Florence Jane (Hoekman) Schulte was born on Dec. 13, 1920, in her parents’ home near Corona, S.D. It was a stormy day, and the doctor did not receive the message of her impending birth, so she was delivered by her father. She was breech. As her father told the story, “I saw those little feet, and with Ma’s next pain, I pulled as hard as I could.” Florence was the third of five children; her siblings were Gertrude DeBoer, Kathryn (Kay) Schilke, and Maynard Hoekman, and an infant sister who died at birth.
Her father, Herman Hoekman, was born in the Netherlands, and immigrated to the United States at 22. The family spoke Dutch, High German, Low German, and English. Her mother, Kathryn (DeNeui) Hoekman, known as Kate, was born in Iowa. The family loved to read and highly valued education; they subscribed to a daily paper, The Minneapolis Journal, as well as magazines like Ladies’ Home Journal and McCall’s. The children spoke all languages at home.
At age 10, while on a routine chore to bring the cows home from the pasture, Florence saved her older sister Kay’s life when Kay was attacked and nearly crushed by a cow. Florence brandished a large stick at the cow and pulled Kay to safety outside the fence before running home to get help from her parents.
Florence attended a one-room schoolhouse a mile and a half from her home, which she walked to and from each day, and finished 8th grade at age 12. Her home did not have indoor plumbing or electric lights, but it did have a parlor organ and a piano. By age 12, Florence could play any hymn in the hymnbook by ear. While she lamented her inability to read music throughout her life, she was able to play any song she heard by ear, and to transpose any song into a different key based on the singers’ ranges–a unique gift. She also loved to sing in the church choir.
Florence lived on her parents’ farm until her junior year of high school, when she and her sister Kay moved to Milbank, S.D. and lived with their grandmother for the remaining years of high school. She graduated from high school at age 16.
Around that time, Florence met her future husband, Elmer Schulte, at church. They married in 1939, and had five children over 19 years: Ken, Duane, Gordon, Lynn, and Bob. Three of her sons served in the Army and Navy; she was proud of her chidren’s accomplishments in their respective professional fields, including military service, medicine, and sales.
Florence trained in secretarial skills, was a meticulous bookkeeper, and worked several years for the Corona School in South Dakota. Once she became a mother, Florence was a homemaker who oversaw farm gardens, livestock, and supported the family farming operation. She was an active member of Corona Baptist Church, and later Valley Baptist Church in Milbank; she served as a Sunday School teacher, in the Youth Group, at Vacation Bible School, and on the Ladies’ Aid/Women’s Mission Fellowship, and was a church organist for decades. She also played piano or organ for weddings, funerals, and other special events. She loved serving the Lord. In her later years she taught many Friendship Bible Coffee studies in the community.
Schulte family gatherings weren’t complete until time was spent gathered around the piano. Florence also enjoyed singing German hymns with her friends. She loved reciting poetry that she had learned as a child. She was a lifelong learner, always interested in others, in current events, history, and especially in growing in her understanding of the Lord and his word. Her interest in others carried through during her late life dementia as she won the hearts of her caregivers, always bringing a smile, showing appreciation and interest in their lives, and shining for Jesus by singing hymns from memory when there really was no other memory left. She never lost sight of whose she was.
In her retirement, Florence served others with her musical gifts, and connected with people to whom she was close. She was a prolific and gifted letter writer, and hosted dinners and dessert conversations for friends and family from out of town. She sewed wardrobes of clothes for herself, and for her grandchildren’s dolls, made out of scraps from her fabric closet. She played piano and organ for fellow seniors who loved to hear music. She wrote stories about a feisty cat named “Poom” for her grandchildren, and traveled around the country to visit family. Florence lived in Milbank, S.D., for most of her retirement, and later lived in Sioux Falls, S.D., Canton, S.D., and Olathe, KS.
Florence was preceded in death by her husband, Elmer Schulte; siblings Gertrude DeBoer, Maynard Hoekman, and Kathryn Schilke and Baby Hoekman (lovingly but unofficially named Anna Rose by her nieces recently); and sons Robert Schulte and Dr. Ken Schulte. She is survived by her children Duane (Sunny) Schulte of Longmont, Colo., Dr. Gordon (Sue) Schulte of Littleton, Colo., Lynn (Lee) Gooden of Overland Park, Kan., daughters-in-law Jan Schulte of Watertown, S.D. and Donna Schulte Adams, of Medina, Ohio. She is also survived by 13 grandchildren (Chuck, Jack, Ross, Mike, Chris, Erin, Michelle, Nick, Dave, Drew, Grant, Kevin, and Erica), 31 great-children, and 13 nieces and nephews.
Despite her late-in-life dementia, Florence never lost her love of God, her sweetness, or her love of music, which she continued to play long after her vision failed and fingers were arthritic. Florence, who died on Oct. 24, 2019 in Olathe, KS, was a blessing to all who met her.
Florence’s memorial service will be held Nov. 16, 2019 at Valley Baptist Church in Milbank, S.D. Visitation from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., luncheon from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., with funeral service beginning at 2:00 p.m. Burial will follow at the Corona Baptist Cemetery, including inurnment of Florence’s sister, Kay.
Mundwiler Funeral Home (Milbank) and Penwell-Gabel (Olathe, KS) assisting with arrangements.
Memorial funds are suggested for maintenance of the Corona Baptist Cemetery. Checks can be made to Corona Cemetery Fund, c/o Valley Baptist Church, 409 West 6th Avenue, Milbank, SD 57252.