Elmer Edward Schallenberg, 91, of Wappingers Falls, New York, passed on peacefully on April 19, 2021, surrounded by his family at Vassar Brothers Medical Center where he received comforting care during his short stay.
Elmer was born on December 30, 1929, in Rome, New York, to Edward and Elisabeth Reich Schallenberg, formerly of Switzerland. From his youth through to his passing, Elmer was an admirably humble person, never forgetting his roots. While he helped his father on the family farm, Elmer knew at an early age, after receiving his first chemistry set, that he wanted to become a chemist.
His elementary education was in a one-room schoolhouse. He graduated valedictorian of his class from Verona High School in 1947 and received his bachelor’s with honors from Cornell University in 1951, with a double major in chemistry and mathematics. Besides his love of science, Elmer often shared fond memories of playing clarinet in the marching band.
While completing his PhD in chemistry in 1954 from the University of California, Berkeley, Elmer did his dissertation under Professor Melvin Calvin, a 1961 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry. His favorite story of his years at Berkeley was when he was short of cash and hitchhiked across the U.S. to visit his parents on the farm.
Elmer served in the Army Reserves while beginning his career as a chemist at Texaco Research Center in Glenham, New York. On a trip to New York City, he met his future wife, Thea Stauber, on a double date. They married in Thea’s hometown of Dietikon-Zurich, Switzerland, in 1957.
Settling in Fishkill, New York, they began their family and became lifelong members of the First Reformed Church, with Elmer serving in Consistory as an Elder. He was also active in assisting the local Boy Scouts of America.
Along with 20 years at Texaco in Glenham and numerous patents developed during his work, Elmer’s international background served him well during more than 10 years of work assignments in London, England, and Hamburg, Germany, where he was Manager of Texaco Technologie Europe.
Retiring in 1991, Elmer and Thea settled in their family home in Switzerland, where they enjoyed travelling in Europe and spending time in his father’s native region, the Bernese Oberland, where Elmer still had cousins. After returning to Fishkill, Elmer kept busy with various hobbies, tending to his flower garden, collecting stamps, and feeding birds in the wintertime.
And if recognition could be given for daily puzzle solving, Elmer’s devotion to The New York Times’ crossword and the Poughkeepsie Journal’s sudoku would win an award. He never said no to a daily game of Rummikub.
Always keeping ties with his alma mater, Elmer served on the Cornell Council, was an active fundraiser for the university, and attended his 65th reunion in 2016. He was proud to be the first of three generations of Cornell graduates. Shortly before his death, he was recognized by the American Chemical Society for 70 years of service.
The family is very grateful for assistance provided during the last six months of Elmer’s life by home care aides and caring friends, as he dealt with dysphagia.
A devoted husband and family man, Elmer is survived by his beloved wife Thea of Wappingers Falls, NY; daughter Heidi Sweeney Schallenberg with her husband Philip of Scotch Plains, NJ; son Eric Schallenberg of Geneva, Switzerland; and grandsons Martin and James Sweeney. Elmer was predeceased by his son David Schallenberg.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to either the Science of Aging Fund of the University of Wisconsin Foundation at https://secure.supportuw.org/give/ (the Fund advances education and research in management of age-related conditions, including dysphagia) or the Foundation for Abilities First NY at https://www.abilitiesfirstny.org/make-an-impact/donate/, which serves children and adults with developmental disabilities in the Mid-Hudson Valley region of New York State. A memorial service will be held at a later date to celebrate Elmer’s life.