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Jack "John" Arthur Schillinger

January 13, 1942 ~ May 27, 2022 (age 80)

Obituary

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Jack Arthur (John) Schillinger 
1/13/1942—5/27/2022

John Schillinger, beloved husband, father and grandfather, died on Friday, May 27th, after a yearlong illness. John (also known as Jack) was born in Aledo, Illinois, on Jan. 13, 1942. When he was fourteen, his family moved to a farm in Viola, Illinois, where he helped his father raise Christmas trees and Suffolk sheep, acquiring a raft of gardening and construction skills that he would draw on throughout his life. He thrived at the local high school, lettering in four sports, performing in school musicals, and, along the way, becoming an Eagle Scout. After graduating as valedictorian, John was bound for West Point, but deferred a year to study chemistry at Monmouth College. He so enjoyed the camaraderie and warmth he found at Monmouth that he decided to stay there, joining the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, and lending his tenor to a campus singing group. In his senior year, he took a Russian class, and fell in love with the language and literature. Changing his career path, he resolved to become a Russian professor, instead of a chemist. He got his M.A. at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, where he met his wife, Elisabeth Hupp Schillinger, in the campus language lab where he worked. After he jokingly chided her for failing to recite her assigned German phrases, she gave him a stick of gum. When he called her sorority house to ask her out on a first date, he said, “What are you doing this Friday night, and every Friday night, the rest of your life?” They liked to joke, “He found out.” They married on August 28, 1965.

Their daughter, Liesl, was born in Champaign; soon after, John and Liz (then known as Jack and Beth) moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where John got his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and where their son Justin was born. The family then moved to Michigan, where John, at 29, became chair of the Modern Foreign Languages Department at Saginaw Valley College, and created the school’s Russian program. In 1973, the week that their third child, Nathaniel (Nat) was born, John became Assistant Head of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana, where the family would live for nine years. John built a screened-in porch on that house (he would go on to build three more), and a picket fence; planted fruit trees, and dug a large garden—green beans, snow peas, zucchini and tomatoes for the table, and zinnias, peonies and nasturtiums for his wife. He could make anything grow. John coached his sons in four sports, took an active role in their Scouting activities, and was chief of their Indian Guides club. When his daughter was ten, he persuaded his department to let her audit college French at Purdue. He sat beside her in class every day of the first semester, to make sure she was all right; she took it from there, completing the four-year undergraduate French program. 

In 1982, the family moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma, where John became head of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature at Oklahoma State University, while serving and often heading state and national organizations for the study of Russian and Slavic languages in America—among them, AATSEEL, ACTR, and CCPCR. At OSU, John and his wife (who was then going by “Lisa,” and was a professor of journalism and sociology), team-taught a popular course on the parallel development of the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. in the 20th century.  In 1987, while leading a delegation of American exchange students through Moscow, John and Lisa were suddenly ushered in to meet with Mikhail Gorbachev, then head of state of the Soviet Union—a result of a November 1985 summit between Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev, that sought to improve U.S.-Soviet relations. They spoke with him for an hour about Glasnost and Perestroika, and their picture, seated at the table by Gorbachev, appeared the next day on the cover of Pravda. 

In 1990, John moved to the D.C. area and became chair of the Department of Languages and Foreign Studies at American University. John and his wife (now going by “Liz”), lived in a succession of houses (which John built porches for). In 1998, they bought a beautiful old house in Strasburg for weekends and family holidays. They retired to Strasburg in 2005, though for John, retirement meant assigning himself a long list of daily chores, which he conscientiously performed gardening, making repairs, wrangling the family’s basset hounds, and caring for his wife, Liz, who in 2007 was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. In his spare time, he loved to golf and play bridge with his friends. He and Liz loved to travel; in 2003, they took a dozen friends and family members on a personally guided tour of Moscow and St. Petersburg; and in 2006, they achieved a bucket list goal—riding the Trans-Siberian railroad all the way to Beijing, stopping along the way to spend a night in a Mongolian yurt, and to take a punishingly hot sauna near Lake Baikal. But the vacations he treasured most were summer weeks with family at Glen Lake, Michigan, a topaz-blue mirror set among pines and towering sand dunes, where he boated, golfed and sailed, and kept the children from exploding themselves with 4th-of-July fireworks. 

In Strasburg, John engaged actively with the community, as a board member of the town library (he also did repairs), and as precinct captain and Strasburg district chair for the Shenandoah County Democratic Committee. Even in 2021, while undergoing chemotherapy, John got out the vote, put up campaign signs, and manned the polling station at Strasburg High.  Until his last day of life, he remained warm, engaged, optimistic and productive, always looking to see how he could improve himself, what he could take joy in, and how he could be useful.  
John was preceded in death by his parents, John and Ruth Schillinger, and his sister Jill. John is survived by his wife, Liz, and by his daughter and sons, who were by his side when he passed. He is also survived by his daughters-in-law Victoria Schillinger and Phong Liu Schillinger, and by his three grandchildren, August, Guinevere and Dane. 

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Act Blue, the ASPCA, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, or the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.   

A Celebration of Life will be held for John at the family’s home in Strasburg, on Saturday, June 18, from 12-3 p.m., with a livestream of remarks at 1:30 (link will be posted later).

You may sign the family guestbook and submit condolences online at www.stoverfuneralhome.com.

Stover Funeral Home and Crematory, Strasburg, VA is serving the family of Jack Arthur (John) Schillinger.

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