Richard Schoofs

Obituary of Richard Schoofs

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Richard J. Schoofs — an inventor, entrepreneur, loving husband, and father of three children — died of respiratory failure on October 19. He was 91 years old and had lived in Moraga and Walnut Creek, California, for close to six decades. Mr. Schoofs was born in 1930 to Irene Julia and Louis Frederick Schoofs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. When he was 14, his father, who worked at a factory, died, and the family struggled financially. His early education centered around a Catholic church that sat on a hill overlooking the town and Lake Michigan. He often served as an altar boy for early morning mass, and his teachers at the Catholic grade school encouraged him to be a priest, but he had other ideas. He enrolled in the University of Wisconsin in Madison. To save costs, he found lodging in a funeral home where, in lieu of rent, he helped collect bodies at all hours of the night. Still, he ran out of money and told the dean he would have to drop out. Fortunately, the dean provided a small scholarship which, along with ROTC and various jobs, enabled Mr. Schoofs to graduate in 1953 with a degree in chemical engineering. As an alumnus, he repaid the debt many times over through donations to the university and by creating and funding the Schoofs Creativity Prize, which for two decades honored the best student inventions with cash awards, as well as support in patenting and marketing. In his senior year in college, he and some Alpha Chi Rho fraternity brothers drove across the country to Pasadena to watch the Badgers play the USC Trojans in the 1952 Rose Bowl. The Badgers lost the game, but Mr. Schoofs won something that lasted a lifetime: a love for California, which dazzled him. “It was so fresh and clean and bright,” he recalled many years later. After graduation, he chose a job with Shell Oil Company in the Bay Area and rented a room in a fraternity at the University of California, Berkeley. Mr. Schoofs and a fraternity brother stopped to visit the latter’s girlfriend at an all-women’s dorm. As they approached, another resident, Therese Laponis, leaned out of a window above and called out a warm hello. Mr. Schoofs and Ms. Laponis soon began dating, including on an evening in the Berkeley Rose Garden, which would later hold an enduring place in the couple’s memory. They carried on a long-distance romance when he joined the Army and she worked for the CIA in Hong Kong. To be closer to her, he had wanted to serve in Asia, but the Army stationed him in Alabama, where Second Lieutenant Schoofs used his chemical engineering knowledge to teach defense against chemical warfare. After leaving the Army, Mr. Schoofs studied at Yale University and obtained a master’s degree in chemical engineering. The couple married in California in June 1957, and later had three children. Early in their marriage, Mr. Schoofs earned a Fulbright scholarship to study at Delft University of Technology in Holland, and their time in Europe was one of the highlights of their life together. After Mr. Schoofs started his career at Shell Oil Company, he worked for Union Carbide. But he chafed at corporate life and so, in 1968, with three children, he and Therese launched R. J. Schoofs and Associates, later renamed Schoofs Incorporated. It sold adsorption and purification agents used in a wide variety of industries, from oil refining to pasta production, and Mr. Schoofs often used his chemical engineering expertise to make his customers’ processes more efficient. His company soon dominated the market west of the Mississippi. In 2001, Mr. Schoofs passed his company to his eldest son, Greg Schoofs, also a chemical engineer, which was later acquired by a larger company. Mr. Schoofs was an avid inventor, acquiring numerous patents, including some together with his son Greg. One of his most commercially successful patents reduced moisture between the panes of double-glazed windows and minimized expansion and contraction of the gas between the window panes, ultimately preventing many windows from breaking. Richard and Therese Schoofs became disillusioned with the Roman Catholic Church over many issues, including its claim of papal infallibility and its treatment of women and gay people. But Mr. Schoofs read widely about religion, and in recent years learned meditation at the Buddha Gate Monastery in Lafayette, California. Therese was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2005, and he cared for her until her death in July 2006. They had been married for more than 49 years, and he did not remarry. Mr. Schoofs remained in good health and good spirits until his final days. He was a regular at several restaurants in the East Bay, where he ate heartily, almost always with a few glasses of white wine. He rose at 4:30 a.m. and walked for more than an hour every day, often stopping to chat with whomever happened to be on the streets. He maintained this routine until about a week before his death. He is survived by his son Gregory; his daughter Marlene and her partner Cathy Garrett; his son Mark, his husband Jorge Santana Corona, and their daughter Therese Santana Schoofs; his brother Father Robert Schoofs; his sister Mary Joan Prieve, and many other relatives and friends. Donations in memory of Richard Schoofs can be made to the John Muir Land Trust, which preserves open land in the East Bay hills, and UCSF, which carries out world-class medical research, education, and care.
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Richard Schoofs

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Richard Schoofs

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

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