Woman's obituary for her badass cowboy brother goes viral

Tim Schrandt: Nun fighter, chimney smoker, legend.

Tim Schrandt: Nun fighter, chimney smoker, legend. Schluter-Balik Funeral Home

“Tim Schrandt (Lynyrd) made his last inappropriate comment on March 29, 2019. If you are wondering if you have ever met him, you didn’t – because you WOULD remember.”

Those were the opening sentences of 63-year-old Tim Schrandt’s obituary after he died at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, Wisconsin (it was one of the few regional hospitals near Decorah, Iowa). He’d lived in Spillville, Iowa – the fourth of eight brothers and sisters – and there was no one else in the world like him.

Now the whole internet knows that, because his obituary – written with love, sarcasm, and a bit of opportunistic derision by his younger sister, Pam Kopriva-Barnes – has gone viral. It’s been called a last rite for “the orneriest man in Iowa” and “possibly the best obituary ever written” by several news outlets, and spread far and wide on Facebook.

There was nobody alive like Schrandt, and there is no obituary out there like Kopriva-Barnes’. Her account of her brother ranges from the fact that he would have made the perfect cowboy if he’d been born 100 years earlier, to noting that he'd once gotten into “a fist-a-cuff” with a nun at St. Wenceslaus School in Spillville.

“In fairness,” Kopriva-Barnes wrote, “she probably started it. You didn’t take a swing at Tim and not expect one back.”

Kopriva-Barnes, who lives near Des Moines, is an avid obituary reader, but they often disappoint her. They tend to be so formulaic, so tepid.

“You might as well go to the courthouse,” she says.

She had been contemplating what an obituary really should be when her brother was suddenly diagnosed with cancer in early March. It was an aggressive form, and the family knew he didn’t have much time.

They spent as much of it as they could visiting and taking him to his treatments. For his part, Schrandt changed not one bit. He still wore his shirts three-quarters unbuttoned, even when it was freezing, and he still smoked like a chimney and used the word “fuck” with liberal, creative abandon. 

But the end of Schrandt’s life was closing in fast, and his sister did the only thing she could think of. One night, when she couldn’t sleep, she sat down and wrote his obituary with all the devil-may-care attitude and crustiness with which Schrandt had lived. There was no way he could be memorialized with a normal obit, she says – it would be like “burying him in a suit.” (Which they definitely did not do.)

She wrote about how he worked as a tool and die maker in Decorah, Iowa, with “many friends” and, in his words, “a bunch of morons.”

She wrote about his self-appointed position as “king” of his four younger siblings – a post that mostly amounted to ordering them around, tormenting them, and regaling them with his stories. He was a great orator – not like “Shakespeare,” but “more like Yogi Berra.”

She wrote about the stuff he’d leave behind for his family to deal with – like his Virgin Mary bathtub shrine. (If you’re interested in taking it off their hands, she wrote, please get in touch.)

She’d find out only later that, as she wrote, Schrandt had passed away at the hospital. She missed a text letting her know that he was gone.

“It was therapeutic to me to write it,” she says. “It was like a dump, if you will.”

People who knew him love it to pieces. People who didn’t know him, but are seeing it thanks to its wide spread on Facebook and local news, also love it. And that makes his sister happy, because he thought social media was dumb and useless and would have thought everyone was wasting their “fucking” time.

In other words, she finally got the last word over her bombastic, nun-fighting, orator-king of a big brother.

Schrandt was buried on Thursday at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Spillville. He was wearing his customary outfit of jeans and a “western shirt.” His family would have left his shirt unbuttoned if he hadn’t had so many treatments performed on his chest. A bottle of Old Style beer was buried with him.

Here's the obit in its entirety:

Tim Schrandt (Lynyrd) made his last inappropriate comment on March 29, 2019. If you are wondering if you may have ever met him, you didn't -because you WOULD remember. For those of you that did meet him, we apologize, as we're sure he probably offended you. He was world renowned for not holding back and telling it like it is.

