When Tim Schrandt died, his sister Pam Kopriva-Barnes saw an opportunity to tell the world what her brother was really like in his obituary. And it’s safe to say that she didn’t hold back, either. Yes, while it appeared that Kopriva-Barnes’ sibling was known for his sharp tongue, her tribute to her brother definitely gave Schrandt a run for his money.
As many know, an obituary is chiefly a piece of writing that reports on the passing of a person. Sometimes this notice may contain details of the deceased’s life and achievements; alternatively, it may simply announce the death or outline funeral arrangements. Traditionally, obituaries appeared in newspapers – and the longer the entry, the more important the person tended to be.
And in the past, newspaper reporters would typically research and write obituaries themselves. It has become more common over the years, however, for families to pen their own tributes to lost loved ones. Their heartfelt words are then usually distributed either in print or – as is becoming increasingly the case – online.
Often an obituary will acknowledge the death of an individual and express pain for their passing while also celebrating the joy that person created during their lifetime. The notice may additionally detail the achievements of the dearly departed in both their personal and professional lives.
And some consider obituaries as a lasting legacy – an artifact that people will look back on in years to come in order to gauge the deceased’s life. Perhaps as a result, then, some now prefer to write their own obituaries. That way, they may feel as though they’ve had the final say.
But if another decides to sum up your existence, the results may not be flattering. And one notable individual who was given the dubious honor of seeing his obituary before the end of his life was Alfred Nobel. When the dynamite inventor’s brother died in 1888, you see, the press accidentally published notices erroneously proclaiming Nobel’s passing. What’s more, in a particularly scathing report, the Swedish chemist was described as a “merchant of death.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Nobel was distressed to realize that he would largely be remembered for the loss of life that had been caused as a result of his invention. Consequently, he founded the Nobel Prizes – awards that are handed out in the fields of literature, chemistry, physics, medicine and peace. It was Nobel’s intention, moreover, to honor actions that had been of “the greatest benefit to mankind.”
So, in putting his name to something positive, Nobel was able to change his legacy for the better. And perhaps more of us would reconsider the paths that our lives have taken if we pondered the lasting impact they may have long after we’ve departed. After all, not many would like to be the subject of a totally savage obituary.
And Tim Schrandt certainly received a death notice that strayed from the ordinary platitudes. The resident of Spillville, Iowa, had passed away in March 2019 after being diagnosed with cancer. As his sister Pam Kopriva-Barnes’ candid final tribute attests, though, while Schrandt may now be gone, it will likely be a very long time before the colorful character is forgotten.
To begin with, Schrandt entered the world in June 1955. He was the fourth out of eight children to parents Bill and Mary and attended St. Wenceslaus, a Catholic school in his hometown. Then, after graduating from South Winneshiek High School in nearby Calmar, Schrandt decided to join the Army.
And following his time in the military, Schrandt spent more than three decades making tools and dies as his profession. He also married Crystal Hilmer, with whom he had two sons: Cody and Josh. Then, after ultimately splitting from his boys’ mom, Schrandt went on to have a 13-year relationship with a woman named Cheryl Murray.
Through Murray, Schrandt became a stepfather and eventual step-grandfather. He also had two granddaughters through his biological children – adding to an already large family that included many siblings, nieces, nephews and cousins. But despite the size of Schrandt’s clan, it seems that the man marked himself out as a figurehead.
Naturally, then, those close to Schrandt felt his untimely passing acutely. The 63-year-old had received a diagnosis of an aggressive kind of cancer in early March, and tragically he would not see the month out. However, throughout his time with the disease, Schrandt often had his family by his side.
And even as Schrandt’s illness progressed, his unique personality shone through. He still apparently wore his shirts mostly unbuttoned in his signature style, for example. He is also said to have refused to quit smoking and continued to curse liberally. In all, Schrandt simply refused to let cancer rob him of his character – something Kopriva-Barnes happened to notice.
So, during the evening of one of the final days of Schrandt’s life, Kopriva-Barnes was finding it impossible to get off to sleep. Consequently, she sat down and began penning an obituary for her brother that aimed to encapsulate Schrandt’s nonchalant attitude and tendency towards cantankerousness. And the result was decidedly hilarious.
Announcing her brother’s death in his obituary, Kopriva-Barnes wrote, “Tim Schrandt 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,” she added, “we apologize, as we’re sure he probably offended you.”
Kopriva-Barnes went on to say that Schrandt was “world renowned for not holding back and telling it like it is.” And she proceeded to give some examples of her brother’s devil-may-care approach to life. These included one memorable moment from his childhood when he came to blows with one of the nuns at St. Wenceslaus.
Referring to the incident in Schrandt’s obituary, Kopriva-Barnes revealed, “He got into [fisticuffs] with a nun. In fairness, she probably started it. You didn’t take a swing at Tim and not expect one back.” And from the sister’s account of her sibling, it appeared that a disregard for the rules was a common thread in the rich tapestry of Schrandt’s life.
As Kopriva-Barnes revealed, “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.”
