By Mike Fletcher
Tribune crime reporter
Dennis and Judy Schulte were more than educators. They were parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors.
That’s how they were remembered Wednesday evening as hundreds of family and friends gathered in Western High School’s gymnasium to mourn the popular teachers.
Theirs lives came to an abrupt end March 25 when the couple along with their daughter-in-law and grandson were struck by a suspected drunken driver as they crossed a street in northern Seattle. The Schultes moved to Seattle recently to be closer to their son Dan; his wife, Karina Ulriksen-Schulte; and newborn grandson, Elias José Schulte, who both are recovering from their injuries in a Seattle hospital.
The tragedy has left two cities mourning.
“We are gathered this evening to honor two of the most wonderful people God ever created,” said Pastor Steve Cole in his opening prayer. “Dennis and Judy touched all of our lives.”
A retired guidance director at Northwestern High School, Judy, 68, retired in 2008 after 19 years. Dennis, 66, taught math at and retired from Western High School in 2006 after 33 years. Dennis also served as assistant coach for the wrestling squad and football team at Western.
Cole’s opening statements were followed by a military salute from the U.S. Army and the Kokomo VFW Military Rites Team.
One-by-one family and friends then stepped to the podium to share memories and to reflect on the lives of two people who touched so many people.
Tim McElfresh, who said he was like a son to the Schultes, said if Dennis and Judy were here today they would be embarrassed by all of the people gathered for them.
“I never called him by his first name, I called him coach,” said McElfresh. “They were about the simple things - family, friends and relationships.”
He recalled how the couple devoted their lives helping others.
One thing that stood out to McElfresh is the joy Dennis got out of having people refer to him simply as coach.
“He always said how he liked being called coach by former Panthers.”
“I loved them very much,” said former fellow Western teacher and friend, Jeff Hunt.
“I don’t know if I ever expressed that to them,” a tearful Hunt said.
Hunt described Dennis as being a true friend who taught him a lot.
“He was steadfast, caring — so many things I cherished,” Hunt said.
“Judy gave so much of herself to so many,” said Paul Schulte, Dennis’ brother.
Judy’s sister, Susan Morton, referred to her sister as “our protector and big sister.”
Morton said Judy was artist and loved music.
“She was not a musician, but she loved music,” said Morton. She liked to listen to Johnny Rivers, Tennessee Ernie Ford to name a few, but her favorite was the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, Morton said.
“I’ll tell you a few facts about Judy you may not know. She always wanted a yellow convertible and wanted to sail the seas to Ireland,” Morton said.
“When Judy met a friend, they were a friend for life.”
Dr. Todd Cummings, a friend of Dan Schulte, Dennis and Judy’s son, also read a statement from Dan, who is in Seattle caring for his wife and son.
“I’m exactly where my mom and dad would want to be - with my family,” Cummings read.
“My parents made this world a better place.”
As a coach, Dan said his father always stressed that the kids came first, not winning.
Cummings said Dan also wanted to thank everyone for their overwhelming support and asked that everyone keep his wife and son in their prayers.
The Schulte family also wrote a statement letting everyone know how thankful they were during these hard times.
“People from all over have helped with their prayers, kind words and financial support. We would especially like to thank the communities of Seattle, Santiago de Chili, Kokomo, Russiaville and the rest of Indiana.”
The statement also said Karina and Elias have made some progress in their recovery.
“We feel they are both now in stable conditions, but there is certainly a long road of recovery before them.”
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