Doris McCrea ’61 Schember

Doris McCrea ’61 Schember, 100 years old, left this world on Wednesday, May 30, 2018, after a long and full life through the colorful decades of the twentieth century. Born on October 3, 1917 in Muskegon during the First World War, she came to Grand Haven at the age of three with her parents, Frederick and Gladys McCrea and her infant sister, Jane, when Mr. McCrea took a position as secretary of the Chamber of Commerce. The family rode the high wave of false prosperity in the decade of the “Roaring Twenties,” crashing down with the rest of the country into the Great Depression of the Thirties. Much was lost to them, but one major resource remained: a large tract of land on the southwest end of Grand Haven. On this property, tucked up alongside the shoreward-most dune, was one lone little house. The family gave up their home on Spring Lake and moved in. Mr. McCrea began the work of developing the property into saleable lots. That little home still stands at what is now the southwest corner of Grand Avenue and Wisconsin Street. In 1935, Doris graduated from Grand Haven High School, went on to graduate from Hope College and later received a Master’s degree in English from the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. Her fiance, George Schember of Spring Lake, graduated from Michigan Tech and upon taking a Federal Civil Service exam, was ranked among the top tier of engineering students in the country. He accepted a position at the material headquarters of the United States Airforce in Dayton, Ohio. On July 5, 1941, six months before Pearl Harbor, the couple were married at St. John’s Episcopal Church of Grand Haven. Their home for the war years, and seven years of the cold war thereafter was in Dayton. Those years took a severe toll on Mr. Schember’s health, as his skills were needed in many different combat and potential combat areas, working long hours in extremes of heat or cold. In 1952, they returned to Grand Haven and raised their three children in the home they built on a dune, overlooking Lake Michigan. The road to their home winds in a southwesterly direction off Grand Avenue, up and down through the dunes. It had been named Doris Avenue by her father. While in Grand Haven, they were very active in community affairs; St. John’s Episcopal Church, the Spring Lake Yacht Club, Spring Lake Country Club, Grand Haven Rotary, League of Women Voters, the PTA, Cub Scouts, and other special events as they arose. The family members were avid sports fans, with special loyalty to the University of Michigan that goes back five generations in Mrs. Schember’s family and continues in their lives, regardless of wherever they may be. In 1955, the citizens of Grand Haven elected Mrs. Schember to a special nine-member commission that wrote a new charter for the city. She was the only woman member of the commission. She also taught in Grand Haven Junior High School from 1961 to 1964, after which she and Mr. Schember returned to Dayton where Mr. Schember did some consulting work, and Mrs. Schember taught high school English and Journalism. In January, 1968, the day after his 50th birthday, Mr. Schember died from a severe emphysema attack. Mrs. Schember then moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to be near her married daughter in Birmingham and her two sons as they went through law school at the University of Michigan. She trained as a remedial reading instructor and taught for nine years in that field, after which she and her second husband, Benjamin Grosse, a former resident of Grand Haven and longtime family friend, moved to Florida. Two of Mrs. Schember’s children settled their families in Florida, and one of them in suburban Washington D.C. Doris always retained the Schember last name, but Ben was the only (and a very good) grandfather her grandchildren ever knew. He died in Florida in 1992, and was buried with a full military honors ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Mrs. Schember spent 25 years in Florida. She was very active in environmental affairs, and served several terms on a state water board, having been appointed and reappointed by both republican and Democratic governors. She also traveled the world, visiting every great city on every continent, cruising seas and rivers, going above the Arctic Circle, down to the tip of Africa, following the America’s Cup races in Australia, walking the Great Wall of China, riding a yak in outer Mongolia, an elephant in India, a camel in the Sahara, the Siberian Express across Russia, going on safari in the Serengeti, her father’s ancestral castle in the Scottish Highlands, her mother’s birthplace in Vienna, taking a helicopter to Corregidor where her second husband was captured during World War II, and many, many more places. In 2004, Mrs. Schember returned to Grand Haven to live near the young families of her brother-in-law and sister, the late Paul and Jane Parks of Grand Haven. She again became active in St. John’s Episcopal Church and enrolled as a volunteer tutor in the adult literacy program R.E.A.D. She enjoyed renewing friendships with others who remembered going to junior high school on the top floor of Central School and then across the yard to Grand Haven High School and she rejoiced every day to be back again among the scenes that had always been so dear to her heart. A special companion until his death in 2011 was George Nordhouse of Spring Lake, a lifelong friend. In October 2017, one of her granddaughters, Dr. Caitlin Dunham, joined Mayo Brothers of Rochester, Minnesota. She and her software engineer husband, their three year old daughter, one year old son, and their live-in caregiver settled in nearby Austin, Minnesota. Caitlin asked her grandmother to come join their happy household for the rest of her life. And so, Mrs. Schember did. In addition to her two husbands and her sister and brother-in-law, she was preceded in death by a daughter-in-law, Cynthia Schember; a nephew, Christopher Parks; and John Gellick, the half-brother of her second husband. She leaves her three beloved children, Jane Schember Robertson of Bradenton Beach, Florida, Steven (Linda) Schember of Sarasota, Florida, and Daniel (Susan) Schember of Bethesda, Maryland; seven grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. Also Surviving are a dear step-daughter, Mrs. Barbara (John) Ruark of Comstock Park; three step-grandchildren of this area; a number of nieces and nephews of the Parks, Schember and Gellick families; and two cousins and their families in the McCrea family. According to Mrs. Schember’s wishes, there will be no Memorial Service. Cremation has taken place, and the family will gather at a later date for her interment alongside her first husband in the McCrea family plot in Lake Forest Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be given to St. John’s Episcopal Church or the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation.

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