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Ethel Anne Schaaf

June 21, 1926 ~ June 17, 2022

Ethel Anne Schaaf (Knapik) passed on peacefully and surrounded by family on June 17, 2022 at the age of 95, ready for her next adventure. She is deeply loved and profoundly missed. She was born in Cleveland on June 21, 1926, to John and Anna Knapik, teenage emigrees from what later became Czechoslovakia. Ethel was the youngest of 8 children and grew up during the Great Depression, which strongly affected her belief in hard work and her gratefulness for what she had. After graduating in Cleveland from Notre Dame Academy in 1944 and St. John Hospital School of Nursing in 1947, she took her first plane flight to Los Angeles, wearing a suit, matched hat, and white gloves. In this land of strawberry farms and orange groves, she met the love of her life, Frederick Schaaf, a Veteran’s Hospital surgeon, as she was passing him sterile instruments in the operating room. They married in Santa Barbara, California on September 3, 1950. Their mutual delight, passion, and deep respect continued until Frederick passed on 63 years later. In the mid-1950’s they moved to northern California, first to the untracked hills of Redwood City, then to the quiet towns of Palo Alto and Menlo Park, where they raised three children. Although devoted to her husband and family, Ethel was always eager for new opportunities to learn, to help, and to care for others. After working as a nurse, she signed up–again as a nurse–for the local schools. Ethel was also active in scouting, numerous church activities, along with neighborhood and school committees, and later became a Spiritual Care Counselor at Stanford Hospital. Always absorbed by artistry and beauty, she volunteered as a docent for the Stanford Museum of Art for 24 years. During this time, she enrolled at the College of Notre Dame in Belmont, California, receiving her BA in Art History at the age of 60. She was charmed and excited by the young schoolchildren into whose classes she brought the museum teaching portfolio of ancient Chinese art. During these years, Ethel and her darling Fred were drawn to experience new people and cultures around the world, sometimes with their children. They traveled to Europe, Mexico, and Canada, across the US and back, through the Northwest passage in Alaska, to the newly opened China, various islands of Hawaii, Russia, the South Pacific, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Israel, and Egypt. In her mid-eighties, Ethel moved to a supportive living community in Marin County, close to her daughter and family. There she lived each moment with grace and gratitude. Our beloved Ethel is survived by her son, Gregory Schaaf; her daughter, V. Mylo Schaaf (and husband Daniel Lowenstein); her grand-son, Stefan Lowenstein; her grand-daughter, Mira Lowenstein; her dear niece, Annette Gadus; as well as other members–loved and too numerous to name–of her family and of Frederick’s family; and finally, her treasured friends, including members of the Church Ladies from Saint Raymond’s Catholic Church. Small private memorial services have been held at Fernwood Cemetery in Mill Valley, California and at Alma Via in San Rafael. She is pre-deceased by her husband, Frederick Schaaf, and her son, Brian Schaaf. Any memorial contributions can be sent to the College of Notre Dame, Belmont, California, or to the charity of your choice.

If you would like to learn more about our services, please contact Fernwood Cemetery and Funeral Home at: 415-383-7100 or through the form on our Contact page.

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