Wilbert "Willy" Kurt Schiller, 98, of Yankton, South Dakota passed peacefully Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at Avera Sacred Heart Hospice in Yankton.
Funeral services are 2:00 PM, Saturday, November 1, 2014 at the Wintz & Ray Funeral Home in Yankton with Reverend Molly Carlson officiating. Burial will be in the Garden of Memories Cemetery in Yankton with military honors provided by the Ernest-Bowyer VFW Post No. 791 and SDARNG. Visitation will be one hour prior to the service at the funeral home.
Pallbearers are his seven grandchildren.
Willy was born May 2, 1916 in Turtle Lake, North Dakota to the Rev. August and Martha (Buber) Schiller. As a small child, he moved to Billings, Montana, where he attended grade school and graduated from Billings High School in 1935. In Billings, he gained a great interest in music and was active in several musical organizations including the Rotary International Boys' Band and the High School's orchestra and dance band. He went on and graduated from Yankton College in 1939 with a B.A. Degree in English. He was elected to the Who's Who among students in American Universities and Colleges in 1938. He then earned his Master's Degree from Northern State University in Aberdeen. He did additional graduate work at the University of Iowa, Montana State University, and Stanford University. In 1943, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served nearly three years as a Navy Medic. On December 7, 1944, he and Bernice Ott of Parkston, South Dakota married in Coeur d' Alene, Idaho. They were married for 57 years. Bernice died on July 2, 2002.
He committed his life to education and touched the lives of thousands of students in his classrooms teaching English and German, and American Literature. His entire forty years of teaching took place in South Dakota. This included high school, college, and high school administration positions. He established the Modern Foreign Language Curriculum Committee of South Dakota and then served as president of the South Dakota Modern Foreign Language Association. He headed the foreign language department at Yankton High School for 25 years, and was cited by the Volkswagen Foundation for his efforts to improve foreign language instruction the in the U.S. He was a past Worshipful Master of the Masonic Lodge and served in the Shrine. He held a life membership card in the Elks and a long-time member of United Church of Christ (Congregational). He was also a member of the American Legion and served as a counselor of Boy's State from 1958- 1968. After retirement, he and his wife travelled extensively throughout the United States, the Caribbean, Canada and overseas to Europe and Russia.
Survivors include two sons and daughter-in-laws, Paul and Koni Schiller of Sioux Falls, and Tom and Linda Schiller of Andover, Kansas; daughter, Kay Schiller of Urbandale, Iowa; seven grandchildren: Staci Schiller, Steven Schiller, and Ross Bjork all of Sioux Falls; Katie Schiller Hoke of Edmonds, Washington; Kurt Schiller of Overland Park, Kansas; and Tom Hyde of Urbandale, Iowa and Meredith Hyde Wells of Johnston, Iowa; and three great grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Bernice; brother, Edwin Schiller; and sister, Mildred Day.
Memorials can be directed to the Yankton High School Foreign Language Department.
Messages will be reviewed and posted within 1 business day.
Very emotional day.
I admired Mr. Schiller and thought he was the most effective administrator we ever had back in the early '50s at Cresbard, SD. He was very much an insightful leader with so many progressive ideas and actions. I missed seeing him at the nursing home for the last time by just several days.
Much sorrow is in my heart right now. Uncle Willy was always one I looked up to.
I did not get to see him often and I feel bad about that. I will always remember him for his kindness, happiness, humor, and the love of life. He will be sadly missed by John and I and I know many, many others. My prayers and love/hugs go out to Paul/Koni, Tom/Linda, and Kay plus all the grandchildren/great grand children. I wish I could take some of the pain away for all of you. I live with the thought that at least he is with your mother, my parents, Mildred/Dick and grandfather/grandmother. God be with you.
Patti and John, Pam and Keith, Gayle, JJ and Mindy
Paul and family:
I was very sorry to hear of your Dad's death. Thinking of you all!
Mr. Schiller was my high school German teacher. I'm afraid I wasn't very good at German but I loved him and was happy to just be in his class. I was fortunate to have spent time after graduation having some very good visits with him. He was a kind giving man with the most wonderful smile in the world. God took back one of his true angels.
My sympathy to all his family
Sad to hear of Willies passing.
I had many good visits with him and listening to train stories to first teaching jobs.And his Navy ''war stories'' and how he and Dernice got married. He often borrowed my tenor sax for dance jobs in the 50's. We even sang German songs!
Larry Hintgen YHS 1957
Tom and Family:
We met your father at Tom's retirement party and he lit up the room when he entered. We did not have the honor of spending a lot of time with him but we have heard wonderful stories of him over the years. We understand that this is a difficult time and our thoughts and prayers are with your family.
Judy, Dean and Kristy
I'm 55 years old, and have remember him as someone in my early life that was very instructional. It tells you something about a person when they are remembered from so many years in the past. He was a great teacher, mentor and a great person. My sympathy to all this family.
Dear Paul, Tom, and Kay and families,
I had Mr. Schiller for three years of German at YHS. He was one of my favorite teachers. He was a great teacher! I still remember all those songs we learned in class and thought of him often over the years. I remember him with fondness and will be keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers.
Karen Hill Nelson
To Mr. Schiller's Family,
Your presence and fine tribute to your father/grandfather's exemplary life at his funeral were all handled very well! The well organized photo album displaying his many activities & interests as well as his fine family which was available for viewing certainly was very special. It was obvious by the messages shared here as well as from those able to attend Saturday that Mr. Schiller continues to positively affect so many of us of all ages in so many lasting ways. We remain very grateful for the privilege of having known him as well as still having you!
Kay, Tom, Paul and families,
As Karen mentioned, your father was one of my favorite teachers; very positive and funny but firm in the classroom. Learned much; enjoyed slide shows, and songs are still in my memory. My condolences to you all on his passing.
Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind. -J. Goethe
E P Kehrwald
My deepest sympathies to your family. Herr Schiller was my German teacher for 3 years in the early 1970's. Due to his efforts, German was easily my favorite class. In fact, I was inspired to continue studying German at the University just for the enjoyment of it.
Memories are still vivid. I can still remember his response when students complained. W.K. would circle his thumb over his index finger and say "This is the smallest record player in the world playing My Heart Bleeds for You." Issue resolved.
Willie was a very nice man he told me that he sang love me tender to his wife everyday, when i cooked for him at pine lane estates i told him i liked elvis presley he would sing love me tender to me, such a sweet man, rip willie
Tom, Paul, Kay & families,
I enjoyed spending time in your dad's German classes especially the new German lab he developed. He was very proud of that! I got to know him on a more personable level when Ray M, Garry M and myself would stop over to see Tom at his house. I saw him often at the Autumn Winds Assisted Living when I visited my Mom. We'd talk about his family, old times at YHS and of course how the Bucks were doing. He was one of the great ones!!
My thoughts and prayers are with you.
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