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Eight Over 80: Marvin and Helen Schumacher have lifted up the Cedar Valley

Seventh in a series on this year’s Courier Eight Over 80 honorees.

DENVER — Marvin and Helen Schumacher know the value of a good education.

Thanks to the couple’s decades of quiet leadership and generosity, students in Denver are learning in some of the best facilities an Iowa town can offer.

The Schumachers are third-generation owners of the successful Schumacher Elevator Co., which started in 1936 in downtown Denver as as Schumacher Machine Shop and now employs 250 people from its headquarters on the north side of town.

They were chosen as two of the Courier’s Eight Over 80 Award winners this year based in part based on their work as volunteers, philanthropists, and project leaders who were instrumental in helping Denver build a new library, sports fields, and $10.4 million Cyclone athletics and fine arts complex.

Marvin, 84, also helped start the Junior Achievement program in Denver Community Schools and Helen, 81, was a charter member of Denver Cyclone Scholarship Foundation. The Schumachers recently helped behind the scenes on a successful bond issue that will lead to construction of a new $18 million middle school and high school.

“Their commitment to our school district and their knowledge of how important that is to the community as a whole is really critical,” said Scott Krebsbach, president of the Denver Board of Education. “They are very forward thinking.

“They were an absolute key part of the funding with (the library and community center project) and pressing forward on it,” he said. “At each juncture where we’ve had advancements like that, within our school district in particular, they’ve been a key component of that.

“They’re always the people that are looked to to lead, and they’re quiet leaders, which is oftentimes more respected than loud leaders,” Krebsbach added. “They are some of the most generous people that I know, from a humility standpoint and from a financial standpoint.”

The Schumachers met at a wedding dance at the Riviera Ballroom in Janesville and married three years later while students at the University of Iowa.

Marvin had grown up in the family’s elevator business and earned an electrical engineering degree after serving 18 months in the U.S. Army at the end of the Korean Conflict. He took over as president of Schumacher Elevator in 1965.

Helen was a Frederika native who earned a master’s degree at State College of Iowa, now the University of Northern Iowa. She taught high school business and English in Tipton, Tripoli, Denver and Waverly before joining the elevator business.

Both have long resumes of community service in the Cedar Valley.

Marvin was a founding member of the Denver Lions Club, chaired fundraising campaigns to remodel the Elk’s Club and build a new Waverly Area Veterans Post, and has been active with the Winnebago Council of Boy Scouts of America, where he served as president for several years.

He has been on boards for Master Builders of Iowa, Cedar Valley Manufacturers Association, Bremer County Community Foundation, Junior Achievement of Northeast Iowa, Waverly Area Development Group, Farmers Savings Bank, and Hawkeye Community College Foundation.

He’s proud of the Junior Achievement program he brought to Denver schools.

“I’m a firm believer that program has a lot for young people to really see the practical side of what goes on in a community,” he said. “You can only teach so much in your other classes, but to learn how a city operates and how things in the community operate, how banking works, that’s part of the great Junior Achievement program.”

Helen has been extremely active as well, volunteering with North Star Community Services, United Cerebral Palsy and Denver Dollar for Scholars. She also serves on the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa board and UNI College of Education advisory board.

Together they serve on the UNI John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center advisory board and are deeply involved with St. Peter Lutheran Church, where they have taken busloads of youth groups to conventions.

The Schumachers said one of the most rewarding projects was in the Central American country of Guatemala, where they have now traveled four times to help a school for disabled children. Schumacher Elevator had agreed to install an elevator in the four-story school.

“People from our construction department volunteered their time to put it in, which is almost half the cost of the elevator,” Marvin said. “When we saw what these kids did and how they lived over there, and how we lived, we didn’t send them a bill on any of that. We feel pretty good about that project.”

The couple returned a few years later to paint the building and fix it up, and had no trouble finding 27 volunteers to help.

The Schumachers remain active in the business, where their son, Jeff, now serves as chief financial officer. And they said they’ve tapered off a little in their volunteer work now that some of the big community projects are done.

“It is important to us to give back to the community that has given us so much,” Helen said. “We really like to see what’s been happening in Denver, and the excellent school and facilities are the impetus for a lot of that.”

‘It is important to us to give back to the community that has given us so much.’ — Helen Schumacher

Govt-and-politics
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Waterloo seeks funds for roundabout at West Ninth and South streets

WATERLOO — City leaders are warming to the use of roundabouts at certain intersections.

Waterloo City Council members voted unanimously Monday to ask the Iowa Department of Transportation for a $385,000 traffic safety grant to construct a roundabout at West Ninth and South streets.

“That intersection has had a lot of traffic accidents,” said Mohammad Elahi, the city’s traffic engineer. “Almost all of them were right-angle accidents.”

Records show there were 27 crashes at the intersection from 2015 through 2019, including at least nine with injuries. Most crashes involved motorists running the stop signs on South Street.

“At (a high) speed, those right-angle accidents could eventually, sooner or later, cause major injuries and even fatalities if you don’t do anything about it,” Elahi said.

Waterloo has been slower than some communities to embrace roundabout intersections, which are proven to reduce serious accidents but scorned by some as too confusing.

Waterloo initially chose not to include any roundabouts in its reconstruction of University Avenue, despite neighboring Cedar Falls including multiple roundabouts on its portion of University. Waterloo ultimately changed its plans and has a roundabout being built at University and Fletcher Avenue.

City Council members in 2013 voted to send back a $500,000 grant the state awarded to build a roundabout at West Fourth Street and Fletcher.

