Meet John Schaller
Chairman, LSS Board of Directors
John Schaller’s relationship with LSS began at birth, literally. Our board chairman was adopted by his forever family through our organizatoin when he was a baby. Today, John is in his seventh year on the board, and he has dedicated his efforts towards strengthening the organization so it can continue the work of changing lives.
John’s story is not unlike those of other adopted children. He was born to a young woman who lived in West Allis. She was not prepared to care for a baby, so she hid her pregnancy from everyone, including her own parents. When John was born, she gave him up for adoption, and in every way, the young adoptive couple became his parents and he, their son.
As he grew older, married and became a father, he would toss around the idea of finding his birth parents intermittently, reasoning that it would be wise to know more about his biological family’s medical history. In the 1950s, adoptions were closed and even secretive, and adopted children were kept in the dark about their biological parents’ identities.
After John’s father, in one of their last visits together, encouraged him to find his birth parents, John began the search process. An investigator was hired, paperwork was filed and eventually John was directed to LSS – even though he knew nothing about the organization other than its role in his adoption. One of our staff members located his mother, but to his surprise, she didn’t want to meet him. She did, however, agree to receive letters from him. John wrote to her four or five times over the next year and a half, and received one short card in return. But that tenuous connection was enough.
When a second request was made, his birth mother agreed to a phone call. That 45-minute conversation marked a turning point for the son and his mother, and they eventually met in person. In what might be described as a divine appointment, he discovered that his next scheduled business trip would take him to the very city in which she lived! Gradually, they established a relationship in which they saw each other and spoke regularly. When John remarried in 1998, both of his mothers were there to celebrate.
The reunion with his birth mother sparked another relationship -- with LSS. For five years, he participated in several adoption triads. It was a program that brought together birth parents and prospective adoptive parents with adult adoptees, like John, to share their experiences.
“I truly enjoyed it, and I really think I got far more out of the program than I ever gave to it. It was a cathartic experience,” said John.
In 1994, after two years as an assistant district attorney in Milwaukee and 18 years as a trial lawyer for Fox, O’Neill and Shannon, he began a second career as the successful owner of the House of Harley, a Harley Davidson dealership in Milwaukee. John is just one of 13 dealers to serve on the company’s World Council and has built relationships with other dealers including those in Mexico, Korea and Saudi Arabia.
He is presently finishing his third year as our Board Chairman.
One of his goals is to see more of the agency’s wonderful stories told. “We are the largest social service agency in the state of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, and no one knows everything we do,” he explained.
John is married to Sue, and has three grown children, Gretchen, Betsy and Stephen and five grandchildren. Sue enjoys riding on the back of John's Harley, and together they’ve traveled across the country several times.