Malvernite Joseph Schutta was known by many as a man of self-discipline. Most every morning for the past 40 years or so, he jogged around his church, Our Lady of Lourdes. As he got older, he walked with a walker. Before he went to bed, he ate one cracker, one pretzel and one Oreo.
“Even if it was snowing out, I’d have to shovel a path for him,” said his daughter Sally Schutta. “If he couldn’t get out and walk first thing in the morning, he was frazzled all day. Everybody thought he was a disciplinarian, but he was just disciplined.”
Schutta died at his home on May 15. He was 92.
He grew up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and joined the Marines at the end of World War II, in 1945, serving until 1947. He was briefly recalled as a reservist to serve in the Korean War in 1952. Schutta moved from Greenpoint to Malverne in 1963, and he worked as a police officer with the New York City Police Department from 1952 to 1992.
After his retirement in 1992, Schutta volunteered as the lunch monitor at Our Lady of Lourdes School for 21 years. He was known as “Lord of the Lunchroom,” and teacher Christine Goodwin said that he was respected by all of the students.
“His presence was enough for them to follow the rules,” recalled Goodwin, who has worked at OLL for the past 25 years. “The kids in my class right now really didn’t get to know him that well, but I said to them, ‘This is the man you want to be when you grow up.’ He was a gentleman who was giving to his country, his community, his church and his family.”
Schutta also hosted Friday Night Teen Club dances at the school, and was an active member of the parish, serving in its St. Vincent DePaul Society charity works and food pantry. His NYPD partner and fellow parishioner, Tom Ward, invited him to join the group. On several occasions, clients showed up at his doorstep when they realized how close he lived to the pantry. Schutta would remind them of the pantry hours, but usually helped them anyway.
As a daily church attendee, Schutta frequently filled in as an altar server at the 6:45 a.m. Mass when the younger servers weren’t available. He was also a member of the money collection team for many years, and was sometimes jokingly reminded by his fellow members that a loud voice was not a requirement. He later used that gift as a lector at the 7:30 a.m. Sunday mass once a month, in addition to being a reader for the monthly Nocturnal Adoration Society.
“He was just a dedicated person to the church and the Village of Malverne,” said Theresa Ventrudo, Schutta’s neighbor for 12 years. “He really had such amazing core values. He really saw the good in people, and he never asked for anything in return. He was everyone’s grandpa.”
Sally Schutta said she was unaware of the influence her father had on others until residents started sharing anecdotes with her. “That just made our hearts so happy, because he wanted us to pay it forward and to help others when you can,” she said. “We didn’t realize his impact on the community, and I don’t think he realized it, either. My mother said she felt she was overshadowed by him because of everything he had accomplished, but he always credited her for his success.”
Schutta’s wife of 54 years, Carol, had also supported Lourdes School for many years as a class mother, a Confraternity of Christian Doctrine teacher, and filling other roles as needed. His son Jimmy said that he loved every phase of his career.
“All six of his children followed his example of service, but he never pushed us towards anything,” Jimmy said. “He just wanted us to keep our faith, focus on our scholastics, do our best, and everything else will fall in line.”
Sally is an occupational therapist; daughters Dorothy Micho and Margaret Grismer are speech pathologists; Maureen Schutta is a social worker; and Jimmy and Joseph both served in Iraq with the Marines. Joseph now works for the New York City Fire Department, while Jimmy worked for the NYPD for 20 years.
“In the Marine Corps, we have a phrase, ‘Leadership is learned by example,’” Jimmy said. “It probably wasn’t until I was older that I realized what an example he was, not just to the six of us, but to every person he encountered.”