Jessie Schaeffer

Jessie S. Schaeffer, a long-time resident of Sturgis and prominent businesswoman died Sunday, May 3, 2009, at Bronson Methodist Hospital.

Jessie S. Schaeffer, 520 Center Ave., Sturgis, was born in Benton Harbor, the only daughter of Irven A. and Emma M. (Bucknell) Eicholtz.

She moved to Sturgis when she was four, attended school in Sturgis and graduated from Sturgis High School.

Jessie S. Eicholtz and Ernest V. Schaeffer were married at the St. James Chapel, Howe, Ind., by the late Father Robert Murphy, Rector of Howe Military School.

Jessie worked for the Kirsch Company where she was supervisor of the IBM Department with over 30 employees. She left to raise her family and later went to work for Harold E. Walters Insurance and Real Estate. When Harold Walters died, she purchased the real estate portion of his business which he had begun in 1927. She renamed the business Schaeffer Real Estate, and it is one of the oldest businesses in downtown Sturgis.

Jessie’s career in real estate has been very distinguished. She was the first woman real estate broker in St. Joseph County. She helped establish the St. Joseph County Board of Realtors and was its first woman president. She was the oldest licensed real estate broker in Michigan and the nation.

Jessie has brought many new businesses to Sturgis for the betterment of our city and has helped many, many individuals become homeowners. She is well respected by her real estate colleagues who have referred to her as “The First Lady of Real Estate.” She was honored in 2008 for her outstanding accomplishments in her field by the National, Michigan, and St. Joseph County Associations of Realtors.

Jessie was a long-time member of St. John’s Episcopal Church. She was past-president of St. John’s Guild, an advisor for the youth group, and member of the choir.

In later years she supported the choir through donations for robes, music, and the renovation of the choir room. Recently she donated a new altar to the church in memory of her late husband.

Jessie volunteered for Girl Scouts, the Red Cross, and Easter Seals. She served on many committees and boards, including more than 20 years on the Auditorium Board, also serving as its president. Her contributions to the Sturgis Community have recently been recognized by her being named Citizen of the Year for 2009.

Her proudest accomplishment was being a founder of the Building and Trades Program at Sturgis High School and serving on its advisory board. Through this program, students have learned valuable skills and have built more than 40 homes in the Sturgis area.

Jessie is survived by her daughter and son-in-law Dr. Sara Sue Schaeffer and Dr. Donald A. Amidon; step-grandchildren Laura (Todd) Schuneman and Brian (Mary Frances) Amidon; great-grandchildren Evan and Grant Schuneman and Katie, Mark, and Matthew Amidon; nephews Thomas W. (Leonora) Schaeffer and Irvin (Nancy) Eicholtz and Dick Eicholtz; nieces, Suellen Dye and Helen Schaeffer; great-nieces Dawn (Randy) Chantry and Elisa (Russell) Brancati; and great-great-nieces and nephews Jason Troilo, Oliva, Ryan, Andrea, Amanda, and Sara Brancati.

She was preceded in death by her parents; husband; sons, William E. and Ernest V. II; three brothers, Clyde, Vern, and John Eicholtz; her adopted parents John and Laura Moe; and a niece, Margie Schaeffer.

The family will receive friends and relatives Friday from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at the Hackman Family Funeral Home-Hackman Chapel, 114 S. Nottawa St., Sturgis, MI 49091.

A memorial requiem Mass celebrating the life of Jessie S. Schaeffer will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sturgis. The Rev. Cannon Meredith Hunt will officiate. A graveside committal will follow the service at Oak Lawn Cemetery in Sturgis.

The family suggests those wishing to make a memorial donation in Mrs. Schaeffer’s memory consider the Sturgis Foundation Jessie Schaeffer Fund, 310 N. Franks Ave., Sturgis, MI 49091 or the Sturgis High School Building Trades Program, 216 Vinewood Ave., Sturgis, MI 49091.

Envelopes are available at the funeral home.

The obituary is also at

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