Obituary of Frederick William Schuster
Rev. Frederick William Schuster, known to all as “Bill,” died peacefully of kidney failure on December 31, 2023 in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Bill was born on October 8, 1937. He was adopted by Alice and Frederick William Schuster Sr. and grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. He faced early challenges with the resilience that became an enduring characteristic. He lost much of his eyesight as a teenager from juvenile macular degeneration, and remained legally blind throughout the rest of his life.
Bill found a way to make things work. His intellect and incredible memory allowed him to excel academically. Bill graduated from Florida State University with a degree in English, thanks to a scholarship for the blind from the local Lions Club. He attended seminary at Drew University in New Jersey and was ordained as a minister in the United Methodist Church in 1963. Bill’s blindness was a defining element of his professional life in ministry. Throughout his education and career, he benefited from kind volunteers who read him his assigned texts. He wrote in giant print with black markers, and his basement was filled with bulging notebooks of handwritten scriptures and sermons.
After his time “Up North” at seminary, Bill planned to be a minister in his home state of Florida. However, he experienced another setback when the church conference in Florida refused to call him to a parish, due to some combination of bias against his disability and his public opposition to racial segregation. Once again displaying strength in the face of adversity, Bill wrote to every conference in the East until he received a call to another Jacksonville — Jacksonville United Methodist Church in tiny Machias, Maine, located in the furthest northeast corner of the United States. He served the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church faithfully
throughout his career. For the majority of that time, Bill worked as a chaplain at the Deaconess Hospital in Boston, where he ministered to patients and taught clinical pastoral education to countless students of every faith background. And no one loved a committee meeting more than Bill — he served on numerous committees and boards for church organizations and hospitals, and he provided ethical perspective as a member of institutional review boards at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and other medical research facilities.
Bill married Janet Elliott on September 12, 1964. They formed a strong partnership in life and in ministry. In the 1960’s and 70’s, Janet was called “the minister’s wife,” but in reality they created a shared ministry to their congregations and communities. In Janet, Bill found unwavering partnership and support for the emotional, logistical and social aspects of church leadership. Bill and Janet also created an expansive, warm, and fun home. They welcomed, loved, fed, and laughed with so many — including their children’s friends, extended family, and international exchange students. After their daughters relocated to Minnesota, Bill and Janet moved to Saint Paul in 2011 to spend more time with their children and grandchildren.
Bill was devoted to his family, his church, his political views, his “Talking Books,” his cat, and his Cribbage score. He was also a passionate sports fan, listening to his beloved Boston Red Sox on AM radio and rooting for the New England Patriots and Florida State Seminoles. Bill was known for his surprising memory of highway exit numbers, meals, and events from decades earlier; his appetite for anything cooked by Janet (whom he affectionately called “Moose”); and his corny puns. As a chaplain, he got to be the first father present in the delivery room at the rural Maine hospital where Jennifer, his first child, was born. He was a supportive and engaged parent who wanted his daughters to have every possible opportunity. The determination with which he faced his vision challenges — some would call it stubbornness — was on display throughout his life, whether commuting on the T to the hospital each day or reviewing monthly bills with a powerful magnifying glass. Despite his blindness, he was proud to play on his high school football team for one year, and later caught a mind-blowing line drive at the United Parish of Auburndale’s church picnic softball game. He also loved competing at card games, bowling, pool, and miniature golf with Janet and his friends, children, and grandchildren.
His survivors include his wife of 59 years, Janet Schuster; daughters Jennifer Schuster Jaeger (Richard) and Elizabeth McGeveran (Bill); grandsons Benjamin and Elliott Jaeger and Nicholas and Thomas McGeveran; and sister Helen Byrd of Casper, Wyoming. Visitation will be held on Thursday January 4, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at St Clement's Episcopal Church, 901 Portland Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55104. There will be a memorial service at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, January 5, at Coventry Chapel in the Episcopal Homes of Minnesota, 1842 University Avenue, Saint Paul, MN 55104. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in Bill Schuster’s memory to the Preacher’s Aid Society of New England, the Lions Clubs International Foundation, or Our Lady of Peace Hospice in Saint Paul
Preacher’s Aid Society of New England
Lions Clubs International Foundation
Our Lady of Peace Hospice
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