And while it may appear that Schrandt had settled down somewhat upon establishing himself as a tool and die maker, he seemingly wasn’t particularly fond of some of his colleagues. “Tim worked with many friends and ‘a bunch of morons.’ His words, not ours,” his obituary reads.
That said, it wasn’t just Schrandt’s attitude that made him a maverick. Kopriva-Barnes revealed, “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.”
However, while Kopriva-Barnes’ tribute to her brother apparently showed that a sense of humor ran in the family, there were also tender moments in the obituary. For instance, Kopriva-Barnes recalled how her brother had relished in his self-appointed position as “king” of his younger siblings – her included. “Tim spent his childhood and early adulthood ordering them around and, in general, tormenting them,” she wrote.
And in Schrandt’s obituary, Kopriva-Barnes went on to pay tribute to her brother’s “two great boys, who he was extremely proud of.” She added, “He will be missed by his two granddaughters that he adored and taught to cuss.” There was regret, too, that the wider family wouldn’t have “any new material” after “great orator” Schrandt had passed.
Indeed, according to his obituary, Schrandt was often the center of attention. “Many [relatives] 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,” it read. Still, Kopriva-Barnes promised that her brother’s legacy would be kept alive by those whom he had left behind.
What’s more, Schrandt’s sister suggested that he had now gone to a big party in the sky. “[Schrandt] 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,” his obituary read.
And in wrapping up her tribute, Kopriva-Barnes confirmed that Schrandt would be remembered to those who knew him as an eternal rebel. “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,” she wrote.
In a sweet tribute to Schrandt, the obit continued, “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.”
Speaking of Schrandt’s final days, Kopriva-Barnes added, “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.”
Then, finally, the obituary came to a close by mentioning something close to Schrandt’s heart: booze. The final paragraph read, “We are considering establishing a GoFundMe 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.”
So, while the obituary may have been unconventional, its irreverence seemingly summed up Schrandt perfectly. Kopriva-Barnes apparently thought as much, anyway. Indeed, in April 2019 she told City Pages that sending her brother off with a traditional tribute would have been akin to “burying him in a suit.” This, for the record, the family didn’t do.
Instead, Schrandt went to his final resting place in St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church’s graveyard wearing his usual choice of a “western shirt” and jeans. And while his family refrained from unbuttoning the shirt owing to the previous medical procedures that he’d had to his chest, they did still inter him with a bottle of Old Style beer for the road.
Later, Kopriva-Barnes revealed that she had been writing Schrandt’s obituary at the exact moment his life had ended. She had been so engrossed in her endeavors, in fact, that she had failed to see a text she’d received informing her of her brother’s passing. “It was therapeutic to me to write [the obituary],” she explained to City Pages, before adding – in her signature wit – “It was like a dump, if you will.”
And prior to writing her brother’s tribute, Kopriva-Barnes had often read obituaries – although she had been largely unimpressed by how spiritless they usually were. “You might as well go to the courthouse,” she told City Pages. Perhaps this goes some way to explaining, then, why Schrandt’s obituary has proved so popular.
Yes, since Kopriva-Barnes’ words for her brother appeared on the Schluter-Balik Funeral Home website in March 2019, they have been shared far and wide. And the tribute has garnered considerable acclaim, too; it has since been described, for one, as “possibly the best obituary ever written.” Schrandt, by contrast, was labeled “the orneriest man in Iowa” by the Des Moines Register.
In addition, the guestbook for Schrandt on the Schluter-Balik Funeral Home website has subsequently received reams and reams of comments from across the United States. Nor does the influence of the obituary end there, as it has even provoked responses from as far afield as Australia and the United Kingdom.
On the page, someone who clearly knew Schrandt wrote, “Tim was larger than life. He lived life on his terms. You either jumped on for the ride, or he run you over. He was one of those people that you rarely meet in life but also will never forget… Farewell, my friend, you will be missed.”
Yet Schrandt’s obituary also seemingly touched strangers. Thanks to Kopriva-Barnes’ colorful account, you see, the Iowa man’s maverick spirit jumped off the page. “I never heard of [Schrandt], nor did I ever meet him. But I know I would have loved him! In fact, I think I actually do,” wrote one such commenter.
Speaking of Schrandt, another person said, “He sounds like a great guy! How lucky you all were to have him in your lives… I can only hope that when I go, someone loves me enough to write an obit or eulogy like this about me. It will have to be tweaked to fit me, of course, but I would love it! God bless him, and what a hoot he will be in heaven!”
And even in his death, Schrandt had managed to be a motivator. “Now that’s how to live life,” a further commenter wrote. “Bold, full throttle, with gusto and no apologies! Tim inspires me to return to my former ways of living the same… before I insanely allowed the world to beat me down but not out! If there is a heaven, I am sure it is in full-party swing with Tim’s arrival. Rock on, Tim!”
Judging by his obituary, then, it seemed as though Schrandt had lived life on his terms and had provided no apology for it. And thanks to his sister’s heartfelt tribute, his attitude had made him a viral sensation. This was a turn of events that Kopriva-Barnes found funny, however, as in true Schrandt fashion, her brother had thought that social media was stupid. In fact, she added, he’d have seen all the attention he was getting as an epic waste of time.