Tim was born to William (Bill) Schrandt and Mary (Schrandt) Manning on June 11,1955 - 100 years too late. Given Tim's demeanor he would have been the perfect weathered cowboy in the old west or rough and tough pioneer, or maybe he just should have been Amish.

Tim was the 4th of 8 kids, the bottom rung of the top tier (the big kids). Instead of taking his place on that rung, listening to the older kids and doing as he was told by his older siblings, he decided to anoint himself "king" of the 4 little kids. Tim spent his childhood and early adulthood ordering them around and in general, tormenting them. He was a great orator, (not like Shakespear, but more like Yogi Berra), as he always had something to say,
and always had to get in the last word.

His position as "king" and orator was challenged by the nuns at St. Wenceslaus school in Spillville. He may have met his match. We’re not saying the nuns won, but they put up a good fight, we mean literally - he got into a fist-a-cuff with a nun. In fairness, she probably started it. You didn't take a swing at Tim and not expect one back. Tim's fondness for authority (his own - not others) followed him to South Winneshiek High School in Calmar and later into the Army. This provided for many interesting episodes and stories, detentions and demotions, and a few "run ins" with the law, not just locally, but globally.

Tim worked at Camcar/Stanley Black and Decker in Decorah as a tool and die maker for 30 plus years. Tim worked with many friends and “a bunch of morons”. His words, not ours. Well not exactly his, words because that would have included a bunch of swear words.

Tim leaves behind a hell of a lot of stuff that his family doesn't know what to do with. So, if you are looking for a Virgin Mary in a bathtub shrine (you Catholics know what we’re talking about) you should wait the appropriate amount of time and get in touch with them.

Tomorrow would be fine.

In addition to his stuff he leaves behind two great boys who he was extremely proud of, Cody (Jenny) Schrandt and Josh (Lydia) Schrandt were the product of his marriage to Crystal Hilmer. He will be missed by his two granddaughters that he adored and taught to cuss, Peyton and MacKenna. Also left to keep the stories alive (but damn, there won"t be any new material) are his mother Mary Manning and siblings Mike (Rita Dixon) Schrandt, Marty (Clint) Berg, Becky Schrandt-Miles, Bill (Grease) Schrandt, Pam (Rick) Barnes, Peter (Sandra) Schrandt and many nieces, nephews and cousins that wanted to hang out near him, because you just knew he was going to say or do something good. It’s not that he was such a great storyteller, it’s that he WAS the story!

To his siblings amazement he was actually able to snag a good woman, Cheryl Murray, and hold on to her for the past 13 years, and as far as we know restraints were not used. Tim also created great memories and stories for Cheryl’s kids Alex (Christina) Murray and Samantha (Evan) Luedking and grandkids Tatum and Grace.

He will be having a reunion with his infant daughter Ashley, his brother Duke, his dad Bill Schrandt, many aunts and uncles and a handful of cousins that passed before him. Tim was in charge of getting the beer and ice for our family reunions, so they will be happy to see him.

A common line in obituaries is “He never met a stranger”, in Tim’s case he never met a rule he couldn’t break, a boundary he couldn’t push, a line he couldn’t cross and a story he couldn’t stretch. Another common obituary phrase is “He’d give the shirt off his back”, well Tim was prepared to do that, and he could do it quickly, because he always wore his shirts
unbuttoned ¾ the way down. Tim was anything but common!

Despite his crusty exterior, cutting remarks and stubbornness, there is actual evidence that he was a loving, giving and caring person. That evidence is the deep sorrow and pain in our hearts that his family feels from his passing.

Tim led a good life and had a peaceful death - but the transition was a bitch. And for the record, he did not lose his battle with cancer. When he died, the cancer died, so technically it was a tie! He was ready to meet his Maker, we're just not sure "The Maker" is ready to meet Tim.

Good luck God!

We are considering establishing a Go-Fund-Me account for G. Heileman Brewing Co., the brewers of Old Style beer, as we anticipate they are about to experience significant hardship as a result of the loss of Tim"s business. Keep them in your thoughts.