“I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music,” composer Johann Sebastian Bach is quoted as saying.
Rudolph James “Jim” Schifferdecker was a kind and gentle man who touched many people through his music and teaching career. His death on Dec. 30, brought a great outpouring of tributes and memories from his many friends, students and family members.
Born on March 27, 1938, as one of six children to Rudolph John and Louise Schifferdecker, he was raised on the family’s farm near the small community of Norborne, Mo. Living on a farm, Jim and his siblings were no strangers to hard work and making their own entertainment. His brother, Charles, still enjoys relating stories of he and Jim sharing chores with their other siblings while growing up. Jim showed an early interest in music and, no doubt, would often entertain his family with songs played on the piano. After high school, he attended Concordia Teachers College at Seward, Neb. and received his degree in Elementary Education and Organ. After his graduation in 1961 his first call was to become the fifth and sixth grade teacher at St. Paul Lutheran School in Farmington. He would also serve as the organist for the church.
This move marked a milestone in Jim’s life, as it was here he met his future wife, Carolyn Schramm. The young couple was married at St. Paul Lutheran Church on June 9, 1963. Later Jim’s teaching career moved the couple to Jackson, Mo. and then to Victor, Iowa. During these 14 years they were blessed with the birth of four daughters: Miriam, Martha, Karen and Kathryn.
In 1975, Jim chose to leave the teaching profession and moved his family back to Farmington. He took a position with Mell’s Hardware Store where he would go on to work for ten years. His farm background continued to show throughout his life in his love for gardening. Eventually he was able to devote his energies to sharing his love of music and became a full time piano and organ teacher. He faithfully served as organist for 49 years at three Lutheran congregations, including St. Paul in Farmington, and substituting at others. His last time playing the organ was on Christmas day 2013 at his beloved home church.
Since six members of Jim and Carolyn’s family were serving in missions overseas at the time of their 50th anniversary, the Schifferdecker’s postponed the celebration and, instead, planned a family gathering for December.
This summer Carolyn, Jim, and daughter, Kathryn, enjoyed a trip to Germany fulfilling a life-long dream for Jim. One of the highlights for him was to attend St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany where Bach played and wrote most of his music.
During his lifetime, Jim cared deeply for all people, especially those in need, the elderly and those that did not know Christ. He served the church in many ministries.
As dedicated as he was to his ministries, his great joy was being with his family and his grandchildren and joining them in games, various activities and hikes. Their last family hike was made to Pickle Springs on the Saturday prior to the anniversary celebration.
The delayed celebration of the couple’s Golden Wedding Anniversary was held on Dec. 29 at St. Paul. A special surprise at the event was the serenade to the couple by their grandchildren—a sure sign of how the music gene from their grandfather was passed down. Two of the granddaughters accompanied their cousins on flute and guitar. Those in attendance say it was a joyous gathering of family, friends, former students and even a former Norborne classmate. Many came from great distances to share the occasion, not knowing it would be their last opportunity to spend time with Jim.
Toward the end of the celebration, Jim became ill and was taken to a local hospital. He was later airlifted to Barnes Hospital in St. Louis where he died of an aneurysm on Dec. 30. Survivors include his beloved wife of fifty years, Carolyn Ann (Schramm) Schifferdecker; four daughters, Miriam Sutherland and husband, Kraig Sutherland, Martha Ochoa and husband, Enrique Ochoa, Karen Schifferdecker and husband, Paul Malan, and Kathryn Schifferdecker and husband, Doug Steinke; thirteen grandchildren, Kaleb, Nicholas, Rebekah and Elizabeth Sutherland, Joshua, Rebecca, Joel and Lydia Ochoa, Kian and Baden Schifferdecker, Esther, Isaac and Sarah Steinke; one brother, Charles Schifferdecker and wife, Joyce, one sister, Marguerite Daughters and husband, Richard; and a brother-in-law, John Schramm and wife, Diana. Also surviving are several nieces and nephews.
A beautiful service for the celebration of Jim’s life was held Jan. 4 with many of the same people who were in attendance at the anniversary gathering just a few days prior. Co-worker and long-time friend, Pastor Merlen Wegener of Ohio recalled many examples of Jim’s kindness, his dedication and love for Christ. His daughter, Kathryn, gave a touching Eulogy for her father. Jim Schifferdecker’s passing leaves a great void in the lives of his family, church family and for countless others who have been touched by this gentle and caring man.