If you’re like me, you may be wondering about Jackie Schulz, who retired in 2017 after more than 47 years writing a weekly column. One of Jackie’s neighbors suggested I just knock on her door.
First, I stopped at Forest Park Bakery because Jackie is partial to sugar cookies. One of the cookies was decorated like a pumpkin, the other was a turkey. When I knocked, her upstairs neighbor welcomed me. As usual, Jackie was renting to a family from another country.
Jackie is 92 years old and still lives in the frame two-flat her grandfather constructed over a century ago. She explained that her family originally lived on the South Side of Chicago. She spoke wistfully of her old neighborhood. She said it was dotted with “prairies,” a Chicago euphemism for vacant lots.
When their lease was up on their apartment, Jackie’s parents moved to the two-flat her grandfather, Paul Schulz, had built on Beloit Avenue. Jackie was dismayed by Forest Park. Instead of the wide-open spaces of the South Side, the town had rows of frame houses all crammed together.
She never earned a degree in journalism but did obtain degrees in English and Education. She taught for the Chicago Public Schools. Her first assignment was teaching Kindergarten at Jenner School in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood.
Jackie taught students in fourth grade and younger. When she wasn’t teaching, she spent summers traveling. She visited Asian countries with a group of teachers. She traveled alone to the Middle East, India and Nepal.
Jackie not only saw the world, she welcomed the world to her door. She takes in renters from all parts of the globe. When these families enroll their children at Garfield School, Jackie writes a note explaining they’re her tenants.
When she started writing her column for publisher Bob Haeger, she practiced local journalism in its purest form. Her secret weapon was walking a cute dog through Forest Park. “You either need a dog or a baby to get a story. A baby is a lot more work.”
Jackie was fascinated by the people she bumped into. She was also diligent about listing their birthdays in her column. She was ahead of her time by sometimes listing the birthdays of people who were deceased. Today, people call these “Heavenly Birthdays.”
Jackie’s heart is with the salt-of-the earth residents of Forest Park. Unlike a “snooty” relative she had, she doesn’t look down on blue collar workers. She pointed out that without garbage men our community would collapse. She’s also a strong supporter of labor unions.
An only child who inherited her warmth from her Irish mother, Jackie has a dazzling smile and infectious laugh. She never married and once said, “I had some good romances but I wasn’t going to get into it full-time.”
Over the years, Jackie wrote about 2,500 columns for the Review. She never wrote about herself or her travels. She believed the focus should always be on other people. No one was better at finding topics than Jackie. She also took photos to run with her columns.
Jackie and I had so many laughs that afternoon. There was some reminiscing, but Jackie prefers to talk about contemporary topics. She wonders if there are going to be more changes at the Review. She misses her friends from the newsroom.
If you’re going to visit Jackie, you might want to bring some sugar cookies. We ended up sharing the pumpkin one.
Jackie planned to give the turkey cookie to “the little girl upstairs.”