If a person stopped to consider all the individuals they would encounter in their life and all the opportunities they may face, it may become overwhelming.
For Judy Schroder, who recently retired after spending 32 years working as an administrative assistant and board secretary for the Sedalia School District 200, that thought was not overwhelming but a blessing.
“The Lord has blessed me in so many ways in my life,” Schroder said. “This job is one of those blessings.
“I started to work part-time when I was 14, and I never left or quit a job except to work at another one that would help me or my family in some way,” she added. “I grew up poor and it wasn’t because my family didn’t work hard or try, it was because of the time. I feel such a tremendous gratitude for the opportunity I have had to work in the school district and for the confidence they had in me.”
That confidence began Feb. 17, 1986, when Schroder received a phone call about a secretarial position at Horace Mann Elementary.
“I was working at Midland printing and I got a phone call asking me if I could come in that day for an interview with Lindy Wilson, who was the principal at Horace Mann,” Schroder recalled. “I told them I wasn’t really dressed for an interview because I was in blue jeans and a ratty shirt covered in print shop ink.
“They told me that didn’t matter, to come on in, and when I got there and walked in the assistant superintendent and all the principals were sitting there waiting to interview me,” she added. “I remember the first thing out of my mouth was, ‘I didn’t know there would be a whole slug of you.’”
Schroder said she thought with that one statement she had already “messed up” her opportunity, adding she felt she did the entire interview knowing there was no way she would ever get the job.
Later that evening Schroder received a phone call from then Assistant Superintendent David Smith who told her not only would the district like to hire her but also Smith wanted her to work as his secretary in the central office.
“I’ve worked for nine superintendents and I can’t tell you how many board members and administrators and staff members I have worked for and with,” Schroder said. “That’s one of the things I will miss the most is the people; we have such a good group of people and staff in the school system.
“We work hard, have fun and laugh a lot and they are all such good people,” she added. “I truly think that our current board of education and administrators are the best since I have been involved with the district because they always have the kids at heart and they make sure that they do everything possible to see that the children and their best interests are taken care of.”
Schroder commented on the many changes she has experienced, from new schools that have been constructed to changes in technology in her job.
“When I started, so much of what we did literally by hand,” Schroder said. “We didn’t have computers then so we had to type everything and figure payroll on a calculator.
“When I started I worked in the board offices on Fourth and Moniteau and there were three other secretaries, Betty Blackwell, Carolyn Beaudette and Susan Nickell,” she added. “We become good friends and everyone in the district used to call us ‘the board office beauties.’”
Schroder recalled that during the Iraq war the four decided to write letters to the soldiers serving overseas, becoming their pen pals.
“We didn’t know any of them personally but we just wanted to thank them for their service,” Schroder said. “We all would write one letter, each adding a section to it.
“One day a young soldier stopped by the board office who told us he was one of the servicemen who had received one of our letters,” she thoughtfully added. “He wasn’t from here but he just wanted to meet us and thank us personally from what we had done. That was one of the most touching things that ever happened at work and I know I’ll never forget that he wanted to come and see us.”
The memories are what Schroder said she will take with her, along with plans to make other memories with her family and friends.
“My husband and I have been married 46 years this month and he is the love of my life,” Schroder said. “He suffered a mild heart attack and they had to life flight him to Columbia.
“Once I made it to the hospital it really put things into perspective for me,” she said. “I decided then that I didn’t want to spend any more time away from the ones I love because tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone.”
The couple has four children, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren and spending time with them is a priority for Schroder.
“My husband and I worked all our lives,” Schroder said. “We would come to town and work during the day and then go home and work on the farm every night.
“We want to go to see (our grandchildren and great-grandchildren) when they have games and events during the day because we never took the time off from work to do that before,” she added. “I plan on being a great grandma so when I pass they will remember me as ‘nanny;’ I want to provide memories for them.”
Schroder hopes too to help her grandchildren learn the lessons she has from her time working.
“I think I have grown as a person in my work,” Schroder said. “The responsibilities of my job have made me realize that I can do a whole lot more than I thought.
“Sometimes a person doesn’t realize what life has in store for them,” she added. “I always set my mind to try to work harder and do better and with the Lord’s help I can reach that goal.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.