Elahi said a consultant helping the city on the West Ninth and South intersection looked at installing traffic signals. But that was determined not to be the best option due to the signalized intersection of Washington Street and West Ninth and convenience store traffic just a block away.

“We knew there was a lot of business going to the Kwik Star, going in and going out,” he said. “That’s why traffic signals did not seem to be a good idea.”

The city will be responsible for the estimated $40,000 design engineer costs if the Iowa Transportation Commission approves the grant request.

Renderings of the ongoing University Avenue reconstruction project:

University Avenue Phase 3 Renderings

Local
Trump, GOP groups intervene in challenge to Iowa absentee ballot request law

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign and other Republican groups are intervening in a lawsuit they say could weaken Iowa’s protections on absentee voting.

The lawsuit, brought by the Latino civil rights organization LULAC and a Washington nonprofit, seeks to overturn an Iowa law that prevents election officials from filling out omitted or incorrect information on absentee ballots.

The lawsuit is part of “Democrats’ assault on the integrity of our elections,” according to the groups that include the Republican Party of Iowa, National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee.

“Iowans overwhelmingly support voter ID laws to uphold the integrity of our elections,” said Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann. “This lawsuit seeks to take us in the opposite direction.”

The GOP groups also called on Secretary of State Paul Pate to order two “rogue” counties to stop sending absentee ballot applications with the voters’ information, such as date of birth and voter identification number, prepopulated.

Linn County is one of the “rogue” counties. Democrat Auditor Joel Miller already has mailed absentee ballot request forms to active voters. Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert, also a Democrat, began a similar mailing Monday.

Miller called it “as wrong as it is unprecedented” for GOP groups to pressure Pate “to impede our efforts to make voting easier and safer for Iowans during a pandemic.”

Iowans, he said, have a “hard-earned, time-tested tradition of holding fair and free elections, uncontaminated by the efforts of outside pressure groups.”

That unique tradition is a part of what we sometimes call the ‘Iowa Way,’” he added.

Consistent with that tradition, Miller said auditors in Linn and Johnson counties want to give active voters “all reasonable options to assure that every vote counts and can be cast in the safest ways possible.”

Pate, a Republican, supports county auditors “making absentee ballot request forms easily available to every eligible citizen, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

However, Pate said, “pre-filling absentee ballot request forms with voters’ personal identifying information gives critics of absentee voting an opportunity to question the validity of election results in those counties.”

The LULAC lawsuit filed in Johnson County District Court challenges legislation approved in June by the GOP-controlled Legislature that bars county officials from using the state’s voter registration database to fill in missing information on absentee ballot request forms.

Instead, if information is missing, county officials must email or call the voter within 24 hours to get the information. If they cannot reach the voter, a letter should be sent. If the correct information isn’t obtained, the voter won’t receive a ballot.

Iowa is an absentee ballot-friendly state, the GOP groups said. State law provides opportunity for reconciliation if a ballot request is incomplete of has incorrect information.

“Striking down this law would create unnecessary administrative chaos and opportunity for fraud, which could harm Iowans’ confidence in a free, fair and transparent election in November,” they said.INSIDE: Look at both sides of mail voting debate PAGE A5


Local
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30 years after Americans with Disabilities Act, Harkin and disability activists look back, ahead

DES MOINES — President George H.W. Bush was on board, and former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin and his colleagues made sure it passed the U.S. Senate. But in early March of 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act, a civil rights bill for disabled individuals, was stalled in the House.

“It got stuck in a lot of different committees,” Harkin remembered. “We were all worried that we weren’t going to get the bill.”

It wasn’t until members of ADAPT, a disability activist organization, showed up at the U.S. Capitol and staged a protest for the television cameras — taking themselves voluntarily out of their wheelchairs and climbing the Capitol building steps however they could — that attention became focused on the cause.

“To me, that remains an iconic moment,” Harkin said. “When the evening news carried that and it became global, I think that just provided the spark — that last little thing we needed to convince people in the House and others that we needed to get this bill through.”

The protest worked, and the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law July 26, 1990.

But even as he celebrates the law he introduced 30 years ago — meant to give those 1 in 5 Americans with a disability the opportunity for full participation in society — Harkin bemoans the goals had not all been achieved, citing unemployment, technology that failed to serve disabled people and inaccessible housing.

“The younger generation — the ADA generation — don’t be satisfied with what you got. We’ve got a ways to go,” Harkin said.

Harkin and other former legislators gathered on a Zoom call as part of a week of events surrounding the ADA anniversary by RespectAbility, a national disability advocacy nonprofit. The sessions are being held from noon to 2 p.m. through Friday.

RespectAbility Celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Posted by RespectAbility on Monday, July 27, 2020

Tucker Cassidy, a disability rights activist who lives in Waterloo, said the fact the sessions were being held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic was a boon to the disabled community.

“Everybody knows what a Zoom conference is now,” Cassidy said. “If we can make them more accessible, we will show up. It’s just that, if you’ve got the door locked, how are people going to get in?”

The same is true with telehealth and beginning to happen with education, he noted.

But many other facets of his life are still barricaded: It took Cassidy 12 years to find an accessible apartment through HUD, for example. Now that he owns his own home, he tried shopping in person for furniture at a Waterloo furniture store and couldn’t get his chair through the door.

The owner apologized, Cassidy noted, but also said that building had been renovated within the past year. But because it was “historic,” building owners could ignore accessibility provisions in the ADA.

“They didn’t even think about that fact. They didn’t take the opportunity to make it an accessible building,” he said. “It blew me away: Here we are 30 years later, and we’re still having to run into stuff like that. In short, we have a long way to go.”