reply]

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Lewis Cass High School, Walton, Indiana,
Don Schlegelmilch: A Lasting Legacy