He was well respected and much loved within the Forest Park business community and throughout town. Active in all community events on Madison Street, his particular favorite was the annual "live window" display during the Holiday Walk, where his store regularly won top honors. Wayne Schauer, owner of Schauer's Hardware, 7449 Madison St., died last week at the age of 71.
He was admitted to the hospital last week after running a 104-degree fever, his son Rich said. An MRI was performed after doctors could not initially pinpoint the cause of the high fever. The test revealed an aneurism above his kidney and doctors were forced to operate, but he died as a result of a related infection. The official cause of death was sepsis, the result of a serious bacterial infection, said his daughter-in-law, Donna Hattey-Schauer.
In the hardware business over 60 years, Schauer began as a young boy helping out at his father's Chicago store on the corner of 63rd Street and Ashland Avenue. Since 1951, the Schauer family has owned four stores. Forest Park is the only remaining location. The Madison Street store had been the longtime home of Peaslee Hardware, another family-owned, longtime business in Forest Park. In 1997, Schauer bought Peaslee's.
"Wayne was fun-loving and always supportive to other businesses, to the [Chamber of Commerce] and to me personally," said Laurie Kokenes, president of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce.
"He did everything he could for this town," said Wayne's son, Rich, who will now assume control of the store.
"I get to run the shop now; I'm going to miss getting fired all the time," he joked, referring to his father's quibbling.
The store was thoroughly up-to-date but through both the Peaslee and Schauer eras, it retained an old-fashioned hardware store feel that appealed to both customers and, on occasion, filmmakers. The shop was featured in the pilot episode of the Fox police drama The Chicago Code.
"What impressed me from the very beginning was that he was committed to sustaining the idea that it was to be a friendly, congenial, old-fashioned hardware store," said Art Jones, a founding member of the local nonprofit Main Street Redevelopment Corporation, credited with revitalizing the Madison Street commercial district in the mid- to late-'90s.
"He put his heart and soul in that project," Jones added.
Corrina Jantz, of Forest Park, has worked at the Madison Street store since Schauer took over.
"I just walked through the door and said I needed a job. I can't be without a paycheck," said Jantz, recalling that Schauer hired her on the spot.
"Wayne was that kind of man. You could go to him and talk to him about your troubles, and he could talk about his. There was joking and laughing," she added. "He had a very warm relationship with everyone."
Since the Review published a Web article last week announcing Schauer's death, there has been an outpouring of support from the community and from persons who live outside of Forest Park, but who were well-acquainted with his personal charm.
This year's Summerfest was dedicated to the memory of Wayne Schauer, and a memorial sign was placed outside the store. Forest Park police provided a police escort for the funeral on Monday.
"I can't express enough thanks," said Rich Schauer, for the support and well-wishes his family received.
"The minute he walked into town it was like he was always here," Kokenes said.