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Remembering Ed Scherer

by Rachel Madsen, Ed's loving sister

"Ed passed away on February 21st at age 72 from complications following surgery.  He lived his last 8 years here at the Fellowship Community in Spring Valley after having lived 64 years on Long Island.

Ed was born in Chicago in 1951 to Joseph and Elizabeth Scherer.  Our father, Joe, was finishing his PhD at U of Chicago and our mother, Beth, was working as secretary for a famous group of Chicago atomic scientists.  I was also born during the Chicago days. Shortly after my birth our family moved to Long Island. 

Our parents transferred Ed and me from the Hicksville public schools to the Waldorf School of Adelphi University (now of Garden City) when Ed was in 5th grade and he continued on to graduate in 1969. Ed attended Camp Glen Brook for several summers and worked in the kitchen one summer in high school, but then spent the following summers working on the Piening’s biodynamic farm near Schenectady.  From early on Ed always wanted to be a farmer.  As a young boy he got up early on Saturday mornings not to watch cartoons, but Modern Farmer, which was broadcast on public television. Also from an early age Ed was fascinated by Abraham Lincoln and read every biography of Lincoln he could find.

In the summer following his high school graduation, Ed and the farmer, Christoph Piening, after haying, went for a swim to cool off in a neighbor’s swimming pool .  During that swim, Ed broke his neck. He was in the hospital and a rehab center near Schenectady for many months before returning home.  He would be a quadriplegic for the next 55 years.

A year later, Ed headed to the University of Illinois to study psychology.  Back then, Illinois was one of a very few colleges that were set up for students in wheelchairs. After receiving his BA he returned to Long Island and attended the Waldorf Institute which was a collaboration between Adelphi University and the Waldorf School of Adelphi University. He graduated with an MA in Education.

From then until his retirement almost 40 years later, Ed worked for the NY Federal Reserve Bank. He started in the cash department for several years before transferring to banking supervision and regulation where he was an operations support analyst. Buying an old police cruiser he had it modified with hand controls and drove into New York City every day.

While living on Long Island Ed participated in a wide range of activities. He was in the Waldorf Choral Society singing large choral works with George Rose, served as the Waldorf School’s alumni association president for many years, volunteered in the gardens at the school, and drove to New Hampshire dozens of weekends to help James and me host anthroposophical conferences at Camp Glen Brook.  He did all of his own upkeep and repairs on his homes – first rentals and later his own. With extraordinary will, endless patience, and ingenuity he mowed his lawn, shoveled his sidewalks, dug raised beds and grew amazing gardens, painted walls and ceilings, laid tile floors, hung sheetrock, pruned large shrubs and even sawed down small trees.  Ed was also part of some advertising campaigns for Jimmy Carter’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped in the late 70s.

Ed was on the Eastern Regional Council of the Anthroposophical Society for nearly two decades. As part of this work he drove all around the East coast and out to Ann Arbor. He was active in study groups on Long Island and was the catalyst for a number of conferences there. His home was filled with boxes of Steiner books because he always ran the book table at these conferences.  As you know from the book table downstairs after his death, Ed had a lot of books, and he had already just recently given away perhaps half of his library.

After retiring from the Federal Reserve Bank and having a health scare with a severe spinal infection, Ed realized that living by himself was going to be difficult. With our mother, already at the Fellowship since 2006, Ed decided to come as well about eight years ago. (Our father had passed away here in 2007) At the Fellowship Ed quickly took up gardening of course, and worked on streamlining the way the dining room and the laundry were set up. He was always the analyst with ideas for improvements. Recently he had been changing addresses and cancelling subscriptions and mailings for members who had died or moved away.  And after all those years in the financial world, he always had strong opinions about that too. 

Ed’s disability never kept him from living an exceptionally active and independent life.  He was a genius at rigging up amazing devices to accomplish everyday tasks. Even when there were commercially available devices available, Ed preferred to find a simple way to do things with ordinary supplies. Ed had no use of his left hand and could only close his thumb on his right hand, so everything he invented had to work around that.  Somehow that one tiny nerve bundle to his thumb was spared in his accident which made all the difference. Ed could push his wheelchair by pushing the heel of his hand on the tires, but he could not grip the push ring as most do in a chair. Even for his cars, he always took a standard car and had hand controls installed rather than something like a wheelchair van, in good part because it was much easier to park a small sedan in the city than a large van.

When Ed was hospitalized a couple months ago with an infection, a subsequent surgery and rehab, he had to patiently teach the nursing staff and even some of the doctors how to work with quadriplegic patients who could simply not do the procedures and therapies that 98% of their patients could.

Ed always quietly went about doing things that he saw needed doing without fuss or muss. He worked tirelessly to spruce up the courtyard gardens and the beds along the back driveway, spending his own money on new plantings, garden structures, and tools. Through the years he financially supported friends and colleagues who were going through a rough patch. He sent donations to various anthroposophical endeavors all over the country when he heard they needed funds. Ed always had time for a smile and kind word whether it was with the members, servers at restaurants, or custodians in the bank.  He took time to sit quietly with members who were approaching the end of life.

Ed was kind and generous, always had time to chat, and was a wonderful listener. He will be missed by so many of us whose lives he touched."


To make a gift to the Fellowship Community in honor of Ed Scherer please visit


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