Otto Frederick Schoerner (1906 - 2008)

Missionary spent years working in China

By Joan Giangrasse Kates | Special to the Tribune
June 1, 2008

Otto Frederick Schoerner was 16 when his father died. He turned to books for comfort and strength.

The Pennsylvania native found inspiration in the biography of a British missionary to China, Dr. James Hudson Taylor, who founded the China Inland Mission in 1865, family members said.

Mr. Schoerner "was so moved by [Taylor's] story and what he learned about China that he decided right then to become a missionary," Mr. Schoerner's son James said.

Mr. Schoerner's spiritual journey brought him to the Moody Institute in Chicago, and then China, where he met his wife of 61 years.

Mr. Schoerner, 101, a retired staff member of the Moody Bible Institute and former missionary with the China Inland Mission, died of heart failure Sunday, May 18, in Windsor's Johnson Healthcare Center in Carol Stream.

The son of German immigrants, Mr. Schoerner was born in Uniontown, Penn., and grew up in nearby Butler.

He graduated from the Moody Bible Institute in 1931, joined the China Inland Mission and was sent to Shanghai to study Chinese for several months.

For the next six years, Mr. Schoerner preached the word of God and helped improve the lives of thousands of Chinese, family members said.

"He developed a deep love for the Chinese people and planted the seed for many lifelong friendships," said another son, Bill.

In 1938, Mr. Schoerner wrote a letter that included a marriage proposal to his close friend and Moody Bible Institute classmate Katharine Dodd, who was also in China at the time, serving as a missionary in Shanghai. They married that year.

Soon after, the couple took a two-year furlough in the United States, but they returned to China in 1940 to the province of Gansu, where he was business manager of Borden Memorial Hospital for seven years.

He served for a time as the hospital's superintendent until 1951, when growing hostility between the United States and the new Communist regime of the People's Republic of China caused the China Inland Mission to summon all of its missionaries out of the country.

In 1952, Mr. Schoerner settled with his family on Chicago's South Side and began working at the Moody Bible Institute, where he held many titles.

After retiring in 1972, Mr. Schoerner traveled around the world and visited missionaries. In 1993, he moved to Windsor Manor Park in Carol Stream with his wife, with whom he had had five children. She died in 2000, after 61 years of marriage.

Other survivors include a daughter, Anna Loss; and three grandchildren.

Services have been held.