Tomorrow marks a year. Right now it's impossible to type how I feel. So I thought I would recognize Ryan's awesomeness by sharing the Eulogy I wrote for Ryan's funeral. Thank you all for the prayers and good thoughts given on our family's behalf.
If you knew Ryan well, then you knew he hated funerals. In fact I'm sure he has told many, if not all of you that he would not be attending yours. Sadness just wasn't in his genetic makeup. But if you knew Ryan well, you also knew the woman in his life had the final say, and in this case they went with the family motto: "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit."
Ryan Fredrick Schuhmacher was born in March 1971 in San Mateo California to Inge and Paul. He was the youngest of three children, and thrived in his position as baby of the family. He was a happy and content baby, but as soon as he learned to walk the fun for him really began. He was constantly going from morning until night looking for some adventure to dive into.
Ryan was one year old when his parents bought Starlight Bakery in San Mateo. He spent much of that year in a playpen near the oven playing happily with his toys and teething on hunks of stale French bread. The health department put an end to that and he was put into a family daycare soon after, where he made lifelong friends.
If Ryan wanted something, he wasn't afraid to work hard to make it happen. When he wasn't more than five he already knew the phone numbers of all his friends to set up sleepovers and play dates. When the family had a pool, the rule was he couldn't swim when an adult wasn't home, so he would go to great lengths to find a friend's parent who was willing to come over and supervise.
Much of Ryan's childhood is tied to little league. Baseball was everything to him. He played a few positions, but his favorite was pitcher. His family was well known for bringing donuts to all the games. His baseball jersey was hands down his favorite thing to wear. Often, he would wear it for days. It became such a problem that his mother had to go out and have an identical jersey made so one would always be clean. In the last month Ryan found much joy in watching the Petaluma Little League team make it to the World Series. It was a blessed experience for his family to bond together in celebration of the sport that Ryan loved so much. In his youth he was a diehard Atlanta Braves fan, but later gave his allegiance to the San Francisco Giants. Only two weeks ago Ryan attended his last Giants game and in keeping with his positive outlook said the Giants only lost by two touchdowns.
When Ryan was 8 his family moved to Petaluma after buying Joes A1 Bakery on Petaluma Blvd. In true Ryan fashion, he found a friend in less than 24 hours that had a pool. Soon after moving the family moved again to Skillman Lane where they bought some land. There are many stories of the animals that they raised, but Ryan's favorite memory was the ram. A friend told of another friend that he wanted to unload a ram that liked to misbehave. It was mean, and broke out of his pasture every chance he got. Ryan and his father were never ones to pass up on a good deal, especially a free ram. They went to get the ram in Ryan's fathers Cadillac and finally found the only way to get it home was to put it in the trunk. Ryan spent many days squaring off with the ornery ram, and had many close calls and bruises to prove it.
Ryan became an official employee of Joes A1 Bakery when he started Jr. High. He delighted in the fact that he always had money in his pocket, and even bought his first car, paid in full when he was 15 years old.
Ryan and driving is an epic tale in its own. His first accident was less than a week after getting his license. There was one particular day that he rode especially fast down the dirt road from his house. As his parents watched him drive away his father said, "That boy is going to get into an accident today." Sure enough that was the day Ryan hit a fire hydrant by what is now known as Whole Foods Market. He flooded the entire street while the front end of his car rattled helplessly in the air from the water shooting out of the hydrant. He had to use his own money to replace that hydrant, which he never regretted as he figured it was worth having a good story to tell. It has always been that while Ryan drove, he spent more time sightseeing than looking at the road. He loved nature and was always the first one to spot a deer or some kind of wildlife off in the distance. He had an amazing sense of direction as well...if he had been there once...even in the back of a van when he was 9...he could get there again. Ryan never got lost, and if he did, he would never let on to it.
Ryan's heart and soul loved every aspect of baking. He loved to create, and was hired by companies to create bread art for special events. His favorite was his 4 feet tall Fred and Barney that he created for the premier party for the Flintstones Movie. He spent most of his time working side by side with his family, baking breads, cakes, pies, cookies, danish, donuts and more. The smell of baked goods was his cologne. His uniform inside and outside the bakery...winter, summer, spring and fall was jean shorts, a white shirt and Birkenstocks. Ryan twice ventured to Germany to apprentice as a baker. At one time living with his Grandmother, learning in the same bakery his father did.
Everyone that worked at the bakery fell in love with the Schuhmacher family. They had a rapport with each other that was unmatched. They were full of love and respect for one another although they teased each other endlessly. It wasn't uncommon for Ryan and Lisa to have bread dough fights. The bigger the bruise left on the other person, the better. Pinching to create bruises wasn't off limits either. No matter what happened in the early hours of the morning, if Ryan and his father had a disagreement, or a batch of something was burnt...everything was made better when the sports page came. Ryan, Lisa and their father Paul shared a love for sports. They listened to sports talk radio much of their day as they worked. Employees easily knew how to gauge the Schuhmachers' mood. If they were quiet...stay away. Keep your head down, and work. The rowdier they were, the better fun the day was going to be.
