Richard Beyer Schoenbohm, 69, died peacefully at home Wednesday, December 22, 2021, surrounded by family and friends, in person and in spirit, after a long journey with cancer.
Richard was born in Valparaiso, Indiana, on August 28, 1952, to Wanda Jean and Richard William Schoenbohm. The family lived in Indiana and Ohio until they moved to Appleton, Wisconsin, in 1960. He attended Appleton High School West and was active in orchestra, theatre, cross country, and track before graduating in 1970. After high school, Richard attended Valparaiso University, the alma mater of both of his parents and where his grandfather was a professor until 1960. His love of science eventually winning out over his love of history, he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology in 1974. He married Leah Ruth Rueger in 1973. He then went on to complete a master’s degree in Entomology from Purdue University in 1977, working with brand new professor Tom Turpin, who became a lifelong friend. His first daughter, Lindsay Marie, was born in Indiana in 1976. Richard’s interest in bringing a scientific perspective to environmental policy inspired him to earn his law degree from Indiana University in 1980 with a focus in Administrative and Environmental Law. In law school, he was an editor at the Indiana Law Journal, and he completed an internship as a law clerk in Washington D.C. in the summer of 1979. After graduating, looking for the right environment in which to raise his young family, he returned to Appleton in 1980, joining the Sigman, Janssen, Stack, Wenning, and Sutter Law Firm. His second daughter, Laurel Jean, was born in 1982. He opened a practice with his brother Michael in January 1988, co-founding the Schoenbohm Law Firm. They practiced law together, Mike with an emphasis on bankruptcy and Richard with an emphasis on adoption and surrogacy, until 2018. He was a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys from 1999-2018. Across the span of his career, he helped many couples navigate the difficulties of divorce, and help many more families bring new children into their lives. His marriage to Leah ended in 2005. He later rekindled a relationship with his high school sweetheart, Sue Ann Bennett. They were married in 2019 and were delightfully happy together.
Richard believed in giving back to his community. He served on the City of Appleton Board of Appeals for nearly three decades and later organized for a Political Action Committee focused on the rebuilding of the College Avenue Bridge. He was involved with Appleton’s A Better Chance (ABC) Program from 1982 to 1988, serving at its president for part of that time. In an extraordinary act of giving, he joined the Peace Corps, serving in Romania in the environmental sector from 2008 to 2010. On his return, he ran for a seat in the State Assembly in 2012. He touched many people during this campaign, knocking on thousands of doors across the district and wearing through several pairs of shoes. After getting to know them through his campaign, he joined the Greenville Lions Club in 2013, serving until 2021, supporting the group in many ways, including involvement in their annual concerts. He was deeply involved with the River Alliance of Wisconsin as a Board Member and Chair for two terms, from 2016-2020, and was an active member of the Torch Club of the Fox Valley for the last ten years.
Among his many interests and talents, Richard retained his love of entomology. For many years, he was Appleton’s resident “bug guy,” giving talks to high school Environmental Science classes and presentations at the Appleton Children’s Museum about the nutritional value of insects, in which he cooked up mealworms for adventurous children to sample. He kept Madagascar hissing cockroaches and millipedes at home for these demos – they only escaped that one time. He was a talented woodworker and artist. He sailed for many years, first with his father, then later with his own small boat. He built his own Aleutian-style kayak by hand, learning from a book, then taught himself to kayak, taking paddling trips along the Fox River and the southern coast of Crete. He enjoyed camping and being in nature. He was a longtime running enthusiast, running races every year. He was a voracious reader, with a particular interest in history and science. He enjoyed cooking with his wife Sue, particularly as they explored new dishes during the Covid lockdown. He enjoyed travelling as well. He spent more than two years in Romania, made many trips to Germany to visit family and friends, and traveled to Ukraine and Hungary as well. He also completed adventurous road and rail trips across North America.
Richard will live on in all of those whose lives he touched. He was a man who gave love freely and always looked for the best in people. He will be greatly missed.
Richard is survived by his wife, Sue Ann Bennett; his daughters Laurel Jean Schoenbohm (Qben Oliver) and Lindsay Marie Schoenbohm; his stepdaughter Tesia Owens (Jason) and his stepson Jason Gavinski (Samantha); his three brothers, Rob (Dolores Schaefer), Mark (Renita), and Mike (Julie); his first wife, Leah Schoenbohm; his granddaughters Riley and Brynna Johnston; and his stepgrandchildren Landon, Grant, and Atalie Oliver, and Kaytlynn and Carson Owens. He is preceded in death by his parents, Richard W. and Wanda J.Schoenbohm.
A memorial service will be held for Richard at 4 pm on Sunday, January 9th, at Brettschneider-Trettin-Nickel Funeral Chapel. Friends may visit at the funeral chapel on Sunday from 2 pm until the time of service. Please wear a mask.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made on behalf of Richard to the "Richard A. Schoenbohm Memorial Endowed Music Scholarship.” The award, named for Richard’s grandfather, a Valpo music professor, goes to a student majoring in music with an emphasis in vocal music. Donations in memory of Richard may be made online (give.valpo.edu), by phone (219-464-5110), or sent to the following address:
Attn: Advancement Services
1100 Campus Dr. South
Valparaiso, IN 46384
A live stream of Richard's service may be viewed by clicking or entering the following link 5 minutes before the service start time: https://client.tribucast.com/tcid/5506734247