She’s arguably one of Santa Rosa’s best known and most beloved citizens. Countless nonprofits list her as a benefactor. Most Santa Rosans know—or know of—Impact 100 member Jeannie Schulz. Her life is an open book-or is it?
Consider this: she was born in Mannheim, Germany. Her parents, both British, were managing the Mannheim Berlitz Language School when Jeannie was born. At the urging of the British government, the family left Germany when Jeannie was just six months old. Hitler invaded Poland the very next month.
Another little known fact about Jeannie is that she was “horse mad’ as a “feral child” growing up with two older brothers in Mill Valley. She and her friends were known to mimic “neighing, stomping and galloping” in the forests when no one was watching. When the family moved to Fallbrook, she had real horses to ride through neighboring avocado orchards on weekends.
It’s also surprising to learn that Jeannie doesn’t relish the limelight, even though she’s often in it. “I’d rather be behind the scenes,” she says. As a student at Pomona College that meant she worked backstage on theater productions. “I didn’t want to sing or dance. I liked painting sets and working on the light boards.” That’s where she met first husband Peter.
Jeannie’s civic mindedness predated her life In Santa Rosa and her marriage to Peanuts creator Charles M. “Sparky” Schulz. As a young wife and mother of two living in Hawaii, she was active in the League of Women Voters. She credits the League with giving her “self confidence” and the sense “It’s up to us to monitor what’s going on in government and be engaged.”
The family moved to Santa Rosa and Jeannie became heavily involved with the Volunteer Center while also serving on civic commissions and school committees. She found time to finish her college degree at Sonoma State and got her pilot’s license. Along with family, she made a cross country trip in a single engine Piper and participated in three cross country air races.
Both divorced, Sparky and Jeannie met and married in 1973 and enjoyed 27 years together before his death. “He was supportive of everything I did,” she recalls. And that was a long list, including serving on boards such as the Volunteer Center, Canine Companions for Independence and the Sonoma County Community Foundation, taking countless classes at SSU and SRJC, playing killer tennis, and learning to speak French. “Pure stubbornness” led her to 25 years of lessons and fun on the flying trapeze.
She’s added major construction projects to her list of activities since Sparky died, overseeing the building of a world-class Museum and Research Center dedicated to his works and, sadly, the rebuilding of the home they shared, which burned to the ground in the Tubbs fire. Now in her early 80’s and active as ever, Jeannie sees life as a continuum. “Everything builds on the past,” she says. She’s currently revisiting—and finding new meaning—in her husband’s work.
She loves seeing how relevant and timeless his characters and messages are through the eyes of young museum visitors. “He made it all look so easy that I took it for granted,” she says. “Now I recognize how carefully crafted it all was.”