Paul Richard Schneider (1918-1947)



Shortly before Paul Richard Schneider died, his brother Max wrote a letter imploring him to come home to his native New Orleans. Paul wrote back, recounting the feeling of walking along the shores of Tule Lake at dawn, the frost crunching beneath his feet, watching the sunlit geese land on the water. "This is God's country," he told his brother. "I will never leave." He never did. Only months later, on May 22, 1947, Paul Schneider, while planting grain for those geese, fell beneath his tractor and died alone in a field alongside the lake. He left behind his pregnant wife, Nora Marie Schneider, his five-year-old son, Jeremiah Regan Schneider and his two-year-old daughter, Noralee Martha Schneider. With the kind help of the Fish and Wildlife Service, friends, and neighbors, the family returned to Nora's native Massachusetts, where the couple's third child was born and named Richard Paul Schneider in homage to his late father.

Paul Schneider died far from home. In 1918 he was born in New Orleans to a German-American family and raised by his widowed mother. She had attended a school for seamstresses in Germany, and supported her three children with her sewing. Paul grew up between the Audubon zoo and the Mississippi River, and spent his childhood playing on the river levee not far from his home. When he could, he crossed Lake Pontchartrain to play in a wooded camp he loved. He had little use for school, saving his talents for the annual Mardi Gras parade. Once he dressed convincingly as an old woman. And one year he and his friends won a best costume prize from the Times-Picayune newspaper for parading as the comic strip character Alley Oop and entourage, complete with dinosaur.

Paul followed his older brother Max into the Reserves, then joined the Marines before World War II. While stationed in Massachusetts, he met the bright-eyed, dark-haired Irish-American girl who won his heart and his ring. Married and with a family on the way, Paul left the marines after his hitch and went to work for the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. When a clerk's job opened a the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge in northern California he jumped at the chance. The family moved into an old Civilian Conservation Corps barracks. Tule Lake, at that time also housed an internment camp. Paul was not a political man, but he told his wife privately that the internment of Japanese Americans troubled him. In 1944 the war reached its climax and he was drafted back into the Marines, who sent him to Parris Island, South Carolina, to train recruits in firing machine guns. With the end of the war, he sailed to Japan with the U.S. occupation forces. The moment his tour in Japan ended in the summer of 1946, Paul Schneider headed back to Tule Lake and called for his family. He happily took an outside job as a maintenance man instead of his old clerk's position. For the year before he died, he worked, hunted, played and raised his family alongside the lake he loved. And where he now lives for eternity, in God's country.

The frost upon the shore
The geese upon the lake
May this moment live forever
When my soul you come to take

Source: Richard Cole, son of deceased.

Cause of Death

On May 22, 1947, Paul Schneider was operating a D-8 tractor with a bulldozer blade and pulling a double-rigged disc, breaking ground in a 500 acre field to plant grain for birds eight miles south of Tule Lake. Sometime about 4:00 p.m. Paul's left foot apparently became caught in the bulldozer blade shaft yanking him off the tractor and onto the ground. The tractor passed over Schneider's head and body, followed by the disc rolling his body several feet along the ground. Another worker, Ward Arnold, was operating a second tractor in the field but did not see the accident. Approximately 45 minutes had passed before he noticed Schneider's machine stalled against the dike and went to investigate. Paul was killed instantly.


Klamath Falls, Oregon Herald & News