Ryan's soon to be wife Meri began working at the bakery her Senior year in high school. She was quickly drawn in by the connection the Schuhmacher Family shared. Ryan asked her out within a couple weeks of beginning work, and of course she said no. She thought it would be awkward to work with someone while having a relationship too. What if it didn't work out? Ryan as stubborn as he was, refused to ever ask her out again, but found ways around that by making bets on Football games calling for the loser to buy lunch. Meri ended up having to ask Ryan out for their first official date. He said no. Then promptly called back 3 minutes later to say yes.
Less than a month after the relationship was blossoming, Meri left for college. Their love story began with countless letters and long distance phone calls. On her birthday, Ryan sent Meri a cake in the mail. USPS delivered a giant ball of a mess, but she and her roommates ate it anyway as there was nothing better than a poured chocolate cake from Joes A1.
It was while Meri was in college that Ryan began investigating the church that Meri loved so much. He was converted quickly and when Meri returned from her semester away at college they were soon engaged and then Married 6 months later on May 1, 1993.
Their first son M was born two years later. It seemed that Ryan was made for fatherhood. He spent many afternoons napping with a baby or two on his chest. Ryan's father had a stroke a year after M was born, which led to Ryan taking over the bakery. He adjusted his schedule immediately. He and his sister began their day at 12 midnight. They would work without break until two in the afternoon and then return home. Ryan would nap a few hours until dinner, and then go back to sleep at 8pm. It wasn't uncommon for Ryan to forgo his nap to spend more time with his family. Video games with his boys were always more important than sleep.
Meri and Ryan welcomed three more boys over the next 7 years. J, B and L, along with their older brother M were his greatest treasures. Family came first, always. When Ryan's three youngest boys were diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, Ryan took on the task of taking care of their needs head on. Even though the weekends were the only time he could get a full night sleep, he often would turn off Meri's alarm and check their blood sugars in the middle of the night so Meri could sleep. He had a gentle way of comforting his family, and calmly assured them that things would always work out in the end.
Ryan was a natural as head of the bakery. Customers would come and want to talk only to him. He made many lifelong friends, young and old. His generosity was unmatched. If you were hungry and didn't have money...you got food anyway. He would also accept anything to trade for his goods. One customer traded Marboro Miles from his packs of cigarettes for donuts. Ryan happily collected thousands and traded them in for camping equipment and toys for his sons. Car detailing, Pizza, whatever someone had, he would not turn them away.
Ryan spent his life working hard, and sacrificing much to provide for his family. He sold his precious truck to buy their first home. He took on extra tasks, like cleaning the aprons to make extra money for the mortgage. He catered on weekends so they could take family vacations. Ryan had a work ethic like no other. He seized every opportunity and enjoyed keeping busy.
Closing the bakery took a lot of courage for Ryan. He knew he couldn't continue working so many hours. He wanted to spend more time with his family, and struggled with leaving behind the business his parents sacrificed so much to build. But Dawn Foods entered the picture and made the genius decision to higher Ryan as a Sales Representative in 2007.
True to his character, Ryan took off running. He adored meeting with other small bakeries, talking shop, and running product with them. Most of all though, his competitiveness thrived. He would spend hours looking over everybody's sales and make goals to surpass the next person and the next in gross sales. To this day Ryan's sister Lisa hates playing board games because of Ryan's competitiveness. It wasn't that he was mean spirited, it was that Ryan would just always win. When Ryan was turned away at bakeries, he would always return. He wouldn't give up on an account, and always found a way to make things happen. His success is attributed to his empathy for the bakery owners. He had been in their shoes. He knew how hard they worked, and how much their businesses meant to them. He made sure they got every product they needed, when they needed it because he had been there too. He was proud to be a member of Dawn Foods as it was a family owned business with a strong Christian ethic.
Three years ago Ryan took over as the official cook for the Boy Scout Weblos at Camp Noyo. He found so much joy cooking and baking for the scouts, and spending time outdoors with his four boys. His most prized possession is his chain saw that he purchased last year to cut brush for the trails at camp. He convinced his wife the chainsaw was a necessity, as they lived in California and if there was an earthquake he could use it to cut through the ruble to get to the boys' lifesaving insulin.
Ryan had so many amazing characteristics, but his greatest was his faith. He believed in god and had a strong understanding that everything was in the Lords hands. Hope was a way of life in the Schuhmacher household, especially in these last 6 months since he was diagnosed with cancer. His wife would often walk by their bedroom and see him kneeling in fervent prayer to his Heavenly Father. He never questioned why he was given this cross to bear. He never complained once to his family. There was a calm and quiet steadfastness to his faith. He believed in miracles. He believed in a loving Heavenly Father and in his brother Jesus Christ. His testimony was unwavering, bright and true.
Ryan was in every way, just a GOOD man.
He worked hard. He loved hard. He prayed hard. He fought hard. He was always a friend that could be counted on. If you were his friend, than he never judged you. His family will forever remember his legacy of hope. He found joy in the little things in life, and always found a way to seize the day.
When we remember Ryan, we should remember his big smiling eyes, his genuine laugh and his zest for life. He leaves a giant hole in this world, but fills it back up with his unwavering faith, and hopefulness for a better day.