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Memories of John Part 1

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 3 months ago

Stories and pictures - Part 1


    • John Schroeter passed away suddenly Sept 14 2006 at the age of 58.

We all miss him very much.


John lived for laughter, for science, for absurdity, and for great stories. I think it appropriate that we collect our own stories of him and memories of his life.


Please add your stories, your photos, your memories, your links; whatever you would like to remember about John and his life.


Entries can start with a tidbit of history. Since this page is jointly editable, others should chime in with more details.


Here we go; join in and fill in the gaps, or add new topics:


The early years


Even as a lad, John was fond of dressing for the occasion.






His fondness for fish also started early.





John's father worked for United Airlines. John spent most of his childhood in Denver, Colorado, but lived for a couple years during high school on Long Island (he preferred Colorado!).



John went to undergraduate school in South Dakota.

That didn't stop him from riding his motorbike in the dead of winter

in nothing but a jeans jacket. His senior year was the last time

he was ever seen beardless.





Early days at Rice


I met John in 1970 shortly after he arrived in Houston. He was sunning beside the swimming pool at our apartment complex and the first thing that I noticed was his dangerously tiny bikini. As I approached, he locked my eyes with his and started talking nonstop with intensity about amazing things.... essentially an unveiling of his philosophy of life. He later told me that the intensity was to divert my (and his)attention from the bikini which was threatening to pop off!


That day was the start of an extraordinary and transforming relationship. We were inseparable for about 8 years. He and I lived for most of that time in a small house off Bisonnett St. which also served as a graduate student commune. John was a natural leader/people magnet and the house was always full of people and animated conversation. Good friends during those early years were Brian Zwan, Bowen Loughlin and Harlan Barksdale (physics grad students), Peter Wermes (Valhalla manager before John), and later Wally, John Kirpatrick and Dave Van Rooy. John also loved animals. There was a horse named Aladin, a pet racoon named Kugel(The Clever), and a backyard full of white rabbits and guinea pigs (discards from the medical labs at Baylor and UT where I was a graduate student). We spent alot of our free time backpacking in Colorado and Mexico, and motorbiking around the country and had many grand adventures. One of my favorites was the time we were camped at a remote beach in Mexico (I think Wally was also onboard for this one). It was about 7:00 in the morning and we were still in our sleeping bags when 6 armed banditos approached on horseback. They looked like they were about to rob us or worse, when John said "What we need is some beer diplomacy!" He offered the bandit leader the seat of honor on our beer cooler and proceeded to give them beers and joke with them until they were our best friends. I wish there were more beer diplomacy in the world today!


John's thesis advisor was Paul Donaho; together they set up an amazing laser lab and did early holography. When it came time to write his doctoral thesis, John sat down, naked, at an old fashioned manual type writer and just started typing. No notes or references. No mistakes. No second draft. It took him about one week of nonstop writing. One of the most amazing intellectual achievements I have ever witnessed! (more later)--Deborah


John with Deborah and her sister Kris in 1977


I came to Rice in 1973 and found my way to Valhalla, that's where I met John. He sure had a full beard and head of hair then! A few weeks later while playing Foosball, John said "we really need to find a new lounge manager, as I'll be leaving in six months". To which I replied, "If you can't find anyone else, I'll do it." The rest is history, little did I know at the time, my comment meant

that he'd stop looking. -- Wally








John would always be the first to jump in and help


I remember John as one of the kindest people I have ever known. He'd help with the chores, and he'd lend an ear when needed, too. So many tasks while I was manager (’80-’81) just quietly got done by John, with Patsy’s truck if it was too big for his motorcycle. I remember many pranks, as victim or co-conspirator. That was John helping out too, whenever we needed a diversion from our too-serious selves. -Sedge





When his colleague, Ray Glantz, injured his back as he was packing up his lab, John jumped in and packed up dozens of boxes of equipment for Ray. He even offered to load up his (Patsy's?) truck and drive our stuff across the country! I did not know John well, but I admired his wonderful sense of fun. He devoted himself to play with the same passion that he gave to work. -- Sandy


John was an inexhaustable source of help and advice for me; I still owe him myriad return favors. If a project required a tool I didn't own, I knew John had it (or several he would combine to answer the needed function.) Years ago Bill Jones and I were planting fenceposts in my backyard and I asked John to borrow his posthole digger. I learned quickly that John didn't want to merely loan tools. On his way to pressing duties on campus, he delivered the item and proceeded to put it to use ostensibly to compare it to mine. He stayed through digging, mixing, setting and a few beers. Apologies to whomever he intended to meet. I still have hundreds more questions for him on projects I will now put off indefinitely. Thanking John just never seemed sufficient for me considering his drive to lend a hand and a brain.


