Freda A. Rodgers Schnitzer
October 12, 2023
Freda A. Rodgers Schnitzer of Shelton, Washington passed away peacefully at the age of 93, on September 24, 2023. Freda was born in Moore, Montana on October 24, 1929, which she is quick to point out was the day the stock market crashed, precipitating the Great Depression.
As the youngest of eight children, Freda had happy memories of her early childhood on the Rodgers family ranch. Her parents, Russell and Cora Ellen (Lee) Rodgers homesteaded 160 acres adjacent to the Yogo Sapphire Mine site near Utica, Montana. Because her brothers and sisters were so much older than she was, Freda often felt like an only child and learned to entertain herself in the isolation of ranch life. Early on, she demonstrated a gift for music. She loved to sing and yodel, play her guitar and pretend she was Patsy Montana. Freda's ability to play "by ear" included both the guitar and the piano.
During the winter, Freda would be lifted by her mother onto her pony, Brownie's back, bundled in a sheepskin coat, mittens and warm leggings, she would ride about three miles to the Sapphire School in sub-zero temperatures. Once there, the older boys would help her dismount and stable the horse. The Sapphire School was in the Pig Eye School District and had an enrollment of four children: Judith Pennock was their teacher. Freda admired her teacher so much that she stayed in contact with Judith for more than 60 years, right up until Judith passed away in 2004. Another dear friend and role-model in Freda's life was her Montana friend and neighbor, Hazel Stull; their friendship spanned more than 65 years, with visits and volumes of letters exchanged which document not only their personal history, but also how it related to the early history of Utica, Montana.
During the 1930's, the older Rodgers children married and left Montana for employment opportunities in Shelton, WA, and in 1942 when she was 12, Freda and her mother joined them. In 1946, Freda married Raymond C. Schnitzer and they raised two sons, Tim and Dan. The Schnitzer home was filled with music. With Ray playing the guitar and Freda playing the piano, their boys' own talents and love of country music blossomed.
With the ending of World War II and looking for adventure, Freda and Ray moved to Anchorage, Alaska, in 1947. Ray went to work for the Alaska Railroad, and Freda found employment with the Alaska Air Command where she worked in the Supply Dept. During those years, Freda obtained her first driver's license from the Territory of Alaska. When they returned to Shelton in 1950, Ray and Freda built their family home. Freda worked for Simpson Timber Company in various office jobs in the 1950's and at KMAS radio station for 20 years, where she ended her career about 1990.
Freda's enthusiasm for life, love of people and her insatiable desire to learn new things are integral parts of her personality. Like a happy firecracker, she sparkled and danced with happiness. Laughter and playful teasing were her trademarks, but her family and friends know that Freda was also intensely loyal, kindhearted and generous to those close to her. She also volunteered her time at the Mason County Food Bank and at Treasures, a local nonprofit organization.
Antique hunting to find a piece of jewelry, a beautiful picture, or a great bargain always gave Freda a thrill. One time she bought a 1940's firefighter's officer cap for $3 and sold it for $45... Just one example of how skilled she was at recognizing potential! Freda also loved to travel, play her piano, listen to country music, read, and stay in touch with family and long-time friends. She's also been known to take an occasional motorcycle ride with her best friend Clay LaMont.
The loves of her life were her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and music... and her sons laughingly wonder if that is the correct order of occurrence!
Freda was preceded in death by her husband, Ray Schnitzer, her parents, her brothers, Vertus, Luther, Whitley, Russell, and Geral; sisters, Mae Ovist and Hattie Luhm. Freda is survived by sons, Tim Schnitzer (Sandy), Dan Schnitzer (Ann), granddaughter Michelle Corral (Bill), grandson, Ryan Schnitzer (Lauren) and great-granddaughters, Sophie and Kayla, plus many nieces and nephews.
The family will share plans for a Celebration of Life ceremony at a future date.