The Empower Missouri advocacy family experienced a heart-breaking loss last week. Reverend Theodore (Ted) William Schroeder was tragically killed in a traffic accident on Wednesday afternoon, April 15, 2020. He was 83. His wife Linda was also injured in the accident and was briefly hospitalized, but has been released.
Ted and Linda have been very active in social justice work for decades in both St. Louis and Kansas City and have long been leaders in Empower Missouri’s criminal justice advocacy work. In 2006, they jointly received the Elaine Aber Humanitarian Award from Missouri Association for Social Welfare (MASW), our predecessor organization. They also were named 2004 St. Louis Humanists of the Year, an honor given by the St. Louis Ethical Society.
Ted served Immanuel Lutheran Church in North St. Louis for 28 years, and his work there included Prisoner Family Services, AIDS Outreach and Education, shelter of Salvadoran refugees, solidarity with labor unions, and more. Upon retirement, the Schroeders moved to Kansas City and were faithful participants in campaigns led by not only Empower Missouri, but also Missouri Jobs with Justice, Stand Up KC/Fight for Fifteen and Missourians Against the Death Penalty.
When I shared the news of Ted’s death and Linda’s injury on the Smart Sentencing Coalition call on April 17, two participants who were formerly incarcerated women stated how important the Schroeders had been to them. “I wouldn’t have ever seen my children if Ted and Linda had not brought them to visit me,” one said. For many years, Linda was executive director of Project COPE (Congregations + Offender Partnership Enterprise) which consisted of nearly 40 congregational teams that were matched with those newly released from prisons, and that support mattered to hundreds.
The Schroeders have been my gracious hosts for overnight lodging on almost every trip that I have made to Kansas City since I was called as Empower Missouri’s executive director in 2012. I already knew and cared for both of them before then, but they now have a place in my heart that feels very similar to the love I have for my uncles and aunts. One of the things I truly appreciated about them is the enthusiasm they put into backing our name change from MASW to Empower Missouri in 2014 and the other ways we modernized to become more effective in a modern advocacy environment.
On my nights with them, we would analyze Missouri, national and global politics, catch each other up on books read and movies seen, tell jokes and laugh. My spirit was refreshed during vespers, as they invited me to join them in lighting candles, reading scripture, singing, and praying together. In the morning, I could count on a healthy breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt and cereal, and for the blessing before the meal to end by joining hands as they recited a traditional German phrase: “Gesegnete Mahlzeit!” (“Blessed meal time”). I will miss seeing Ted’s latest crafts, constructed from rocks, wood scraps, and even golf balls found on a walk along a nearby creek.
One of the complications of the COVID-19 pandemic is that we are prevented from carrying out many of the rituals of grieving that can bring us some comfort in a time of loss. Linda and their sons have decided to postpone a celebration of Ted’s life until a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be directed to the Pastor’s Discretionary Fund at Lutheran Church of the Resurrection-Prairie Village (www.lcrpv.org) where the Schroeders were active members. Sympathy cards may be sent to Linda at 9704 Pennsylvania Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64113.
Jeanette Mott Oxford
Executive Director of Empower Missouri