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Despite adversity, Lorraine Schultz approaches life with joy

An optimistic outlook

July 7, 2011
By RENEE PRUSI - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

ISHPEMING - Lorraine Thibodeau Schultz smiles when she recalls meeting her future husband, Sterling Schultz Sr.

"His cousin owned a taxi cab service and (Sterling) was driving that night. I was going to a dance with my friend and her boyfriend. I was supposed to be on a blind date," she said. "Sterling asked if he could drive me home and I said yes. We started dating right then.

"We would take my nieces with us when we went to the movies," she said. "They were our chaperones."

Article Photos

In about 1945, from the left, Keith Schultz, David Schultz, Lorraine Schultz, Sterling Schultz Jr. and Sterling Schultz Sr. Three years later, son Michael joined the bunch. (Photo courtesy of Lorraine Schultz)

Lorraine and Sterling were married in 1939, when Lorraine was 19.

"We were married for 50 years when he passed away," she said. "It would be our 72nd wedding anniversary this year."

Born March 8, 1920, Lorraine didn't have an easy youth. She was one of six children born to Alex and Jennie Thibodeau.

"We were separated young," she said. Her parents split up and the children ended up not being able to stay together.

Lorraine spent time in orphanages.

"I was in the Marquette orphanage for a while and in the Copper Country, I stayed at the Goodwill Farm. I am not exactly sure what age I was then, but I was in school," she said. "The nuns in Marquette were crabby. One slapped me on the back when we were first brought there, because I wanted to stay with my sister. But at the one in the Copper Country, they were good to us."

Eventually, Lorraine ended up back with her family.

"I was glad about that," she said. "My grandparents were getting up in age but I loved them."

Upon her return, she lived with her godmother until she was 13, then with her mother.

Despite shuffling around in her youth, Lorraine enjoyed her childhood.

"We didn't even have a telephone or a television," she said. "We had radio, but that was all we had. So we had to make our own fun.

"A bunch of us kids would walk to the lake, roast marshmallows and wieners and we'd sing," she said. "I liked 'I Love You Truly.'

"Fall was my favorite time. I loved the fall, when the leaves are all acolor and it's not so hot outside," she said. "We would walk from Diorite to Greenwood for dances, us girls in our dresses and high-heeled shoes even in winter. We didn't have a car, but we loved to go to the dances."

Like many young people back in the day, Lorraine went to work at a tender age.

"I liked going to Ishpeming High School, but I quit going when I was in the 10th grade."

She had taken a job working for a Mr. Johnson at the Wagon Wheel, a club which was along U.S. 41 right on the Ishpeming-Negaunee city limits.

"They only had wine and beer there, no whiskey," she said. "Mr. Johnson never asked my age so when I was 14 I started working there. My sister worked there, too."

The Wagon Wheel was a hot spot for music lovers.

"I remember there were these girl country singers, they were sisters," Lorraine said. "They were very talented. It was a nice place. Couples came in to dance and have a good time. There were two German shepherd dogs that lived there at night, so there were no break-ins at all."

Through the years, Lorraine also worked at the Gossard Factory; at Johnny's Restaurant; and at the 20th Century restaurant right across from the Mather Inn. She also, for 10 years, was a nurse's assistant.

And she and Sterling Sr. raised four sons: Keith, David, Michael and Sterling Jr., all of whom served in the U.S. military.

"They were very good boys," she said. "They are all hard workers, my boys."

Having married at the end of the Great Depression, Lorraine and Sterling Sr. knew about hard work and passed that value on to their family.

"My boys worked and they had duties at home," Lorraine said. "They never caused me any trouble."

Eventually, the Schultzes bought a large eight-room house in Diorite Location, then sold that to buy a house in Clarksburg Location.

"That's where all my grandkids would be for Christmas. We had a big tree and underneath it, a lot of presents," she said. "And we'd light the fireplace and sing Christmas songs."

Lorraine is grandmother to 17 and great-grandmother to 26.

"Sure I spoil them," she said with a bright smile. "I love my kids, my grandkids and my great-grandkids."

Lorraine is a cancer survivor, battling leukemia with the same optimism with which she faced tough moments in her past.

"I had chemo, but never got sick from it," she said. "I guess I am lucky."

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.



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