Missing George with many

On the one-year anniversary of George’s death this year, I didn’t cry. I was too busy teaching freshmen and juniors at Steinmetz High School, interviewing people for my story about the Chicago student climate strike and taking care of our youngest son Josh. I was happy because I like doing these things. I thought of George throughout the day. I thought about the way I teach, report the news and parent because of him, so grateful for the 20 years we were married.

George's remains are buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Chicago.Other times I cry because I miss him. I miss his love, intelligence, intensity, humor, commitment, honesty, energy, generosity, integrity and anger toward people who abuse their power. I miss seeing him and talking to him, kissing him, hugging him, sleeping with him. I miss his joyful assurance that his three sons are the best people God ever created. I miss his critical look at religion, and continual appreciation for truth, beauty, and goodness.

At least I’ve never felt alone in missing George or feeling that because of him I’m a better person. There are many others who feel this way, too, and they’ve been with me all year — in our family and through Substance.

Retired teachers Terry Daniels and Judy Dever, in the old Substance office at a St. Patrick's Day party in 1999, joined me and other Chicago friends to remember George at Mt. Hope.We held the latest Substance staff meeting on Sept. 21 at Lumes Pancake House on south Western Avenue. Over omelets and waffles in a much-too-loud room, we teacher reporters and retired teacher reporters discussed our usual topics: the Chicago Teachers Union, the challenges of teaching too many students, sabotaging administrators, adverse changes to the contract, health issues, literature, travel and family.

Retired teacher Marybeth Foley, covering one of many Chicago Board of Education meetings for Substance, is, like all of the Substancers, important in my life today.The women at this meeting (and so many other Substance folks I know) are friends to me because of George. They loved him, admired him, and are grateful for him, too. Most knew George for many years before I first met him.

After we ate, we visited the site at Mt. Hope Cemetery where George’s remains are buried next to some of my relatives. We sang the chorus of "Solidarity Forever." Some spoke words to him. Some of us prayed. Most stayed only a few minutes, because a cemetery is not where we need to be to think of him.

Long-time Substance reader Joan Kurowski with Josh Schmidt in 2004.I had brought a friend with me, Joan Kurowski, who isn’t a usual attender of Substance staff meetings. She lives in a nursing home and is wheelchair bound. She worked for years in elementary schools on the south side, teaching low income students in segregated elementary schools, with unhelpful principals, often antagonistic parents and much unfair and unwarranted prejudicial suspicion and abuse toward her. After more than a decade of this, she found Substance soon after it began publishing in 1975. Joan became a devoted reader and author of many letters to the editor.

Substance showed her she was not alone in her school. She saw the challenges she faced and understanding of the nonsense pushed onto her weren’t hers alone. She suffered terrible consequences to her health, which Substance couldn't help. She was forced to resign; Substance didn’t stop that. But in Substance she found a place and people who cared about telling the truth, where up was up and down down. Substance helped her stay sane and we also became friends.

The largeness of George's friendship and work with committed and talented people like Washington's Juanita Doyen, Vermont's Susan Ohanian and New York's Norm Scott helps ease the pain of his loss to me.After our Disabled on the Go driver picked us up at George’s grave, Joan and I went back to her nursing home in Brookfield. As we spent the afternoon chit-chatting I remembered to share a letter I’d received the day before from the Vermont author Susan Ohanian, a longtime Substance contributor, supporter and friend. Like me, Joan appreciated Susan’s words about George and her telling of some experiences, including some recent work with Ralph Nader.

Susan began: I continue to think of George daily. Little (and big) things happen and I think of how much I’d like to share something with him.

Susan shared some other stuff with me, about quilts (in response to ones I had made from some of George’s flannel shirts and t-shirts) and other things in her life. She also shared the following, which I read to Joan (Susan refers to a book, her latest, reviewed here):

I may have already told you that I sent Ralph Nader a book and then he invited me to speak at the bookstore he supports in his hometown. While there, he took Hans and me to the Tort Law Museum which he started. A few days ago Hans wanted me to ask Ralph a tort question about a local issue he cares a whole lot about. So I wrote Ralph, mentioning my gratitude for his recent push for impeachment. And asked the question. Ralph phoned. He answered my tort question and it was clear he called because he wanted to try to get some info out of Senator Leahy. Leahy won’t talk to Nader. Nader says no one will talk to him.

Well, Leahy won’t talk to me either but I’m trying and now I can say I’m working with Ralph. I’m thrilled that he asked. He kept saying, “Call back soon.”

Ralph, in his 80ies, is as committed as ever.

My friend Joan appreciated knowing all this, as did I. In the late 1990s, when Substance was sued for $1 million and George was fired after we published the Chicago Academic Standards Exams (CASE), I was okay because, due to our fight against the Chicago Board of Education over those silly tests, we got to know Susan and many others like her across the country. Through Substance and George I know so many committed people.

Schmidt sons Dan, Sam and Josh in June 2019.Later in the week, during another visit with Joan, I read to her from another one of Susan’s books, One Size Fits Few. The book begins with a story about some of Susan’s non-standard students and how they were helped by her non-standard methods and materials. Joan, in her late 80ies, responded with the same commitment and professionalism in spite of the Chicago Public Schools I have heard from many around Substance: “I always had two curriculums,” she said. “One for the office and one for the classroom.”

After I left Joan on the day we remembered the anniversary of George’s death, I went home and had dinner with Sam and Josh, who, like their older brother Dan, are as talented and good as George. Sam is thriving at Loyola University and Josh at Whitney Young High School, thanks to the gifts and teaching and example they received from their father.


October 7, 2019 at 4:35 PM

By: Bee Real


God bless you and your family. George will truly be missed!

October 11, 2019 at 6:13 AM

By: Rich Gibson

My Pal

I miss struggling, and sometimes bickering, with George, current events (o boy what he would be saying about 'great and unmatched wisdom') and the old days in sds too. Every time, I think we both had a blast and learned from one another. A key part of history is missing. I always appreciated, " draft resistance will never defeat a hungry stomach."

October 11, 2019 at 1:27 PM

By: Jo-Anne Cairo

Missing George

Yes, Geogre was the person we counted on to get the Truth of what was really going oat the CTU. Now we have do our own research and investigating. It is sad that those who are in charge at the CTU, threw away the history of the CTU that George had put together, for others to learn and know the Truth ago ut the CTU.

When I asked Jessie Sharkey, How much did you pay

Bernie Sanders for his appearance at the rally and he couldn't respond. But before I asked I inferred that George had past and he would have been my source for the question. Jessie looked at me, but never told me how much.

George would have known, Yes I miss him for all the knowledge he shared with us.

October 23, 2019 at 6:59 PM

By: Rich Gibson

Missing George

I miss George frequently. We reminisced, bickered about current and future events, and had a lot of fun over 40 plus years. I especially miss him with the strike on. I have a broad understanding of what is going on, and suspicions about a DSA manufactured sellout, but I do not have on the ground, CTU, and Chicago experience. I'd love to be able to give him a call. ...

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