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Charles Frederick Schafer

Charles Frederick Schafer

August 23, 1933 - September 14, 2022

Pella, IA

On Wednesday September 14, 2022, Charles Frederick Schafer passed from this earthly life into eternity with God. Charles was born at midnight August 23, 1933, and he often gleefully let people know that he had the pick of the 23rd and 24th to celebrate his birthday.

Charles was born in McPherson, Kansas to Harold Julius Schafer and Melvina Gertrude Graham. Charles’ father Harold, the son of German immigrants, was born and raised in McPherson and operated a bakery at the time Charles was born, but soon after was appointed postmaster by newly elected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for whom he had campaigned vigorously. His mother Melvina was born and raised in Seneca, Kansas, and was a loving wife and mother to Charles and his sister Geraldine, whom Charles loved dearly, and whom he gave away in marriage years later after their father passed away from brain cancer in 1951 at the young age of 48. Charles and Geraldine lost their mother in 1989 after she suffered for a few years from Alzheimer’s.

“Chuck”, as he was known in his early years, was an accomplished long-distance runner for the McPherson High School Bullpups track squad, setting a record in the mile that stood for several years. After graduating with the McPherson High School class of 1951, Charles enrolled in the University of Kansas as a pre-med student. During his summer breaks, Chuck would return to his hometown of McPherson to work in the local oil refinery as a means of earning extra money. Following his studies at KU, he entered the University of Kansas Medical School in Kansas City to study to become a General Practitioner.

While a student at KU Medical School, he met and was married to Mary Margaret Bales, who hailed from Kansas City, Missouri.

The newlyweds welcomed their first child to the family when Becky Lynn was born in December of 1956. Then in 1958, they were blessed with a second daughter, Amy Louise Schafer.

Upon graduating medical school, Charles and the family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan so he could serve a one-year internship at Butterworth Hospital.

Following the stint in Michigan, the family was on the road again, this time moving to North Dakota so the new doctor could fulfill his obligation to the Indian Tribal Services by serving on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation. It was soon after arriving in North Dakota that they welcomed their 3rd daughter Lisa Ann, who was born in Rolla, North Dakota in November of 1959.

Towards the end of his service on the Indian reservation, Charles and Mary added a son, Scott Harold, to the family in March of 1961.

In 1962, the family of five moved eastward, this time settling in Montrose, Pennsylvania, where Charles began working as a General Practitioner. It didn’t take long for him to realize that he wasn’t cut out to be a GP and that he wanted to pursue general surgery instead, so the family packed up and moved east to New York City in 1963 where Charles began his residency in General Surgery at Queens General Hospital.

After completing four years of residency, “Charlie” as he was now affectionately known, joined the surgical team at Community Memorial Hospital in Winona, Minnesota. Charlie and his family of four young children settled into the southeastern Minnesota community, where he became an active member of the community and began playing racquetball with other doctors at the local YMCA. Within a year or so, Charlie established himself as a top player in the city and a highly competitive player in state and regional tournaments. Charlie used his endurance and court coverage to capture several state and regional titles during his racquetball career, including 55+ National Champion.

In 1969, the Schafer family added another family member when they adopted Daniel David from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In 1972, Charlie and Mary were divorced, after which Charlie married Helen Joan Hartman, a fellow classmate from McPherson High in Kansas.

In 1977, Charlie received an offer to become the first full-time General Surgeon at the Pella Community Hospital in Pella, Iowa, which he accepted. So, in the spring of 1977, Charlie, Helen (“Joan”), Scott and Daniel moved to the south central Iowa community, where Charles began the last chapter of his career in medicine. Meanwhile, his daughter Becky remained in Winona, while Amy enrolled at Charles’ alma mater, and Lisa finished out her senior year of high school, soon after which she enrolled at Stout State University in Wisconsin.

Charlie loved his new position in Iowa, and soon developed a strong bond with Hospital Administrator John Harmeling, whose warm welcome and hospitality made the Schafer family feel at home from the first day. He also developed good rapport with fellow doctors in various specialties at Pella Community Hospital. Charlie was on call quite regularly, and was often seen driving his BMW motorcycle through town when called into the Emergency Room to treat an accident victim or to assist with a C-section delivery. Pella Community Hospital invested in their new surgeon by adding on a surgical wing and outfitting it with the latest technology, for which Charlie was grateful.

In addition to racquetball, Charlie was an avid fisherman and hunter of wild game, such as ducks, ruffed grouse, pheasants, squirrels and rabbits. While in Minnesota, he would spend many hours in the bitter cold, traipsing through thick brush to flush out and shoot ruffed grouse, but the hunting became a little less strenuous after the move to Iowa, where pheasant hunting didn’t require as much effort as ruffed grouse did.

While exercise and optimal health were a big part of Charlie’s life, he suffered his share of medical challenges. While a resident in New York City, Charlie contracted hepatitis, for which he was hospitalized for weeks at Queens General Hospital. Then in the early 80s, Charlie suffered from a debilitating case of ulcerative colitis for which he was operated on more than once. But through it all, he continued to play racquetball at his home court, hunt, and even run an occasional full or half marathon.

There was a caring side of Charlie that many people who were not directly under his care never witnessed, and that was his numerous trips to Haiti to provide voluntary medical treatment to Haitiians. These trips, organized through his wife Joan’s Haitian Education Literacy Program (H.E.L.P.), were joined by and supported through the donations and participation of many Pella residents, including local doctors and business people. The lives of many Haiitians were touched by Charlie’s work and also by the assistance of his great friend, New York City-based plastic surgeon James Norris.

Another highlight of Charlie’s career as a surgeon was the opportunity to welcome to Pella and assist in surgery Cincinnati's Dr. Henry Heimlich, the man for whom the Heimlich Maneuver was named.

While very serious about his work as a surgeon, Charlie was known as being a bit eccentric in some areas of his life, perhaps most notably for the overgrown wild yard in front of his house, which drew the ire of some people in town and prompted more than one discussion among city officials. To Charlie, he was just trying to protect the habitat of wild animals, which was likely his way of making amends for his past hunting habit.

Charlie continued to work as a surgeon into his early 70s, when he finally decided to retire. Upon retirement, Charlie continued to reside in Pella.

Charlie leaves behind his children Becky Schafer of Red Wing, MN, Amy Folse of Kansas City, MO, Lisa Dejong of Pella, IA, Scott (Hiroe) Schafer of Flower Mound, TX and Daniel Schafer of Minneapolis, MN.

Family and friends are invited to attend a burial service at Graceland Cemetery in Pella over the Thanksgiving weekend this November.

For details on Charlie’s service, email



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