Sparta woman steps away from 4-H leadership after six dedicated decades

Carol Schauf has decided to step away from volunteering as a 4-H leader, superintendent and volunteer at the Monroe County Fair after almost 60 years. Herald photo by Nicole Vik.

After nearly 60 years, Sparta native Carol Schauf has made the difficult decision to step down as a Monroe County 4-H Leader, Superintendent and volunteer at the Monroe County Fair.

Schauf grew up in the West Beaver Creek Valley just outside of Sparta, where she has lived her entire life aside from the five years she was away at college and working.

Even though she has been a leader for nearly six decades, her roots with 4-H grow much deeper as it became a part of her life when she was just 10 years old.

Back then, when children still attended country schools, all of the families would gather for a community picnic to celebrate the end of the school year.

The majority of the families that attended Schauf’s school were farm families and that’s how their 4-H club was first established; the West Beaver Creek 4-H Club.

She was a charter member from the time she was a young girl growing up around a farm kitchen table until she left for college; it is also how she first met her husband, Dick Schauf, who was over six years older than her. He felt he was too old to become a member and instead became one of the original leaders.

“I ended up marrying him later on when I came back from college,” Schauf said with a smile, adding that the couple was married in 1960. “Everyone has their own story, but 4-H has been such a big part of my life.”

Schauf became an official 4-H leader in 1962 with the persuasion of her neighbors. If someone were to ask her how she stayed with it for so many years her response is, “It just happened.”

Over the years, Schauf has volunteered alongside many other wonderful leaders who came and went. She served as a leader while her own children were in 4-H, when her grandchildren were in 4-H and continued after they aged out all the way up until her beloved club disbanded last year in the wake of COVID.

“When it first started, we had one of the most vibrant clubs in the area, but over the years the club just kept getting smaller and we could no longer draw kids in,” Schauf said. “Family structures have changed. Now that both parents typically work, families are much busier.”

Schauf feels a lot of pride toward 4-H families who are still dedicated. “4-H is family. The kids can’t do it without support from their families,” she said, adding how she has seen so many kids learn important life lessons through 4-H over the years.

After her 4-H club disbanded, Schauf felt it was a good time to step down as a superintendent also as she finds herself short on spare time these days.

After they were married, Schauf and her husband built their life together on the Schauf family homestead, where they raised their five children. Now, in her golden years, Schauf finds herself closing one chapter of her life to take on a new adventure.

She and her five children have spent the past four years or so turning the old family farm into Country Reflections, the perfect venue to host weddings, birthdays, reunions, dances and many other gatherings.

Schauf can’t walk away completely. She still hopes there will be a place for her to volunteer some of her time

“I can’t be a superintendent anymore because of the time commitment it takes but I would still like to help somehow,” Schauf said. “I would like to help at least one day to stay in touch with all of the wonderful people I’ve come to know over the years.”

The Monroe County Fair will kick off this week on Wednesday, July 21 at Tomah Recreation Park in Tomah.

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