My father James Schoof (1929-2018) died from pneumonia on Friday, 22 June. Here are a few words in memory of him.
LEAVE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE. A number of times, my father told me that a person should leave the world a better place than he originally found it. My father did that. His goal was to help the world be self-sufficient in raising crops to feed the world. For instance, he invented a new generation of center pivot irrigation systems. (Others took from his original design. What was new in his pivot system design was the ability of the irrigation system to go both directions, and to have flexible sections both laterally and vertically–which gave the flexibility to the system for farmers to start irrigating places like the sand hills in this area.) Another contribution was his crop genetic experiments in Libya. I personally witnessed his design work on the center pivot system & his experimental farm. While he was an engineer in many areas, his specialty was ag water resources. Ag water shortages will be the major problem globally in the 21st century.
A MAN OF GOOD CHARACTER. What I admired most about my Dad growing up was his integrity & how he commanded everyone’s respect. It is said that bravery is being afraid & still doing something. If that is the limit of what bravery is then my Dad was not brave, for he was fearless. I don’t remember him expressing fear. He was asked during the Vietnam War as a civilian to survey the ag potential of the Mekong River & its tributaries throughout IndoChina to come up with an ag plan to improve the region’s ag production. Dad went into communist held territory that American troops stayed out of. In Nepal, he was captured by communist guerillas & only released because of his reputation with local Nepalese. He spent 5 years in Baluchistan which was as wild as the wild west. In Baluchistan, everyone packs an AK-47 & shoots when they desire. In these kind of situations, his mind would calculate a deduction like a computer that he’d be safe & then he’d operate without fear in truly dangerous territory.
I don’t recall a single negative word by my father about his parents, & I don’t think he said any. Such respect is rare in this world. Though he grew up in the humble farming community of 4-mile creek in the Kansas Flinthills, he refined himself to the point he could fit in with the polished upper crust. He was conservative and would save his money & pay cash to buy a car rather than go in debt. I could enumerate many other virtues he had.
WILL NOT BE FAMOUS BUT INDEED MADE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE. Dad was one of the hard working, brilliant technocrats that make our world function better, but remain relatively unknown. He will never be famous like an Eisenhower, but who Dad was & what he accomplished can still be admired & appreciated. He provided me the foundation upon what was later accomplished in my life. He taught me to think independently for myself & to ask questions & to question things. For that I am deeply indebted to him. He did indeed make the world a better place.