Former longtime Palos Hills resident Pearl Schumann, a trailblazing nurse who led efforts to improve the health of the community, died last Friday. She was 93 and had lived in Orland Park for the last 12 years.
Mrs. Schumann founded the Palos Township Health Service in August 1973 as a two-person operation, along with Palos Park physician Kurt Liepens, M.D.
The service was launched with newly available federal block grant funds, in a time when the nation was beginning to understand the value of community health, as opposed to traditional medicine, which is focused on individual health.
“My mom, as a nurse, had a very kind and generous nature about her,” said her son, Herbert Schumann Jr. “She touched the lives of a lot of people and made the township a healthier and better place.”
In a recollection she wrote in 2008, Mrs. Schumann said she offered the idea of a township health service to her husband, Herbert Schumann Sr., who was the newly elected township supervisor.
“One of the first things we did was to visit the schools within the township and talk with the [school] nurses,” she wrote. “They were very cooperative. We became very busy with school physicals and vaccinations.”
Mrs. Schumann credited her daughter, Theresa, with providing key assistance to get the operation up and running.
“She was a nursing student at Moraine Valley Community College at the time,” Mrs. Schumann wrote. “We put together file cabinets and put things in order, had charts printed, looked for bargains and picked up used exam tables, chairs, scales and whatever else we needed, keeping it within budget. She hauled it all in the trunk of her car.”
Under Mrs. Schumann’s leadership, the township health service expanded. Today it provides a relatively broad range of moderately priced services like physical exams, vaccinations for children of all ages, flu shots, pregnancy tests, hypertension and diabetes screening, cholesterol monitoring, podiatric care and even sick calls.
The services are especially important to people of limited means, especially those without health insurance or whose health plans do not cover preventive care.
Herbert Schumann added that his mother, who retired from nursing in 1986, worked as an industrial nurse for Johnson & Johnson and Lever Bros. in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She served as director of nursing at Ridgeland Nursing home, Monticello Nursing Home and Palos Hills Convalescent Center. She also worked at Little Company of Mary Hospital.
She attended nurses’ training under a government grant during World War II, her son added, and she paid back the favor by serving as a nurse on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma after the war.
Mrs. Schumann loved to sing, her son said. She sang in the choir at Sacred Heart Church and performed in several musical stage productions there.
Mrs. Schumann, nee Swanson, is survived by her sons, Herbert Jr. (Colleen) and Paul (Mary) Schumann; daughters, Grace (Chuck) Gonwa, Theresa Schumann (the late Roland McPherson), and Laura (Jim) Lugge; grandchildren Charles Gonwa, Mary Schumann (Gustavo) Sanchez, Matthew Gonwa, Suzanne (Guillermo) Guzman, Amanda Lugge, Lucas Schumann, Rebecca (Nathaniel) Ladsten, Maggie and Alexander Stewart, Mackenzi Schumann and Melissa Lugge; and great-grandchildren, Mia and Sara Guzman.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Herbert Sr., and daughters, Margaret “Peggy” Stewart and Ellen Grace Schumann.
A funeral Mass was said last Tuesday at Sacred Heart Church in Palos Hills. Burial was at Sacred Heart Cemetery. Arrangements were by Schmaedeke Funeral Home of Worth.