MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Paul Schumacher is on a mission. He is helping to preserve the legacy of his late wife Susan, by auctioning her artwork to help non-profits in the Upper Peninsula. The three organizations he choose were important to Susan and Paul.
Jim LaJoie is the Executive Director with Superior Health Foundation. He talked with us about his first meeting with Paul.
“Paul had reached out to me and told me his incredible story of the courtship that he had with Susan, and the love that he had for her. Unfortunately, she developed a rare form of lung cancer and passed away way too soon,” Lajoie said. “He had a number of these paintings in his house. It was a lot of memories, but he really wanted to do something in her memory to benefit other non-profits in Marquette County. He shared with me that this was something Susan would have wanted. She was passionate about helping people out. Once I had an opportunity to speak with him, he was infectious with his desire and enthusiasm to do something. I thought it was a win win.”
Superior Health Foundation awards grants of all sizes to organizations with a health-centered missions that lines up with theirs. At their recent Fall Grant Awards Ceremony, more than $60,000 in funding was distributed to different organizations.
“The cause is just so incredibly good,” LaJoie continued. “When you look at her work, I was flabbergasted. When Paul first came to my office and he came with an album and started pulling out all of these paintings. I get goosebumps just thinking and talking about it. They are just so terrific. From paintings that she did out on the West Coast to Lake Superior and all the other things in between, she had a knack and an incredible skill. To be able to memorialize her with this particular type of art auction I think is just fabulous.”
Cancer Care of Marquette County is the next organization to benefit from the art auction. David Poirer is the President and Patient Coordinator for Cancer Care of Marquette. He told us any patient in Marquette County dealing with cancer is helped primarily with finances and referrals to other agencies for specific issues related to their treatment.
“One of the primary goals of our organization is to remove some or all of the financial burden from patients and their families. This allows them to go on with everyday living and their treatments and to concentrate on getting well.” Poirer continued, “One of the things we run into is people who seem to think they can’t be helped. I’m not in that category. We help anybody that approaches us.”
Their assistance stretches from help with medical bills and transferring to larger clinics, to something as simple as gas money to get to their appointments.
“I’ve been in contact with Paul for one to two years. He is extremely passionate. He obviously loved his wife very much. He set up this program and has hundreds of hours involved in this along with a lot of his own funds. If you go to the website, susansmission.org, you’ll see the work that’s gone into this. It’s tremendous. I can’t say enough about Paul.” Poirer went on to say, “He lost his wife and it was tragic for him certainly. This was his way to pay it forward. I could see that right from the beginning in our conversations that he was very very devoted to this project.”
Cancer Care of Marquette County is also a partner agency with United Way of Marquette County. Poirer says, without their help, they wouldn’t exist today.
Care Clinic established in Marquette in 1973. They are a non-denominational Christian life-affirming ministry. With satellite resource centers in Sawyer and Ishpeming. All of their services are offered free and confidential. We spoke with Greg Gostomski, the Executive Director at Care Clinic.
“We really seek to reach out to women and families in a really life-affirming way. We support them materially, spiritually, and emotionally.” Gostomski continued, “I think it gives a model, a way of viewing life and the world which is positive and affirming. The signs in our parking lot that say, there is no judgement, only love. That is how we approach all of our clients.”
Gostomski has been with Care Clinic since September. He never had a chance to meet Susan.
“I know that she was very fond of the work that we did. Her husband, Paul, has spoken at length about how our ministry endeared itself to Susan’s world view. Her respect for life and zest for life and hoping that all would have those opportunities.” Gostomski shared with us, his first conversation with Paul. “The first time I met Paul it was interesting. I was brand new in my second week and I was still working with the outgoing director and we went to his home to meet him. He said he wanted to talk with us for half an hour. Well, two and a half hours later we finally left. I like to think it was very healing for him. He got to share a video of Susan and her life. We got to talk at length. So really it became much more than simply an auction, and became an opportunity to reach out and to minister, to support Paul and walk with him, to share some of his pain and to hopefully be part of that healing process.”
We talked with Paul Schumacher about his passion project and his reasons for choosing these organizations.
“We decided to work with several organizations here in Marquette. Cancer Care of Marquette County, they helped us out when Susan was ill. Care Clinic is the organization that was a personal favorite of Susan and I to help out. Then when I started putting everything together, I sought out an organization that could help me organize everything and know exactly what to do. That was Jim LaJoie of the Superior Health Foundation.”
Paul told us how the project came together. “When I started thinking about putting together the program, I really spent a lot of time on the computer first. I felt that having everything organized in an entire program would be beneficial in my presentations to the organizations.”
That included a four page story about her life, a photo album. Paul realized he needed a bigger platform for his presentations.
“A few years ago I had met Tony from La Dolce Video, Tony Beres,” said Schumacher. “We had discussed various things in the past but nothing came to fruition until my wife passed. I went to him with this idea. Again I had a full presentation for him. He was so excited and started putting together the basic technical aspects of the website and then I put extensive material on the website, telling her story.”
Part of the website is a half hour video about Susan’s life.
Dozens of paintings and handmade frames are up for auction to support the three organizations. Paul is saving a few pieces for his personal collection. They’ve all been wrapped up for three years, since the time of Susan’s passing.
“The one’s I’m keeping are the one’s around me. I don’t have a lot of room for a lot more paintings. Truthfully, I think that it’s best that I just keep a few. I’ve got this frame behind me that is the picture of Susan and me on the dock when we first met in Seattle. I just wanted to keep a few, that’s good for me.”
We asked Paul what it means to part with Susan’s art.
“I feel very good about having pieces of her art going to other people’s homes. I think the main reason is that Susan was a very devout Christian. She really believed in Jesus and that is one of the things that helped her to get through the cancer treatment. Even when she passed away, it seemed like she was very very blessed. She went very peacefully and quickly after she had gone into the hospital. I think the important thing is I’m sharing a little bit of Susan with everyone who buys these pieces of artwork. It’s almost like an adoption to me. That they value the idea of Susan and her beliefs, and her morals.
Paul wants people to know how much love went into Susan’s paintings and how creating them became such a big part of their life.
“When we first moved into this large home on Crescent street. There was this room that, I said I was going to take this room and make it into a studio for you. She was thrilled. She literally was jumping up and down she was so happy. In the studio she created the frames and she started painting. From the day that studio was finished until we had to take her to the hospital, she did nonstop painting. She would post the paintings on her Facebook page. She would be so thrilled because they would sell so fast and she was mailing them all over the world.”
Paul said he draws his strength and inspiration from Susan, and finding new homes for her works is cathartic.
“As time has gone on, I think my heart is healing more. When I give to other people, I try to share with them the love that I have, I think that really helps to heal me. And working with these organizations has encouraged me greatly.”
Paul said, when you adopt her art, you’re getting more than a painting or frame.
“The most important thing about Susan, her artwork, and what I’m doing is the organizations that I’m working with. I truly believe the people of the Upper Peninsula have been under served by the rest of the world. These organizations are working hard, doing the best they can to help the people of the Upper Peninsula.”