On August 22, 2019, James (Jim) Joseph Schwarzenberger, loving husband, father, and grandfather passed away peacefully in his home at the age of 70 after battling cancer.
Jim was born on May 22, 1949 in Quinter, KS to Joseph and Helen (Schreiner) Schwarzenberger, middle child among four siblings Tom, Patty, Gary, and Jodi. He received his degree in English from Newman University in Wichita in 1972, and worked for the Wichita Area Chamber of Commerce for 30 years. On September 2, 1972 Jim married Kathleen (Kathy) Theresa Healy. They raised five children, Matthew, Kevin, Janelle, James and Paul, and they always consider their children’s spouses, Amanda, Jennifer, and Terry, their own children. Nine grandchildren include: Tristen, William, Jarod, Tyler, and Alex Schwarzenberger; Lauren, Collin, Regan, and Payton Beczak.
Jim was a kind and quiet soul who enjoyed spending time with family and friends. He loved to listen while his children and grandchildren laughed, argued, and played together. Raised on a small farm in western Kansas, Jim’s life was shaped by traditional values and strong work ethic.
Jim was passionate, thoughtful and creative. He showed this through writing, art, building, and creation of anything to which he applied himself. With his work in Chamber management, he developed countless programs that eventually earned him the nickname, “Acronym King.” Wichita Business Journal named him “Diplomat of the Year” because of his quiet, attentive nature that enabled him to bring others to the table to work for the betterment of the community. He received great encouragement from his loving wife, Kathy. Their love for creativity and adventure was passed on to their children and grandchildren.
As a strong and devout Catholic, he had a deep love and connection to his faith and prayer life. He applied his creativity by assisting the church through programs and volunteer work. Heavily involved in the Right of Christian Initiation program, men’s retreats, Marion retreats, and lectoring, Jim never hesitated to contribute to the church and help those in need. He visited Medjugorje on a pilgrimage, and he assisted in relief efforts in New Orleans after the Katrina disaster. Jim and Kathy also visited Jerusalem in January, 2019 to experience the Holy Land where Jesus walked.
Like his father, Jim was born in Quinter Kansas and baptized in neighboring Collyer, Kansas at St. Michael Catholic Church. As a boy, he experienced a true farmer’s life, both the pleasures and the uncertainties that nature provided. He helped with and cared for the wheat harvests and cattle. As a family, they fought through all of the harsh realities such as blizzards, hail and dust storms, insect invasions, droughts, and the frequent threat of Kansas tornadoes.
Jim was an adventurous boy. His siblings have fond memories of him and his acrobatics. He was very coordinated and a natural athlete with a strong competitive spirit which his easy-going nature belied. Growing up, he could be found doing a handstand on the back of a horse or balancing along something that would suffice as a tightrope. He could throw a baseball all the way from center field to home plate with accuracy, catch a fly ball with his bare hands, and crush a ball with a bat. In addition, he enjoyed tennis, golf, lawn games and competing with his siblings and kids in any activity, especially cards. Jim’s talents often surprised people and his ability was just uncanny. He would never let you win and would never brag about it, but often could not stifle a wry smile.
His father Joe was incredibly gifted at building and repairing all things associated with life on the farm with the supplies at hand. He never spent a dollar on something he could have made or repaired by hand and he passed along these qualities to Jim.
In 1962, the family moved to Olathe, Kansas, where his three deaf siblings could benefit from the Kansas School for the Deaf and a broader deaf community. In 1968, Jim went to Wichita to study English at Sacred Heart College (now Newman University), where he participated in choir and where he met Kathy. In 1970, on a whim of adventure, he joined a professor he respected on a road trip to Alaska. He stayed there for an entire summer and documented his experiences there in a narrative he wrote recently. This trip fueled his love for adventure and storytelling to others.
After graduating, Jim stayed and recruited for Newman for several years. Eventually, he joined the Wichita Chamber of Commerce where he received wonderful mentorship, grew and leveraged his skills in the area of workforce development, recruiting businesses and talent to Wichita.
On September 2nd of 1972, Jim married the love of his life, Kathy, a marriage that would last these 46 years. Jim and Kathy were an amazing complement to one another allowing them each to exercise their great strengths. They both took scripture to heart living their marriage as one flesh and are a lasting example for their family. Their love for one another was amplified during Jim’s last few months as was their love for their faith. Even at the end of his days, during one-on-one conversations with his kids, Jim would frequently tell them he has never loved Kathy more. Even in pain he displayed confidence and passion for faith in God. It was fitting that when he quietly passed away, she was singing him one of his favorites, “How Great Thou Art.”
Jim was such a good man, caring and kind, always continuing to learn and grow, even through his battle with cancer. He was prayerful and trusted God’s works and what God wanted from and for him. He died on the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, fitting because of his devotion to Mary, the Mother of Christ and our Mother.
A prayer vigil will be held at 6:30 PM on Thursday, Aug. 29th at St. Paul Catholic Church, 21650 W 115th Terrace, Olathe, KS. The Mass of Resurrection will be Friday, Aug. 30th at 11:00 AM also at St. Paul; and the burial will be Saturday, Aug. 31st at 9:00 AM in Oak Hill Cemetery, 1605 Oak Hill Ave., Lawrence, KS.
In lieu of flowers, donations in honor of Jim’s life may be made to the Sister Servants of Mary, 800 N. 18th St., Kansas City, KS, 66102, to Camp Barnabas, a summer camp for those with special needs, at campbarnabas.org, or to the St. Paul Catholic Church Building Fund.