With the passing of Silvester Schiele on
December 17, 1945, thousands upon thousands of
individuals, both Rotarians and non-Rotarians
had lost one of their dearest friends.
Hundreds of Crippled children owe their
rehabilitation to the pioneering educational
work of Silvester. Hundreds upon hundreds of
young men, sore pressed for adjustment in the
depression days give thanks for the privilege of
having been befriended by Silvester. there are
thousands of folks in this world of challenges
who are striving to emulate the sterling
qualities always exhibited by Silvester.
Truly he was one of the great men of the 20th
Century, for greatness must come as a result of
personal contacts, of helpfulness, of square
dealing, and of kindly sympathetic
Silvester was an idealist,
but at the same time a man of practical affairs.
He was first of all a success in his home life,
for in 1909 he was married to Jessie L.
MacDonald, of Michigan, who was his constant
partner in good works in the city of Chicago,
IL. The two were a great tam of personal
Silvester was a success in
business. He was Christian businessman, having
been president of the Schiele Coal Company from
1902 to 1939, when he retired. His employees
held him in high regard.
Schiele was a success in the things of life that
really count. Mundane accomplishments are
essential in this world of competitive
enterprise, but the competitor can have great
respect, and this was true of all those in
Silvester's field of activity. His real
greatness was for everywhere men had a good word
for Silvester, perhaps because he had a good
word and a great heart for them.
what many like to think of as a typical
American. He was born of German parentage in a
log cabin in Clay City, Indiana, in 1870. He
slept in the attic while the snow crept in the
chinks between the logs. He broke ice out of the
pitcher to get water for the morning wash. He
had all the difficulties of a young pioneer.
There was the family fireplace of those early
years, which was an important training ground.
Then there was school at Terre Haute, a period
of service in Cuba in the Spanish-American War,
and then activity in Chicago in the retail coal
About 1896 he had loaned some money to a friend
from who he had been unable to collect. Passing
by his office frequently was a young lawyer and
one day Silvester asked this young lawyer for
advice as to the collection of the money.
Thus began the friendship of Paul Harris and
Silvester that was to result in the founding of
the Rotary Club of Chicago as the forerunner of
the more than 31,000 Clubs throughout the world
today and, indeed, of the thousands of other
service clubs of the 20th Century.
In the early days of the century Paul and Silvester
shared a room in the New Southern Hotel at 13th
Street and Michigan in Chicago. On Sundays in
top hats and Prince Albert coats, they would
stroll down the boulevard to church and in the
afternoon they would walk to the park.
This Damon and Pythias friendship was to weather
all storms of disagreement, and constantly
ripen. In his latter years Silvester was a
constant companion of Paul as was his wife,
Jessie, to Paul's wife, Jean--an inseparable
foursome. Paul said that Silvester's life became
increasingly useful in advancing years.
As the co-founder of Rotary, Silvester became
the first President of the first Rotary Club.
After some five months of existence, Silvester
suggested to Paul that the members give talks
about their businesses and Paul asked Silvester
to make the first talk. Thus was presented the
first Vocational Service talk in Rotary, a
practice that has now become universal.
He was a community-minded man interested in
working with boys, he knew the problem's, which
confronted young men and hence became a natural
counselor for them. Hundreds cam for advice and
it was always given freely but in humility.
Because Silvester himself was an idealist,
it was perfectly natural that the altruistic
service program of Rotary would appeal deeply to
him. Any movement, which is to become great,
must have an altruistic idealism in the hearts
and minds of its founders. The idealism of Paul
and Silvester was the very practical cornerstone
on which the great structure of Rotary
International was ultimately to be built.
Silvester left this life in active service
to Rotary International, he was serving as the
international Treasurer. Having been asked by
the Board of Directors to become Treasurer, his
comment was simply, if I can be of service I
would gladly accept.
His was an indelible
impression, as the minister said at the funeral
service, Silvester didn't have a Sunday
profession and a Monday practice. He was a man
of honor and righteousness, which is no mean
achievement in these hectic days. His whole life
was quiet, humble, unobtrusive, and persuasive
goodness. A great Rotarian, his good deeds and
noble thoughts will live forever in the hearts
and minds of those who knew him.