Jon Schroeder made an impact on, off the court
Following the Christmas break, then-BDRSH boys basketball coach Kevin Mulder decided to get his talented freshmen guard Jon Schroeder some more playing time to see how he would respond. That was in early January of 1994. Schroeder played like a veteran, hitting a trio of three-pointers, dishing out seven assists and making two steals in limited minutes. After the game, one of the referees who has known Mulder a long time entered the BDRSH locker room.
"He said 'I didn't know you could play sixth graders'," Mulder recalled the referee joking. "Jon was so small and so young looking. But he played big. And he made a big impact."
So Mulder decided to eventually make Schroeder his starting guard that year. First, though, Mulder needed to inform the previous starter that he was now being relegated to bench duty.
The player's response when told a freshmen was taking his spot?
"What took so long, coach?"
And the player Jon replaced?
His brother, D.R. Schroeder, then a junior.
"That's the type of person D.R. was," said Mulder. "And that's the way Jon was, too. The whole family is like that."
Mulder has a lot of fond memories of Jon with countless flashbacks of his guard's prowess since finding out that he pass-ed away in the early-morning hours of March 31 at age 29.
"I knew he wasn't doing well because I was following his illness on the Caring Bridge site," Mulder said. "But it was still such a shock to read about his death. I feel so much sadness for Stacie (Jon's wife) and their kids and the whole family. Jon was such a vibrant kid. Such a special kid to so many people."
Jon started for Mulder for four years before graduating in 1998. He scored 892 career points, including 165 three-pointers. He was a second-team West Central Tribune All-Area selection in 1998, averaging 16.2 points, 3.7 assists and 2.7 steals per game. He was also a three-year starter in football and a five-time letterwinner in track and field where he ran on the 4 x 100 relay team that qualified for the state meet in 1997. He was also a Hengstler-Ranweiler nominee, a Tribune award given annually to the outstanding male and female high school athletes in the area. He then went to Hamline University and graduated in 2002. He had been working for General Mills in Minneapolis as a marketing representative ever since.
Schroeder felt ill with flu-like symptoms this past Dec. 22, the eighth anniversary of his marriage to Stacie Vreeman, a former standout volleyball player for Central Minnesota Christian in Prinsburg. He went to the clinic in St. Michael and the doctor noticed very low oxygen levels. He was sent by ambulance to Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids where tests revealed he had pneumonia. On Christmas Day he was sent to ICU with a high heart rate and decreasing oxygen levels. X-rays also showed he had a collapsed lung. The next day his condition worsened and was diagnosed with ARDS (Acute respiratory distress syndrome), a rare secondary response to a lung injury and/or infection.
"He thought he had the flu at first," said his mother, Mary Schroeder. "He had chills and a high fever. But it got worse and worse. He was in a coma for some time and things looked really bad. But he seemed to bounce back and was learning to walk all over again. I remember one of the first things he said was that he wanted a shamrock shake from McDonald's. He seemed to be making good progress."
But Schroeder's health again took a turn for the worse and he succumbed to pneumonia.
"Both families are of strong faith," said Mary. "It's very sad for all of us, but we're helping each other get through it."
Stacie kept friends and family informed of his progress in a journal on caringbridge.com. When Jon passed away, Stacie wrote: "Jon entered the Kingdom of Heaven at 1:30 this morning. I am certain that when he arrived, he was greeted by 'Well done, good and faithful servant.' It has been only two hours and I miss him already."
Jon and Stacie had three children; a daughter, Reese, 5; and sons Walker, 3, and Cash, 10 months. Their home is in St. Michael. Jon's parents, Don and Mary, still live in Renville. D.R. now resides in Minneapolis and his sister, Meredith Sykora, lives in Blaine.
At Jon's funeral last Saturday at the Maple Grove Covenant Church, Mulder and 12 of the 14 basketball players from the 1997-98 team were in attendance.
"The church was packed," said Mulder. "I really think God was using Jon to touch a lot of people. Knowing the type of kid Jon was and the impact he had on so many lives, I'm not surprised at the number of people that turned out."
Tom Lenz, an optometrist in Willmar, was one of Jon's teammates. He cancelled a business trip to San Francisco so he could attend the funeral.
"Jon was always so upbeat and encouraging," said Lenz. "He would get so jacked up for a game, but he was the opposite off the court. He was the center of attention when he played because he was such a good player. But off the court, he didn't demand attention. He was just such a good friend."
Jon was a mercurial guard in basketball who seemed to be a step ahead of everyone. Sometimes even those wearing a whistle.
"He got called for (traveling) a lot," his mother said, managing to laugh through her sadness. "I think he was even too fast for the referees."
And now Jon's life has also gone by too fast. But the impression he left on everyone will last forever.