Richard “Dick” Irvin Schuler, died on March 12, 2020. Dick was a 28-year resident of Modesto, loving husband, father, and grandfather, car enthusiast, family historian, amateur genealogist, and lover of animals. Dick was born in Shelbyville, Indiana, son of Paul and Hildreth “Hildy” Schuler, grandson of Ed and Margaret Schuler, and Irvin and Ethel Howery, all of Shelbyville, Indiana. He was descended from German great grandparents, as well as Colonial English and other ancestors, that immigrated to Massachusetts, Virginia and then west, as well as many Union Civil War and Revolutionary War ancestors. During WWII, as a young child, he moved with his parents to Indianapolis where both worked for Lukas-Harold on the Norden bomb site. He and both sets of grandparents, plus four of his five Schuler uncles migrated to Los Angeles just before, during, and after the war. Dick, his parents, grandparents Howery and younger brother, all migrated together as a caravan, after selling much of their belongings and the Howery’s selling their service station in Shelbyville. Although Dick became a nearly life-long Californian, he never forgot his Hoosier roots.
Dick was a Boy Scout and attended the 1950 Jamboree in Valley Forge, PA, traveling by train. He graduated from Westchester High School, Los Angeles, in 1955, where he was a popular student who excelled in Varsity Track and auto shop. During this time period and the rest of the 50’s he was a member of car clubs and raced in the dry LA River, the same as was depicted in the film Grease. After high school, he began studies at Santa Monica City College and worked full-time, but, finding it difficult to do both, and having no financial support, decided to work to save money to pay for and then to attend mechanic’s school. In addition, his father had his first of many heart attacks during this time, and he worked to contribute to the support of the household. During this time period, he worked as a locksmith for the Rand Corporation and as a machinist. It was in about 1960 that he was drafted into the U.S. Army, sent to basic training at Fort Ord, Monterey County, and then to Fort Lewis, WA, to the Yakima Firing Center where he used his mechanic’s skills with vehicle engines and participated in live fire exercises.
It was in Yakima that he met the love of his life, Laverda “Marty” Martin. After marrying September 9th of 1961, he was soon after shipped to Germany with his unit, per President Kennedy’s orders, as a show of force during the Berlin Wall Crisis. The separation from his bride was difficult, but led to experiences that Dick remembered his entire life, such as visiting Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest and gaining a soldier’s command of the German language, one of his favorite phrases being “Bring mir ein bier, bitte.” Returning to Yakima after his service overseas and reuniting with his young wife was one of his happiest memories.
After his discharge from active duty in the Army in 1962, and not finding work in Yakima, WA, he and his now-pregnant wife moved to Los Angeles. An old high school buddy had recommended him for a job at Bank of America, where he enjoyed a successful career for the next 31 years. During the 60’s, Dick also spent about six years in the U.S. Army Reserves. He worked at the bank in downtown Los Angeles and Beverly Hills in the Audit Department through the 60’s, while at first living in a small apartment over a deli in south central LA, then moving to Westchester. In the Beverly Hills office, he enjoyed seeing such Hollywood luminaries such as James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. While working in the Audit Department in the Beverly Hills office, he recalled being surrounded by degreed men, while he had not been able to gain a college education, and solving a particularly difficult case of a missing $370,000. He was always proud of being chosen to explain the results of his investigation to the Board and the “big wigs”, who had not believed him, and being vindicated in his accuracy. This success with the Beverly Hills investigation led to a promotion and offer to move to Fresno, which he and the now-family-of-four took. While in Fresno, he chose to leave auditing as it would have meant a move back to Los Angeles or to San Francisco and he had no desire to return to LA or a large city. Auditors were a crazy bunch and he never forgot their traditions and escapades, including good-natured hazing and betting on everything. His career led to branch management and to Manteca, and then to Jackson, Amador County, as the charismatic branch manager, where he enjoyed his time as the big fish in the small pond and then enjoyed moving out of the small town environment. Throughout his career, he took so many night classes related to finance, including those through UC Davis extension, that he would say that he pretty much earned his college degree.
In the mid-1980’s, in his early 50’s, Dick was diagnosed with a rare disease and told he had a short time to live. He decided to take an early retirement and live the life that he wanted, achieving traveling with his brother to visit cousins, traveling with his wife through parts of the United States in their R.V., attending the Indy 500, and spending a summer as the host of a campground in Washington State. They returned to Modesto upon the birth of their first grandchild and enjoyed their trips to the California Speedway, to Hawaii and Monterey, and visiting and being a part of the lives of their two daughters and five grandchildren. He enjoyed researching the family tree and solving family genealogy mysteries (even traveling to Indiana, Washington State, and the LDS Center in Salt Lake City) and helping others with their research, playing pool, competing in target shooting, bike riding, volunteering at the McHenry Mansion, dabbling in the realty business, occasionally working odd jobs, and supporting his wife in her Catholic faith.
Dick had a lovely singing voice and would sing for his daughters and while living in Jackson, even joined with his wife’s church choir during Christmas seasons. He was also very funny, loved joking, and knew that life had its ups and downs, saying often “That’s the way it goes!” He lovingly took care of a variety of pets throughout his life, bringing home abandoned cats and dogs. A medical breakthrough resulted in the reversal of his terminal prognosis of the mid-1980’s, with Dick living to over 83 years old, only felled at last by an aggressive skin cancer which he fought gallantly to the last day.
Dick was predeceased by his parents and brother Phillip Schuler. He leaves behind his wife of 58 years, Marty, of Modesto, CA, his daughters Linda McDougall, her husband Matthew McDougall of Salida, CA, Leann Taagepera, her husband Jaan Taagepera of Benicia, CA, and five grandchildren, Chelsea of San Francisco, CA, Allison of Modesto, CA, and Duncan McDougall of Modesto and Arcata, CA, and Trent Richard Taagepera of Benicia and Irvine, CA , who shared birthdays with Dick, Katrina Taagepera of Benicia, CA; cousins, nieces and nephews. He also leaves his long-time friends Bob and Loty Thomas, with whom he never forgot their famous houseboat vacation and all their fun times. May we strive to be chivalrous, wise, and tenacious as he demonstrated throughout his life. Although of course he will be missed, we raise our glasses to toast to his life well-lived. Bravo Dad, you did it. Dick will be buried in the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in Santa Nella with full military honors.
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