Milton Henry Schaap was born to Henry and Mary Schaap on the Arie Vis farm in rural Leota, Minnesota, on March 26, 1937, at the tail end of a March snowstorm. In fact, the doctor had to make a house call to the Schaap residence in a special “snow machine” just to deliver Milt.
Milt grew up milking cows on his family’s small dairy farm in various locations in Murray and Nobles counties. When he had time, Dad loved to escape into the outdoors. He first shot a twelve-gauge when he and Don DeBoer smuggled the gun down his pant leg to the pasture one Sunday afternoon where the kick set Milt on his behind, and he ran a trapline through high school.
Dad attended Leota Christian School where he had less than stellar memories (even though he would later be a strong supporter of Christian education) but that made his escape to Chandler High School all the more glorious. Dad fondly remembered his freshmen initiation—wearing his clothing backwards. At Chandler High School, Dad made lifelong friends playing basketball and football when farm work would allow and joining Slayton Golden Gloves where he once knocked out his friend Lloyd Bremer.
Dad’s shining memory of high school was learning to play the trumpet, which his mother Mary—also a music lover—paid for with egg money. Dad was proud of the duets he played on that trumpet with his mother and of being first chair trumpet in the new Chandler High School band.
On June 7, 1957, Milt married his grade school flame, Hattie Jean Schelhaas, from the Chandler hills. Milt would later say, in his self-deprecating way, that the dunce married the valedictorian. They settled down to life on his family farm in rural Chandler, Minnesota, where Dad ran a model dairy farm, earning the Young Farmer of the Year award for the State of Minnesota in 1963. He and Jean had four children whom they love dearly: Carmen, Lisa, Heidi, and Howard.
Milt and Jean had a vision for their farm as a place through which to touch the world. The couple hosted Milt’s nephews from Lansing, Illinois, during the summer, where hijinks abounded. The boys Rispens could not even sneak a cigarette in the barn for Uncle Milt setting off firecrackers to scare them. Dad loved to laugh, “cut up,” and play practical jokes. Whether it was doing voices and crow calls, delivering one-liners, or stealing food off your plate, Dad brought fun wherever he went.
Milt and Jean also hosted foreign exchange students on their farm from England, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, and, after the Iron Curtain fell, from Azerbaijan. In these students, Milt saw an opportunity to bring a taste of the world to their farm but also to share the warmth of their home and the gospel with these young men. Several of these students became lifelong friends and “sons.”
After weathering the 1980s farm crisis, Mom and Dad moved to St. Louis Park and then Hopkins, Minnesota, in 1994. Dad worked several jobs during these years, including long-distance trucking for Bayliner Boats and working as a janitor at Eden Prairie Public Schools and Home Depot. He thought of each job as an opportunity to meet new people. Dad would talk to anyone he met, simply starting up a conversation with the line, “What part of the country are you from?”
Another passion of Dad’s was fishing. He taught all of his kids to fish crappies on the dikes of Lake Shetek, bribing them with ice cream cones from the Hub on the way home. In 1999, Dad fulfilled a lifelong dream when he and Mom moved “up north” to Breezy Point, MN, where he could fish in the pristine lakes of Minnesota in his Bluefin boat, a prized possession.
Milt and Jean remained busy volunteering in the Breezy Point community. Dad mentored a boy named Brandon through Kinship Partners, teaching him to shoot the old Winchester pump .22 from his trapline days. He also volunteered to take people with disabilities fishing and sponsored several men through the Teen Challenge Program.
In 2014, Milt and Jean moved back to Edgerton, Minnesota, to be close to their children in the area. Milt contracted a lung infection in November of 2020 and then Covid-19. On December 20, 2020, surrounded by his wife and children, Milt went to be with his Lord.
He is lovingly remembered by his wife Hattie Jean (Schelhaas) Schaap; four children, Carmen Hansen of Eden Prairie and her children Kiersten Hansen, Thor (Kelsey) Hansen, and Annika Hansen; Lisa Kelley of Woodstock, MN, and her children Brittany (Chris) Wangsness, Austin (Allison) Kruisselbrink, and Taylor Kruisselbrink; Heidi Eyestone of Northfield, MN, and her son Connor; and Howard Schaap and his wife Sy of Edgerton, and their children Sommer, Micah, and Aidan; eight great grandchildren; and his sister Irene Feikema of Edgerton.
He was preceded in death by his brother Howard Calvin Schaap, who was killed in action in the Korean War when Milt was 13; by his sister Frieda Rispens of Lansing, IL; by his son-in-law Thor Hansen of Eden Prairie, MN; and by his parents, Henry and Mary (Bolluyt) Schaap.
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