The Schillers were a German immigrant family who arrived in St Louis at the turn of the last century. They ran a tavern and later went into the construction business after the passage of Prohibition. James’ father, Frederick, was the last of nine children.
James’ mother’s family, the Berveilers, have a long history in the United States, actually stretching back to when St Louis was part of French territory. His mother, Dorothy, was the fourth of seven children.
James’ parents met at an ice skating rink in the roaring ‘20s. (She fell, he picked her up.) Frederick was an aspiring baseball player and played for a few seasons as a third-string catcher for the St Louis Browns, but when they wanted to send him down to the farm team to improve his skills, Dorothy balked and instead they worked together in the family construction business.
James’ brother, Fred, called Sonny by the family, was born in 1927.
James came along ten years later. He was born on October 12, 1937.
Jim and Fred
(left) Sonny and Jamy on the left, (middle) Young Jamy, (right) Uncle Jamy with John, Carl, and Christine
Sadly, the marriage of Dorothy and Frederick was already faltering, and he left the family when James was only six years old. This resulted in Dorothy putting more responsibilities on James at an early age. What wasn’t known at the time was that she had already begun to suffer from Huntington’s Disease, from which she succumbed in her late 40s.
James left home at the age of 17 and served in the Air National Guard, which brought him to San Antonio for a time. In the late 1950s, he came to New York, where his brother was teaching Economics at New York University. It may surprise you to learn that James didn’t graduate from high school, so he took the GED examination and enrolled at NYU, eventually majoring in Economics, no doubt inspired by Fred, whom he greatly admired.
James Schiller was a man who had several passions throughout his life. Out of these, the three foremost was the love he had for his wife Susan and their family, the love he had for knowledge and education, and the love he had for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.
The first and foremost of these was the love and passion that he held for THE love of his life, his wife and partner Susan, whom he had met at New York University. The happiest moment for Jim was when he married Susan in New York City when he was 26 years of age. They would spend the next 48 ½ years sharing all of life’s joys, hardships, triumphs, lessons, and experiences. Some of the most joyous experiences they’ve shared together were the trips they’ve taken to such places as England, Germany, Italy, and New Zealand. The latter being one of their favorites for their daughter Julia and grandson Nicolas have lived there for many years.
James’ second passion was for knowledge, education, and learning. James had a love for teaching, and this he made his first career, which began at Atlanta University in 1967 after he received his Masters from the New York School for Social Research. After James and Susan moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where Julia was born and raised, James taught classes at the University of Baltimore. One of his favorite colleagues was Bruce Parry, from whom we’ll hear a remembrance later.
His love of education and knowledge led him to pursue and acquire a Certificate of Advanced Studies from John Hopkins University. He continued to learn, to grow, to pursue knowledge; all while teaching others. As a professor for twenty years, James taught classes such as Economics, Statistics, Money and Banking, and American Economic History. As one would surmise, mathematics was one of James’ many joys. Logic and mathematics have never been dry subjects to him; rather James had fun with them. In his later years he had enjoyed solving Sudoku puzzles and crosswords.
James kept his passion for learning and teaching throughout his life, for he continued teaching part-time for another six years. James and Susan spent a total of 23 years in Baltimore, after which they moved here to Denver, Colorado, and have made it their home for the last 22 years. During this time, James pursued his second career at MetLife, from which he retired in 2005.
James’ third passion was that for his favorite team. When James was born in St. Louis, Missouri in October of 1937, the St. Louis Cardinals were there. When James’ parents divorced during his youth, the St. Louis Cardinals were there. When James’ mother and then his older brother died from Huntington ’s disease, the St. Louis Cardinals were there. Even during his later years here in Denver, the only Colorado Rockies games that James and Susan attended over at Coors Field were those when the St. Louis Cardinals were the opposing team. For as Susan had said, “You can take the man out of St. Louis and away from the team that he grew up with, but you can’t take the support for the team out from the man who has known them for such a long time.” For you see, James grew up during the years of Stan "the Man" Musial, a legend among St. Louis Cardinals baseball players. Such a legend was just the first of James’ many inspirations.
James was very meticulous. He kept records, he studied, he analyzed, and he comprehended life. He was a thoughtful Humanist and would never have decided to pursue that path without thoroughly thinking it through. He knew he could be good without gods. This Humanist philosophy, summed up as, “… a rational philosophy informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by compassion. Affirming the dignity of each human being, it supports the maximization of individual liberty and opportunity consonant with social and planetary responsibility. Free of theism and other supernatural beliefs, Humanism thus derives the goals of life from human need and interest rather than from theological or ideological abstractions, and asserts that humanity must take responsibility for its own destiny.”
Indeed, James had made this philosophy his own. He took responsibility for his own destiny and pursued his goals, his dreams, and his passions. The love he had for Susan, Julia, and Nicolas was evident to all who knew him. The love he had for learning and teaching was evident to all who were fortunate enough to know him and share in his learning. Let us give honor to a man who had such noble passions. A passion for those he loved: his wife and partner Susan and their family. A passion for education, learning, knowledge, study. And lastly, a passion for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Music: John Denver, “Sweet Surrender”