Carolyn Bogott: Schindler waves the flag for the community of Austin

Published 4:39 pm Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Belita Schindler says she might be “Austin’s biggest flag- waving supporter!” And her motivation is that “Just as you take care of your home, you take care of your town.”

Belita moved here with her husband, Dick, and their four children, from Colorado, where Dick had been a physician assigned to the Air Force Academy. He joined the Austin Medical Center, and the rest of the family dived into life in Austin. About a month after arriving, Belita offered to play the organ at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church.  She is still playing there 50 years later!

Belita Schindler. Photo provided

Belita was raised in a close family including five daughters who were told  by the words and  the example  of very creative parents that they could do anything. Her father built an operating submarine in their garage in North Dakota and her mother designed and helped her husband to build a family lake cabin.

Belita has also engaged in many somewhat unconventional pursuits. Her husband signed her up for flying lessons and she became a pilot so they could visit North Dakota often. She also did long distance family bike trips from Austin to Fargo and from Fargo to Duluth. She took up roller blading at 40 and kept at it until age 71.

Her professional life here began  by working in interior decorating in Rochester and here in Austin for Robbins. Then she opened her own business, Belita’s Residential and Commercial Interiors, in 1978. Through this enterprise, she enhanced many homes and businesses until 2012 when she retired.

Belita has been involved in many organizations since 1972.

She is proud to have served on the Police Civil Service Commission for 10 years, and she has served on the boards of The Riverland College Foundation and Security Bank.

She gave much time, actual manual work, and significant financial contribution to the expansion project at the Hormel Historic Home to make it the treasure it is today.  Belita worked on the fundraising effort and with the architect on the plans, and then her business did all the interiors “at cost.”

A second big contribution Belita made to the community was her work helping establish the Austin ArtWorks Center. There again she was in on this project from the beginning, raising money and working with the architect and giving her time and energy to painting the walls of   that facility.  She continues to volunteer there. Belita also works on the Artworks Festival Committee each year in various capacities.

Now her attention is turning to being co-chair with Randy Kramer of the Historic Paramount Theater Expansion Committee. The Paramount structure was built nearly 100 years ago as a movie theater and, despite updates, was no longer up to fire and safety codes. It now has a fire suppression system; the exterior brickwork has had attention, and there is a system to help with hearing issues. There is a new roof, and the basement ventilation tunnels have been cleaned and mold treated.

But there are many issues still to be fixed, and once any structural changes are made, then the whole building must be brought up to code. The slope of the auditorium floor is too steep, the stage is not handicapped accessible, there is no handicapped access to the balcony, which means an elevator, there are no dressing rooms or loading dock, and no place to build sets or store equipment during performances. A huge issue is the size of the current lobby. It is too small. The building code specifies how big the lobby must be based on the number of seats in the theater. And most obvious is the fact that there are no restrooms on the main floor. Belita hopes to see this project, her current passion, through to completion as another shining gem in Austin.

Belita does not know a stranger. She finds everyone worth getting to know!  Her children, and the several exchange students their family welcomed, all learned this warm and open attitude.

She says her philosophy of life is summed up in something she heard as a Blandin Fellow: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Austin is so fortunate to have the talents and generosity of this remarkable woman!

For more information about the Austin Branch of AAUW, contact Sue Grove  sue.grove@riverland.edu  or Carolyn Bogott  csbogott@gmail.com . The American Association of University Women, now AAUW, is open to anyone who has completed a two-year degree or beyond.  AAUW welcomes men who support our objectives and there are student memberships available. AAUW has been empowering women since 1881.  We support equity and education for women.  Scholarships are offered, as well as help in litigation in cases dealing with sex discrimination.  We are the most important and highly respected research and lobbying organization dealing with women’s issues such as equal opportunity and job equality.