Submitted by his wife
Bernes (Bernie) J. Schutte‚ 69‚ a firefighting veteran for over 42 years‚ gave his life on March 20‚ 2002 helping over one hundred firefighters battle a raging grass fire in very rough terrain near Hamlet‚ about 7 miles from his hometown of Palisade in an extremely dry area of southwestern Nebraska. Working to protect a family’s home and business‚ he was compelled to help others who were in need of emergency assistance. He died of a heart attack‚ doing what he loved to do‚ surrounded by many of his friends‚ neighbors and fellow firefighters. He was immediately attended to by fellow EMTs after his collapse‚ and transported to a hospital in a neighboring town‚ but all efforts to save his life were in vain. After having reponded to the call for over 42 years‚ this time he would not come home.
The fire‚ sparked by a cutting torch and fanned by very high winds‚ raged out of control most of the afternoon and evening‚ only coming under control later that night‚ having destroyed a mechanic shop‚ threatening two homes‚ burning 4‚500 acres of pasture‚ trees and fence line. Six other neighboring volunteer departments joined the Palisade fire department‚ attempting to save the homes‚ outbuildings and other property in the fire’s path.
Bernie’s life was exemplified by volunteerism. He served as fire chief for a number of years; president of the volunteer department; at the time of his death‚ was president of the Palisade Rural Fire District Board and also had served over 30 years as an extremely dedicated volunteer EMT with the fire department. He was the former mayor of Palisade and served on the Village Board for 35 years. Bernie’s strength and quiet presence on church and civic boards could always be felt as he was held in great repect and high esteem. He was a ‘big brother’ to many youth who needed a friend and a kind word. He was a person others looked to for guidance and leadership. He was known for his easy-going conversation sprinkled with a good joke or two at the local coffeeshop.
Bernie had served in the U.S. Army‚ in Korea and Japan during the Korean conflict from 1953-1955‚ was a member of the Palisade United Methodist Church a life member of V.F.W.Post #7028; AMVETS Post #14‚ Past Master of the Masonic Lodge #216 A F & A.M‚ Past Worthy Patron of the Order of Eastern Star #318‚ a member of the Elks Lodge‚ and many state firefighters organizations.
As a 48-year employee of Great Plains Communication‚ serving most of that time as a manager‚ Bernie had‚ at times‚ risked his own life to ensure telephone service for others during blizzards and ice storms when there was sickness or an emergency involved.
Bernie enjoyed fishing‚ camping‚ old cars and pickups‚ attending auctions (hunting for those elusive treasures he collected)‚ his family and attending the grandchildren’s ball-games and other events.
His funeral‚ held at the Palisade gym was filled to capacity‚ attended by over 500 people; his family‚ friends‚ neighbors‚ and members of the many organizations he belonged to.
Bernie was a devoted family man‚ a source of quiet strength and stability to his wife‚ DeAnna‚ children. Mike Schutte and Michelle McCormick‚ grandchildren‚ Alex‚ Elisabeth and Ethan Schutte and Daniel‚ Shania and Tristyn McCormick‚ and other extended family‚ who all miss him tremendously. He was a friend and true hero to all who knew him.