Gretchen A. (Schenkelberg) Schutte-Moylan
March 5, 1932 – December 6, 2023
VISITATION: Monday, December 11, 2023, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the West Center Chapel, with VIGIL SERVICE at 6:30 p.m. with honors by Nebraska Nurse Honor Guard. MASS OF CHRISTIAN BURIAL: Tuesday, December 12th at 10:00 a.m., Christ the King Catholic Church, 654 S. 86th St. Interment, Calvary Cemetery. Memorials are suggested to Essential Pregnancy Services or your choice of pro-life organizations.
Gretchen Schutte-Moylan passed away peacefully on December 6, 2023, after a long and accomplished life. She touched the lives of hundreds if not thousands of people through her 27 years as a teacher of German and language department head at Central High School as well as her many years working as a professional and compassionate nurse at several institutions, including St. Joseph’s Hospital, Bergan Mercy, and Mercy Care. She was preceded in death by husband, Joseph Moylan; parents, Hildegard and Bernard Schenkelberg; and brothers: Lambert, Gilbert, Bernard, Richard, and John Schenkelberg and Richard Cartwright. She is survived by son and daughter-in-law, John Paul and Lilianna Schutte; grandson, David Schutte; sisters-in-law, Barbara Schenkelberg and Helene Cartwright; and many nephews and nieces and their families.
Born in 1932, she was one of five children – but the only daughter — of German immigrants, Bernard Schenkelberg and Hildegard Sauerbier who had met and married in Omaha. When the Great Depression made jobs scarce, the family moved first to Sioux City and then to Sioux Falls in search of work. Hildegard died in 1936 leaving behind five children: Lambert, Gilbert, Bernard Jr., newborn Dick, and four-year old Gretchen. The family returned to Omaha where Gretchen attended Sacred Heart grade school and high school. As the only girl in a motherless home, life was not easy, but at Sacred heart she met Barbara Ederer who became her lifelong best friend and eventually married her brother, Gilbert. In school, Gretchen (the bookish one) helped Barbara with homework and Barbara (the popular one) helped Gretchen dress cute and flirt with boys.
After graduating from high school in 1950, Gretchen went to Germany to get to know her extended family living near Bonn and to attend a women’s college/finishing school. There she perfected her German language skills, met her grandmother, and grew close to a vast number of aunts, uncles, and cousins whom she loved her whole life. She was back in Omaha in time to attend the wedding in 1951 of her father to Cecilia Schimonitz-Cartwright. The marriage added stepbrother, Dick Cartwright to the family, and then in 1953 Gretchen’s half-brother, Johnny was born.
She attended Creighton Memorial St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing where she made many lifelong friends and fell for dental student, John Paul Schutte, whom she married in the fall of 1956. Eleven months later, JP Schutte Jr. was born. Sadly, the marriage had ended by that time, leaving Gretchen on her own with a son to raise. She decided that the schedule she would have as a schoolteacher, rather than as a nurse would make it easier to be a good parent. She enrolled in Duchesne College and received her bachelor’s degree in 1961. Much to Gretchen’s surprise, upon her graduation, Duchesne’s Mother Superior explained to her that she had arranged for her to be hired as a German teacher at Omaha’s renowned Central High School. She held that job until 1989.
Gretchen was an accomplished teacher, whose excellence was recognized as early as 1964, when she was awarded a prestigious Fulbright scholarship to spend a summer semester at the Goethe Institute in Trier, Germany. She eventually became head of the language department at Central. Among those she mentored, one became a professor of German language and literature, and another became not only a professor of foreign language education, but the President of the American Association of Foreign Language Teachers. Another former student joined the U.S. Foreign Service and became a U.S. Ambassador. Gretchen likewise infused in her son a keen interest in all things international by teaching him rudimentary German in his youth and taking him on a seven-week trip to Germany when he was 14. John Paul went on to spend 27 years overseas first as a student and then as a career diplomat in the United States Foreign Service.
As successful as she was professionally, Gretchen set aside her own personal life while raising her son. In the mid-1980s, she at last found a loving partner after renewing her acquaintance with Judge Joe Moylan, whom she had known since college. Married in the church in 1989, Joe and Gretchen spent many happy and rewarding years together until Joe’s death in 2005. They were not just devoted to their families, but after Joe’s courageous and principled decision to resign from the judiciary over the abortion issue, they found deep gratification in advancing the pro-life cause they fervently believed in. Together they managed the activities of the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, including weekly prayer meetings and an annual march and vigil featuring the Archbishop of Omaha.
After retiring from Central High when she married Joe, Gretchen returned to her first profession as a registered nurse. She worked at Bergan Mercy Hospital and Mercy Care, where she lovingly cared for seniors approaching the end of life.
Gretchen loved to travel and in 1993 she brought Joe to Poland to visit John Paul who was stationed there, and to Germany to meet the family. In Warsaw Gretchen met Lilianna who became her daughter-in-law the following year. She traveled twice the Netherlands, the second time to be with her new grandson, David. In later years, Gretchen and Joe visited John Paul, Lilianna, and David in Tashkent, Kyiv and again Warsaw, and the three of them were frequently in Omaha to spend time with her.
After Joe passed on in 2005, Gretchen continued with her pro-life activities and her nursing. She remained an active member of Christ the King Parish and enjoyed meeting her group of close friends most days for noon Mass, followed by lunch at the Daily Grinder.
Gretchen had a rich family life as an aunt to 26 first cousins, but no doubt the closest of these was her brother, Gil’s daughter, Mary, born the same month and year as John Paul. Gretchen could always rely on Mary’s loving assistance in managing tasks like organizing family events, renewing her driver’s license, and helping Gretchen move. Gretchen saw her as a daughter and loved her deeply.
The twilight of Gretchen’s life and her departure from this earth took place with grace and dignity. She spent five years at New Cassell and then a year at the dedicated memory care facility at Hillcrest Silver Ridge. When visitors or her many caretakers would ask “How are you doing Gretchen?” She would reply “Fine, now that you’re here!” She loved to sing everything from Christmas carols to patriotic songs to her favorite, Que Sera, Sera. She surprised everyone with her repertoire of naughty little ditties such as “Two Irishmen.” To the very end she could recite favorite poems in English and in German. One of her favorites was “Let Me Grow Lovely,” by Karle Wilson Baker:
Let me grow lovely, growing old—
So many fine things do:
Laces, and ivory, and gold,
And silks need not be new;
And there is healing in old trees,
Old streets a glamour hold;
Why may not I, as well as these,
Grow lovely, growing old?
God granted her this prayer. She was lovely.