Not only did John LIKE to help out, he was great at it. He, really only knowing me as Jay Patel's girlfriend at the time, spent two days packing my moving truck like a 3D jigsaw puzzle for my move to Albuquerque in 1997. Not one thing was broken during the move. The kicker is that on the move back to Houston, I had to rent a larger truck, because Jay and I could not get the same number of things into the same amount of space (plus stuff got broken). -- Denise and Jay


I had about two month left to go in my sentence as manager when I tore my achilles tendon and ended up in a cast and on crutches for 12 weeks. This could have made loading kegs into the coolers an extremely difficult process but never fear here was John and every Thursday he would be at the bar when the beer delivery came and while I took care of the paper work John would load up the coolers. However my best memory from that time was when I was laying in the hospital bed after they had fixed my tendon here comes John and Richard carrying a can of Sprite whose contents were replaced by a Shiner Bock. On the down side , the nurse figured out what was in there and, while she let me finish the beer, wouldn't give me my next pain pill. -- John Battler


John and Patsy at LisaR's Birthday Party




John got his PhD in Solid State Physics at Rice.

His thesis advisor was Paul Donaho, committee members included Neil Lane who later became National Science Advisor for the Clinton administration. His dissertation was ”Some Magnetic Properties of Single Crystals of Various RFe2 Materials” in May, 1974.


Rikki Kobayashi was one of his early post-doc sponsors. I remember when John decided he need to do something that wasn't chemical engineering, Rikki took me aside to ask if I could somehow make John change his mind as he really needed him. Once John made up his mind it was pretty much a done deal. --wally.



John has pursued a variety of scientific interests over the years at Rice University and at Baylor College of Medicine. He started in solid state physics, then dabbled in physical chemistry, but in later years heartily attacked biophysics and eventually neuroscience. -- rgc


John loved science -- any kind, every kind, from the most serious to the most oddball. We could talk about cosmology or quantum mechanics or psychology, sometimes in the same sentence. He also loved a real challenge. It was a joy to say to John, "Here's an interesting problem, but I can't imagine how to measure the relevant variables." After a short break, we would have several proposals on the table, and, usually, one was possible. He read all kinds of stuff, and was curious about almost everything. He was the only hippy physicist that I've ever known, and he will be sorely missed. -- Ray Glantz


John and I were in quite different scientific fields, but had some very similar approaches/attitudes. We both were of the type who loved the hands on approach, and resisted going to the purely management aspect of science (where many end up).


What I remember most about John in the scientific sense was the frequent updates he would give me on a certain physics experiment. Physics was never my strong point, but I do know that one of the “holy grails” of the field is to come up with some sort of grand unification theory that would reconcile relativity, quantum mechanics, etc., into a nice non-contradictory package. Some years ago someone proposed a version that made the prediction that protons were ultimately unstable. The predicted half-life was some mind-bendingly huge number. The experiment to test this unification theory was to take a large amount of water, put it deep in a hole in the mountains (which would minimize things like cosmic ray exposure that could effect the experiment), and watch it carefully to see if any protons decayed. It piqued my curiosity, and fortunately John was very familiar with the experiment, and expounded on the details and the results for me. It seemed that no proton decay was detected in the interval that would confirm the initial predicted half-life, so the number was revised upwards. For a number of years, when I saw John in Valhalla, I would ask him “Any protons decay yet?”, and each time the answer was no. Even though it made no difference to my life one way or another (and probably gave a number of physicists some bad days), I always found some comfort in the “no” answers. Maybe it was a wish for the old universe to keep on going indefinitely, even if you’re not around to see it.


I’m so sorry I won’t be able to ask John that question again. I hope the protons are still hanging in there.-Kathleen Gajewski


John liked to snip ties.

(more somebody)


John once told me he owns over 100 pairs of Converse All Stars


I believe it. He had Converse for every occasion, in every color including tie-dye, of course!





John as a role model.

