The Obit For Gene Schroer

Gene Eldon Lefty Schroer

Published in Topeka Capital-Journal from December 12 to December 14, 2010

Gene Eldon Lefty Schroer, 83, trial attorney, legislative lobbyist, and civil-rights and consumer advocate passed away on December 11, 2010 at St. Francis Health Center after a long and courageous battle with Parkinsons disease. He was surrounded by his wife and children.

Gene was born August 29, 1927, on his family homestead in Riley County, Kansas, the oldest of five children of Harry Edward and Florence Swartz Schroer. The great-grandson of Kansas pioneers and a Civil War veteran, Gene cherished his years growing up on the farm, attending a one-room schoolhouse, and regularly attending church and picnics at the rural Spring Valley Presbyterian Church.

When Gene was ten years old during the Great Depression, the family was forced to leave the farm and move to Topeka, Kansas. He attended Roosevelt Junior High School, was active in the Potwin Presbyterian Church Youth Group, Sea Scouts under the leadership of Dr. Karl Menniger, and graduated from Topeka High School in 1945, where he had played baseball as a left-handed pitcher.

Known as Lefty to friends and classmates, he was recruited and professionally signed upon graduation to the New York Yankees farm team by talent scout Bill Essick who had also recruited Joe DiMaggio. Gene played on Class D to Class AA teams for the Cedar Rapids Rockets, as well as teams in Wellsville, New York; Joplin, Missouri; Quincy, Illinois; and Denver, Colorado.

He worked his way through college and law school playing ball every fall semester and attending Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas in the spring.

During the Korean War he served in the United States Army in military intelligence at the Pentagon, as a cryptographer, writing and deciphering United States and enemy codes.

He faithfully attended the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C., and was extremely proud of the fact that one Sunday he was asked by a member of the church to sit in the late-President Abraham Lincolns personal pew.

At Washburn University he was a member of Kappa Sigma social fraternity while receiving degrees in history, mathematics, political science, and a Jurist Doctorate in 1957. Just prior to graduation he married Edith Kintner in 1956; they later divorced.

Gene grew into a prominent plaintiffs trial lawyer, having great compassion for the underprivileged and injured. He tried cases at all levels of the state and federal court systems including the Kansas Supreme Court, multiple United States Federal District Courts, and the United States Supreme Court.

He personally flew his small airplane all over the country to litigate jury trials. He donated thousands of hours giving free legal advice and trial work to those who could not afford a lawyer and to local churches.

He was a member and officer of the American Trial Lawyers Association; charter member of the American Trial Lawyers for Public Justice; and member of the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association, serving as President from 1974-5 and on their Board of Governors for many years; the American Bar Association; the Kansas Bar Association; the American Board of Trial Advocates, President 1991-92; and named to Whos Who in American Law, Whos Who in The World, Whos Who in the United States and Best Lawyers in America 1983-2008. He served as adjunct professor and lecturer at Washburn University Law School and as lecturer for the American Trial Lawyers Association, the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association, and trial schools throughout the United States.

Gene was the senior partner in the law firm of Schroer, Rice, P.A., Topeka, Kansas, for over forty years, and estimated he tried over three hundred jury trials during that time.

He established an ongoing scholarship fund at Washburn University Law School and was an ardent supporter of KANU Public Television.

Gene served as deacon, elder and Sunday school teacher for many years at Potwin Presbyterian Church. He also deemed it a duty and privilege to serve as a teacher of young attorneys and as a volunteer mentor at Washburn University Law School.

In 1987 he moved to his beloved farm outside of Berryton, Kansas where he operated a cow-calf operation and served on the county and state soil-conservation boards.

He married Anne Oliver in 1988 and they joined Berryton United Methodist Church. He served on the Finance Committee at the church and loved to attend services and activities until he became too ill. He retired from the practice of law this year.

His wife, Anne, of the home survives.

Also surviving are his eight children, Kenneth(Jeanine) Schroer, Atlanta, Georgia; Rebecca (Jesse) Cortez, Topeka; Sonya (Brian) Crane, Olathe, Kansas; Connie (Col. Robert) Sherrill, Newport, Rhode Island; Paul Schroer, Topeka, Kansas; John Oliver Schroer, Andrew Macklin Schroer and Edward Schroer of the home; grandchildren Eric Cortez; Amy (Derek) Watson; Lauren Schroer; Mitchall, Moriah and Jaden Crane; and Cole, Branum, Aidan and Samuel Sherrill; great-granddaughter Dorothy Watson; brother Daniel (Carol) Schroer, North Las Vegas, Nevada; and sisters Harriett (John) Dezzutto, Carlsbad, California; and Darlene Schroer, Las Vegas, Nevada.

Gene was preceded in death by his parents, sister Rosalie Anne Kirk Jordan, infant son, Joseph Patrick Oliver Schroer, and nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be held Thursday, December 16 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Penwell-Gabel Mid Town Chapel, 1321 SW 10th Street, Topeka. Celebration of Life and Funeral Service will be at 1:00 p.m. Friday, December 17, 2010 at First Methodist Church, 600 SW Topeka Boulevard, Topeka, Kansas.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Schroer College Fund c/o Penwell-Gabel Funeral Home, 1321 SW 10th Street, Topeka, Kansas 66604. To leave a special message for the family online, please visit www.PenwellGabelTopeka.com.