Remembering Grandpa Schlereth
When Howard E. Schlereth died last week at the age of 89--almost 90--there was no funeral, no flowers, no service, not even an obituary notice. An Army veteran with 22 years of service, including World War II, one of his duties was to escort the coffins of his fallen comrades home to their bereaving families. He'd seen enough sadness and wanted no more of it when his time came. Although his family honored his wishes, granddaughter Donalyn Harris sent me a note, which we followed up with a phone call, asking if there wasn't some way we could honor "my truly great grandpa" who so many in Pleasanton knew. Let me give it a try.
Mr. Schlereth, indeed, led a remarkable life. The last surviving sibling of eight, he enlisted in the Army at the age of 17, having a neighbor sign an affidavit falsifying his age as 18. He was sent to Hawaii and shipped out just before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. It was his first taste of war, thankful that he had escaped the carnage but sad that so many of his newly-made friends had perished. During the war, he served in the South Pacific, and eventually rose to the rank of Master Sergeant, the highest an enlisted man could hold at the time. After the war, he studied French at the Army Language School in Monterey and then was reassigned to Berlin where he moved with his wife Doris, who is now 86, before the Berlin wall was built. Later, he served in Korea, then took his discharge and started his civilian career as a purchasing agent, moving with Doris and their young son Howard H. to Danville. That's also when property taxes were soaring, with Contra Costa County leading the way. During his military years when he was bringing war casualties home, Mr. Schlereth had gotten to know Graham Hitch who had a mortuary in Pleasanton, and Hitch persuaded the Schlereths to move here where homes, at the time, were much more affordable and taxes were low. That was 1967 and Doris recalls the wide open spaces of Pleasanton with its two-lane Hopyard Road and lots of trees and hops growing alongside.
The Schlereth family has been here ever since, with son Howard now married to Sandra and their three children--Donalyn and Matthew also living in Pleasanton and another son, Daymon, living in Corning, near Chico. Donalyn, who attended Walnut Grove Elementary and Harvest Park Middle schools and graduated from Amador Valley High, now lives in the Jensen tract with her husband Scott and their three children: Gary, an eighth-grader at Harvest Park and one-year-old twin daughters Parker and Piper.
A close-knit family, the Schlereths have been a popular, well-known family in town with "Grandpa Howard" especially remembered for his good humor and seemingly endless number of jokes. His jovial personality, Donalyn believes, was the result of his absolute determination when he was growing up under his mother's care during the hard times of the Depression to push ahead no matter what the odds and succeed. When he talked of those early days or of the harsh war years, he was never bitter, but always proud of his accomplishments. He also always put his own family first, finding ways to communicate or sometimes even sneak a visit during the times he was stationed elsewhere.
Mr. Schlereth was cremated at his request and the family will place his ashes in a crypt in St. Augustine Catholic Cemetery shortly. Although he wanted to be remembered just in life, not in death, granddaughter Donalyn won't let that happen. There'll be a nameplate on the crypt where she intends to place a rose and plant a kiss occasionally just to show how a great man should be remembered.