Schwartau, community activist and farmer, dies at 89Key among John Schwartau’s interests and passions was farming, but his efforts extended beyond the fields of Featherstone Township.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
Key among John Schwartau’s interests and passions was farming, but his efforts extended beyond the fields of Featherstone Township.
“He definitely didn’t just stay on the farm,” Goodhue County Historical Society Director Char Henn said. “He was always working in the community.”
Schwartau made an impact that will last long into the future, Henn said. The Red Wing resident died Friday at age 89.
He was named the 1984 Goodhue County Citizen of the Year along with Paul Voxland.
“There’s been a lot of change in the industry,” he said then of farming. But he also believed family farming in the area was “here to stay.”
Schwartau served on the board of the Goodhue County Historical Society and was vice chair when Henn started. But she knew him before that as they also attended the same church, she said.
“He had a great sense of humor, but he was soft spoken, so you might not have always caught everything,” Henn said. “He was a wise man and always gave good advice.”
He was interested in many aspects of history, Henn said. Schwartau worked with the Goodhue County Area Historical Society, which highlighted his passion in agriculture.
He also did research on the beginnings of pottery in the area and “cleared up a lot of misconceptions” on the first potter, Henn said.
“His passion for history really has enriched the collections here at the history center and the way we do things,” she said.
For example, Schwartau and his wife went around Goodhue County to photograph all the barns and gave copies of the pictures to the historical society for its collection.
And his involvement in the community certainly didn’t stop there. Schwartau served on the St. John’s Hospital Board for 20 years and chaired it for seven.
He was involved in farming and agriculture associations, including as chairman of the Goodhue County Dairy Improvement Association and Goodhue County Farm Bureau. He also spent time as chairman of the Featherstone Town Board and participated in local civic clubs.
When he was honored with the citizen of the year award at age 62, his achievements cited included his extensive community involvement and contributions to agriculture.
He experimented with techniques on his farm that eventually impacted agricultural practices.
Schwartau graduated from Red Wing Central High School in 1940 and attended the University of Minnesota School of Agriculture.
He married Bernice Gustafson in 1946 and they farmed on their century farm until his retirement in 1987. They moved to Red Wing in 1997.
Henn said Schwartau and his wife were “partners in everything.” Schwartau had a genuine and steady personality, Henn added.
“He was a good person to have when issues were being discussed because he was level-headed and respectful of other people’s opinions,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll see another person like John again.”