Some of my favorite times with John were the trips to Galveston to buy shrimp. A bunch of us would go down and shop among the shrimpers. John was always great at negotiating the best price. Invariably he would strike a deal whereby the price per pound was reduced, but the shrimp were weighed before the heads were removed. These trips lasted most of the day and always involved a meal, a few beers and great conversation. Then we would head back to Houston to prepare the shrimp and get ready for the real party at Valhalla that night.


I have to admit to a bit of hero worship. It was because of John that I wanted to manage Valhalla, because he had been manager. He was a scientist, an intellect and he attracted like minded people. I looked up to Richard, Wally, John Battler and Sedge, but I most wanted to be like John. He had an expression for when he found a bargain. He would say it was "on deal" as in "We got these burgers on deal!" I picked up that expression and continue to use it to this day. During my first year in Grad school at Rice, I went back home to L.A. for the Christmas holidays. I bought a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor high tops, in Lakers Forum purple. I keep those old sneakers as a reminder of him and my time at Rice. -- Ron Rohlfs


John could have a soothing effect



John's "Family Tree"


Several years ago, a few of us remember meeting at Valhalla one Saturday morning to plant a tree in memory of John's mother, just outside of Valhalla's "front door." If you ask the right person, he/she can point it out to you. The tree is more than just a live oak...it embodies the Schroeter family's spirit. That spirit will always watch over Valhalla.


John was a great friend and a mentor. I will always hold my beer mug up in John's honor until the day I see him again in that great keg in the sky...





John always reveled in tweaking the nose of the ordinary.


Once in college, while running across campus to get to class, he tripped and mangled one pants leg. So that it wouldn't slow him down in his remaining dash to class, he ripped the tatters off from that leg, leaving him half in cutoff jeans and half in full length. People hated the look so universally - from his professors to his girlfriend - that he gleefully wore the pants all week, until they threatened to become ripe. In later years he would occasionally resurrect the look.


John, do you think this habenero is hot?**


John's reply, "It made me hiccup. That means it's hot."


I remember when John and Patsy had first started growing their own habeneros, he brought some down to the bar. In walked a freshly new grad student from Ohio, (Paul if I remember right) John said with a grin, "I'll buy you a beer if your eat this pepper". Paul took one look at the little thing, popped it in his mouth and said "that's not so ....." and immediatey turned bright red and ran outside where he started flushing out his mouth with a garden hose! When he returned, John gave him his beer and asked if he'd like another...


Many an evening at Valhalla, several of us sat around nibbling away at those little orange peppers John loved so much. He would gleefully cut everyone a sliver..the burning, the pain, the fun, beer never tasted so good...


The above story is similar (or the same?) as John's bet with Paul Geis, which occurred in, probably, 1992 or 1993. At the time, Paul was a grad student in Space Physics & Astronomy; he had been there a while and was finishing his Ph.D. Along the way, as I understand it, Paul had participated in some fairly ridiculous bets with Pete Riley--something along the lines of extreme banana eating and drinking an entire gallon of milk, that sort of thing. Whether or not Schroeter knew this about Paul is not clear to me, but he figured out pretty quickly that Paul was willing to be challenged to try a pepper. John suggested that he would buy Paul a beer of his choice if he ate a whole habenero. Now, there are two important things to note: (1) John and Paul actually negotiated how many times the pepper had to be chewed--because, of course, it would be cheating to just swallow it whole. The number that John and Paul agreed on was TWENTY. (2) Paul's beer of choice was a regular draft bock, which at the time cost 35 cents. The bar was crowded that night. Paul picked one of the habeneros and put it in his mouth. He started chewing, and I do believe that with the first few chews he indicated it wasn't quite as hot as he thought it was going to be. However, as he chewed, he started to turn bright red. Beads of sweat appeared on his forehead and John was ecstatic. Paul did chew the pepper 20 times, but by the time he swallowed it, he was beet red and profusely sweating. As soon as he could, he said "I'll take that beer now." John was every so happy to oblige, and quickly. Paul drank the beer immediately and seconds later pushed through the crowd and left the bar. He was 'missing' for some time (in agony, I found out later) but eventually came back. John was delighted!--Karen K.


One of my favorite stories about John and his love of hot things both literal and figurative, and taught me always to wash my hands well after handling peppers of any kind. This was somewhat hearsay, but never denied, but after chopping up some of his beloved peppers he engaged in some amorous behavior which set his partner on fire in way that was not particularly pleasant. I understand John was thenceforth required to wash his hands thoroughly before petting! Brad Kraus

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