BY TONY KRUKOWSKI
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
We live in a world that constantly bombards us with the message that, if we just focus on our own needs and desires, we will be happy. This call to be inner focused on our own needs and desires can be even greater as one enters the retirement years with the promise of being able to just kick back and enjoy the fruits of one’s labors. What may happen, however, is that retirees who were used to contributing to others in their work lives find that they have that same insatiable appetite for making a difference in retirement.
Yi-Chia Schmaeman is one of those retirees who has just not been able to kick back and relax. Schmaeman retired from her position as a product design engineer with Ford Motor Co. in 2007. Retirement afforded her the opportunity to spend additional time on her many hobbies: biking, camping, backpacking, swimming, sailing, reading, sewing, woodcarving, crocheting and bridge. However, in her desire to continue to contribute to society, she sought out activities that would allow her to place “service above self.”
Yi-Chia found not one, but many ways to serve the community and its residents. Her accomplishments have been impressive in how they have added to the quality of life for others.
Young boys and girls have had a Scout experience because Schmaeman saw a need and served as a Troop Leader, Den Leader, Committee Chairman, and Rank Advisor. Under her stewardship, scouts learned to become effective leaders, participated in public service activities, and made numerous educational field trips.
High school girls and boys have had a chance for hands-on learning in science and technology through a robotics program Schmaeman championed and now coaches. Implementation of the program involved gaining support from the school district administration; securing the necessary staffing; attracting funding; and acquiring the necessary parts, tools, and equipment.
Low-income residents and senior citizens have received free income assistance because Schmaeman devotes three months a year to being an AARP TaxAide. In addition to tax preparation, Yi-Chia is responsible for promoting the program through flyers, newspaper articles, and public service announcements to local cable networks.
Individuals experiencing difficult times in their lives due to divorce, job loss, and illness have received compassionate care and attention from Schmaeman in her role as a Grosse Ile Presbyterian Church minister. As church elder, she served as head of the Outreach Commission in which capacity she revitalized the church website and with others designed and built a much-needed Welcome Center.
The community has benefitted from her involvement on many projects as a member of the Grosse Ile Nature and Land Conservancy.
Individuals have benefited from her instruction as a volunteer Chinese language teacher.
Individuals with impaired vision are more independent because Schmaeman and her husband, Ron, spent many months, year after year, training puppies to become leader dogs.
Those who have worked with Yi-Chia on these and many other projects have remarked about how much she has been able to achieve without being dictatorial and overbearing. She is described by her colleagues as even-tempered, patient, giving, respectful, collaborative, and unassuming. She has also been described as “unrelenting” — however, in the most positive sense of the term. When she is involved in a project, something good always happens that would not have happened otherwise.
Strong and vital communities are built on the foundation of such individuals as Yi-Chia, and Grosse Ile is fortunate to claim her for its own. The Grosse Ile Rotary Club would like to invite the community in honoring Yi-Chia Schmaeman as Citizen of the Year for 2017.