Pat Schneider stands tall in my heart


Pat  Schneider.  Photo by Michelle Stocker

This hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. I don’t give a damn if it’s a hackneyed cliché. It’s what I feel. She was 65. I love Steve Elbow’s tribute to Pat Schneider, one of the my favorite journalists ever. To me she epitomized what The Capital Times stood for – “looking out for the little guy” as editor Dave Zweifel always used to say and write.

I’m not gonna go into much detail because Elbow does magnificent justice to Pat. I’ll only say personally that she had a sweet, affable disposition beneath that tough-broad exterior. I recall being delighted when I found myself without a companion to go to review an American Players Theater play – always an important event in Madison culture.

And Pat had the chutzpah to ask me if I could go with her. Although I was actually involved with the woman who would become my wife at the time, I love the fact that this fearless professional woman was out there enough to “lean in” to do that. We had a great time at the play, and remained good friends through my 20 years at the newspaper.

My other quick thought has to do with much larger matters, which Pat found herself facing in her last days. Once, a few heady people in the Cap Times newsroom were debating the existence of God — of course, always a mystery to wrangle with. Pat overheard and leaned in at one point and said, “You know what they say. There are no atheists in a foxhole.”

I always thought that was such a wonderful thought, even if unoriginal. It evokes one of the greatest crises of modernism and existential reality — the first world war. It was also the perfect rejoinder to another person’s too-glib line: “My sister says God has a plan for me. Well, I tell her I have a plan for God.”

As for Pat, she chose her battles fearlessly and often, when she felt it was necessary to get the truth  — and to fight for the little guy, the dispossessed and forsaken. And I’m sure when she came to the end, she hardly felt like she was cowering in a foxhole.

What a woman!  As for me I tend to gravitate to Norman Mailer’s large picture which embraces reincarnation. So I offer Pat this old Irish sentiment which I coincidentally . used in a very different context tonight:

“May the road rise up to meet you, and may the wind be always at your back. And may the Lord always hold you in the hollow of his hand.”

You know what else? I believe battling Pat Schneider finally found her foxhole, and in that moment, had nothing to fear.

Here’s Steve superb remembrance of Pat. If you care about great journalists and their invaluable work, take a few moments here:


Thanks to Steve Hackbarth for this sad but precious news.