John Hanson Schuman January 19, 1951 to March 21, 1998
Circa 1971-1978
John Schuman and Suzanne West
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Suzanne West shares a few words of history...

I am John's first wife. (We married in fall of 1973 and were married until July 1978.) We met in fall of 1971 at the skydiving club meeting when I went to KState. I was one of his students at K-State, made 5 jumps, went home for Xmas break and realized what I was doing and bcame a lifetime "wuffo" as they use to be called.

Drop zone was in Herrington (Dave Snyder ran it). John was maybe living in Topeka and working at a meat packing plant (cleaning up at night after the day's slaughter! Big power water hoses, blood and guts!) and would drive to Herrington on the weekends. Had a great old white volvo. A group of us from school would drive out every weekend rain or shine (you know the drill) and hang out at the DZ all weekend. An old army base - Barracks, metal bunks, funky kitchen area. We'd stay up half the night partying. There was Cindy Clark and I and about 6 guys every weekend.

John exiting a Cessna. John gave me this photo that first year when we were "dating." This one of him on the strut is special--he looks so happy and lighthearted, (not an average "look" for him in this lifetime). I lived in the dorm and had it on my bulletin board. The first photo I have of him. He'd wear that old orange cotton "jumpsuit" that I'm sure he found laying around Dave's drop zone in Herrington Ks. He wore his welding gloves. Nice touch. (He worked as a welder in a building on the drop zone airport that was making farm impliments when he lived at the drop zone.) He looks so content in this one. It's always been my favorite.
This photo is him with his..forgot what you call those "student" chutes that people would make fun of now. Before anyone at the DZ had anything else to jump with this was it. John under a round.

Summer of 72 we hung out. He was from Topeka as I was but lived "on the other side of town" so we had never met. Fall, returned to college. Spring - worked and don't know what John was doing - maybe still at the packing plant. Summer he worked for the highway department on the road crew so traveled around the backroads of Kansas a lot. He wrote a lot of letters. He loved to hear himself talk and loved to write. Just enjoyed expressing himself even if it was only to himself.

Got married in the fall of 1973. Backyard hipppie kind wedding. Justice of the peace, no rings etc. Moved to Manhattan that fall so I could go back to school and John also. Wanted to finish his art degree. Was originally in chemistry or something mental. John had to quit smoking (cigarettes) then. We lived in a basement apartment where he couldn't smoke and I nagged about it so he eventually gave it up. Was a manic smoker, like his mother, before that! We worked at the jock dorm. I served food and he was the dishwasher. He didn't care what kind of work he did as long as it was work. He'd be into it.

One semester was enough. We moved to Herrington. Rented one of the 5 houses in the "low rent district." Us (the hippies), a black family, the hispanics, etc. On the weekends, the "gang" would come down from Manhattan, we'd make spaghetti and sit around and party and tell stories and skydive all weekend. (I didn't jump.) Again-Cindy and I and the guys. John worked for Dave some and worked setting up mobile homes. (Got electrocuted one time working under one in the rain.) Dave moved the DZ to Hutchinson so of course we moved too. Same thing there. The Amish would come out on the weekends in their horse and buggies to watch.

We moved to a farmhouse about 30 miles west of Great Bend and were going to build a spec house in town on some land my dad had to get us started in some kind of business. John was a carpenter even then. Well that didn't work out so we just spent time playing farmhouse. He was really excited he got to go on a "cattle drive" one time. They put the cattle in trucks and drove them to the next field! He and a friend Robin would climb up the windmill and smoke. Had a garden, a root cellar, pumped water for awhile. Kept the food out in the snowbank before we got a fridge. After a while we bought a house in town and remodeled it. John was going to Wichita to skydive a lot. We decided to split up and he moved to Wichita for awhile then back to Manhattan to finish school. I moved back and we decided to get divorced. No major trauma. We always talked. We always analyzed. To much probably. We were better friends than anything else. In our wedding ceremony part of my "speech" was...I pledge to become like a permanent friend,...For in our world no one is happier than he who has a friend to chat with, etc. We played the Elton John "friends" album at our wedding.

We did the divorce stuff ourselves, flipped coins for our valuables (stereo, albums, a framed photo of George Washington that Tony D. stole from a schoolroom, an antique brass lamp we found around the DZ air base in Herington). We had lots of good stuff! Our mothers were good friends and are to this day. They each kept us informed of the others lives. We eventually started writing, probably after John got divorced from Gail.

We were married for 4 years but have remained in contact for the last...25 years. I loved getting his letters. He came to visit me here in Hawaii maybe 7 years ago and it seems like yesterday. We couldn't get anyone to roof this crazy octagonal dome building on my property so I asked John if he would like to make a deal. The trip for some work. The photos of him skiing and on the surfboard and working on that roof that were up at the funeral, were taken when he was here. It was a good deal for both of us. It was good to see him but he was pretty nervous. Felt bad for him. We couldn't really talk as I had wanted. But we both knew what was important - that we still had a friend out there to connect with. I still feel that way.

I don't have to even tell you how special he was. I don't really think some knew the passion John had for his "art." Art in general. It's wonderful.

At the funeral when Pat Lindeman got up and said something to the effect that John had been his strength I realized that's what he had been to me also. He was the strongest man I knew. Just knowing he was out there somewhere helped me to get through many times. Just knowing that if I really needed someone to help me I could call him. I never needed to because of that...His strength was such a gift. He was not strong for himself so much as strong for others. Anyone who really knew John knows what I mean. That is one thing I hope people can take from this sudden end. The strength and passion and energy for life that John had is something that all of us should remember. We should remember those feelings. Like someone said at the service - anyone who's life John touched will never forget him. I only hope that I can make a difference in the lives of some of the people I touch.

Suzanne West
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Web Site Posted in 1998.