Gene Mueller's Higher Life: Terry Schaller

CREATED Aug. 23, 2012

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  • The fish start hitting.

  • Terry's team rack up the prize-winning catches.

  • One catch at a time

  • Then two by two

Click to hear the podcast of this story.

Gene Mueller -“This story is not about what I did. God is the real hero here. I was but the messenger in all this."

Terry Schaller is a Sheboygan businessman--he heads up Superior Chemical Corporation. Schaller is also an avid fisherman, as was David Diener, a man he never met but whose family Schaller and his friends did their best to help out during a very dark hour.

As Schaller and his buddies took part in the city's coho derby earlier this month--they could see the search that was underway for Diener who, along with a buddy, had been washed off Sheboygan’s north pier a few days before. Diener and the friend would later be found dead.

Schaller and company, meanwhile, headed into the final day lean on fish--got nary a nibble, in fact, that final Sunday morning of the event. “It came to about 8 o’clock in the morning, and we were kind of past prime time. We didn’t even have a bite,” says Schaller. “And I like to think of myself as a spiritual person, so the first place I turned to was God, said a prayer, [was] quiet, and low and behold we started catching fish like crazy…”

…78 pounds worth, including an 18 pounder Schaller himself reeled in. Enough fish to win both the team and individual competition – enough to knock down four thousand dollars in prize money. Enough cash to help make a difference for David Diener's mom.

Diener wanted to take part in the derby, too, and told his mom he'd give her any of the cash he won--Deanna Tracey has health issues...and a home that's been foreclosed on and is to be auctioned off next month.

Schaller read about the mother's plight in the local paper, and was moved to act. He and his derby teammates decided Diener's mom needed the cash far more than they did.

“I think all of us at some point think we have problems until you hear real problems,” says Schaller. “Then it just really made me feel good that we were doing something to help this family who is so in need.”

A Sheboygan press reporter set up a meeting during which Schaller was able to meet Deanna and hand her the check.

“It was really overwhelming,” Schaller says. “They started crying. I started crying, and everybody was embracing. And then once I started really talking to the mother and hearing just how bad her plight really is.”

Some of the cash, in fact, was to go toward David Diener's funeral...

“David really seemed like a great person. I wish I could have met him prior, but I did want to fulfill his dream for her.”

Schaller knows he's not the only one reaching out to two families in pain, and is proud of his hometown for stepping up.

“Sheboygan has really rose up to the occasion and people are donating, [donating] food and just trying to help both these families – the Netzer family as well. You know once in a while we get a few negative stories coming out of Sheboygan, so it’s really great to have a positive spin on things."

Schaller says fishermen--like he and the guy he never got to meet, David Diener--need to stick together. Jesus, he points out, was a fisherman, too.

“And if everybody would just do more for our fellow man, I think the world would be a much better place. And so to me that is the real triumph in this story – the people who have been challenged because of this [who] are going to reach out and do more in their communities.”