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Schempers celebrate 70 years together
SchembersASK 0062
Leonard and Ann Schemper celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary this month. - photo by GLENN KAHL

RIPON - It is a love story that began in the Southland – in Long Beach – where Leonard Schemper told his girl friend  Ann that he loved her and asked her to marry him.

The rest is family history – a family that has worked together, played together and prayed together. They raised their children in Ripon and operated Schemper’s Ace Hardware for much of that time.

Ann is 99 this week and Leonard has marked his 96th birthday.  They are celebrating Ann’s birthday and their 70th wedding anniversary with family this week at a Bethany Manor dining room.   

Both grew up on Midwestern  farms – one from Kansas and the other from South Dakota – and came from large families.  Leonard gravitated to Long Beach by way of Alaska and Ann traveled from Denver to that beach city.  She had left home at 20 years old, and he left for Alaska at 21.
Leonard grew up on the family farm and also worked in his dad’s general store.  

“Those were the days when you had a little groceries, hardware and a little of everything,” he said. “My dad had two different stores and he didn’t believe in having any idle kids around.”

Their farm in Prairie View was out in the country four miles with only a post office, two churches and their country store.

 “In those days the churches were the center of all activity.  Teens had their own social gatherings that were all associated with the church,” he recalled.

 He was one of seven children – three girls and four boys.

They met on a blind
date set up by friend

Ann grew up in a very similar setting in Harrison, South Dakota, located 100 miles from Sioux City.  It was in 1936 that they met in Long Beach on a blind date set up by a friend.

“My life has been very interesting when I look back experiencing farming plus the country store,” Schemper said.

“Everybody was moving because there was nothing to do in the Midwest.  I went to Alaska, worked in a saw mill, drove trucks and worked on a fishing boat out of Bellingham, WA,” he said.

His brother, Henry, was in Long Beach, and said things were opening up there after the affects of the Depression.  Even so Schemper found it pretty tough going for awhile.

The longtime Ripon businessman said he went to work for the city in the engineering department working on the golf course, then on to the Harbor Department and on to the Gas Department laying pipelines.

Finally he took an examination to join the Long Beach Fire Department where he spent the next two years.  He remembers much of the early days in the development of the City of Long Beach.

Caught in the drought in South Dakota, Ann went on to do housework in Denver for three years.  She moved to California with her parents and settled in Long Beach as well.  At the family farm where she was the seventh of nine children, they raised cattle, dairy cows, wheat and corn.
Ann said they all had their chores from daily milking of the cows to driving the cattle from one pasture to another, and gathering chicken eggs.  
“There was plenty of work for kids on the farm – and we got to ride horseback,” she said.

It was soon after moving to Long Beach where she knew almost no one.  Her sister was already living and working in the community and knew friends of Leonard Schemper – she liked what she saw.  So, Ann’s sister Gertrude took her to Leonard’s door and introduced them.

They were married three years later in the pastor’s home in the City of Bellflower.  Sister Gertrude was the maid of honor and Leonard’s brother Henry served as best man.    

“The Depression and the drought in the Midwest reminds me of the Tower of Babel – we scattered to every place in the United States,” he said.

Schempers took
over from Dulk

Schemper’s’ Hardware took over the original Den Dulk Hardware store in 1954.  It was located at 121 West Main Street.  Leonard had worked for Den Dulk in his store before buying him out.  Den Dulk, who worked later as an insurance man, died just three weeks ago at 99 years old.

The store remained at that location for 10 years and moved in across the street in 1964 and Leonard retired in 1976.  It is now the anchor in a small shopping center at West Main and Wilma streets.  Son Ward Schemper took over the operation of the store when his dad retired.

All of their children grew up working in the store learning how to deal with people and the adult world.  Like his father before him,  Leonard evidently didn’t believe in having any kids around with idle time.

Judy worked as a bookkeeper as did Annette, and Bob was assigned to bicycles and saw sharpening.

The Schemper’s hosted many family dinners at their longtime home on Fourth Street after their kids grew up.  He said Ann always had everything on the table with all the trimmings including sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce.

They did a lot of traveling with their trailer after they retired.  Their first trip in 1974 was all the way across country to Florida.  Every fall they would go to Mexico with Hank Estes and his wife for 10 days.  They also sailed to Alaska by ship out of Seattle.

On yet another trip Leonard and Ann went on a 28-day caravan to Mexico with friends along with trips to desert Hot Springs, El Centro, Yuma and along the Oregon Coast.

Schemper said when they came to Ripon there were 14 couples who celebrated their 25th and 35th anniversaries with them.  Now on their 70th, they are mostly by themselves in that age group.

“The Lord has been good to us – just keep on living,’” he said.  “We are thankful for every day, for family, and for friends, for community.  We’ve enjoyed it all.

“It’s not what’s dealt to you, but it is rather how you play the cards that are dealt to you,” he said.  That philosophy supports his part in the Barnabas Foundation designed to help others in need.

Schemper has enjoyed playing golf and pool over the years – golf has waned but pool is still ongoing at the Ripon Senior Center.  Three weeks ago the Manteca and Ripon Pool teams presented him with a large trophy cup at a party in his honor at the senior center.  The inscription reads, “The Best 96-Year-Old Pool Player Ever in the League.”

The Ripon and Manteca pool teams play each other the second and fourth Wednesdays each month in both cities.