Leroy James “Rusty” Schaper, who was well-known as the owner of Texas City Feed & Supply since 1975, died Thursday afternoon at his home in Dickinson. He was 85.
“He was a big, giant teddy bear,” said Joni Schirmer, one of his four children. “He never, ever met a stranger and he was a very, very hard worker, from the time he was a little boy up until about the time he died.”
In addition to owning the feed and supply store with his wife, Jane Schaper, Rusty Schaper was a founding board member of the Bank of the West in Galveston, which later became Texas First Bank, and was the last surviving sibling of 13 Schaper brothers and sisters who operated a family dairy on Galveston’s West End.
But to those who knew him, Schaper is best remembered for his larger-than-life personality and his kindness to those around him, relatives said.
“Rusty was a kind man who lived a wonderful, rich life,” said Dolph Tillotson, president of Southern Newspapers Inc., whose wife, Teri, is Schaper’s niece. “He had a great sense of humor and lived by his convictions.
“One of the joys of my life was listening as Rusty and his brothers and sisters reminisced about life in Galveston as it was in the past, in good times and bad.
“The Schaper family of Rusty’s generation exemplified to me the very best characteristics of Texas and even of America. They were honest, hard working, tolerant and reliable, and they didn’t take themselves too seriously. If Rusty or his brothers and sisters gave their word on something, you could bank it.”
Schaper would pour himself a generous shot of Jack Daniels with a splash of water each day at 5 p.m., a tradition that eventually cemented itself in family lore when he named the family land in Dickinson, Five O’Clock Somewhere, Schirmer recalled.
“Dad bought all that property out here in Dickinson and his dream was to have all his children out there, living on the property,” she said. “And so when he replotted it, he named the subdivision — that’s the legal description right there in the CAD.”
Schaper also raised cattle his entire life, including near his Dickinson home. His treatment of livestock was so famous that one man said he hoped to be reincarnated as one of Schaper’s cows, Schirmer said.
“He loved his cows,” she said.
Schaper was born in Galveston in 1933 and played for the Ball High School football team, once leading the Tornadoes to score three touchdowns in 90 seconds. He served in the U.S. Army between 1953 to 1955 and returned from his military service to work on the dairy farm until purchasing the supply store in 1975.
Schaper himself relished the years he was trail master for the mayor’s trail ride during the Galveston County Fair & Rodeo, he told Coast Monthly magazine last year.
“He was a fine man, as good as it gets,” Texas City Mayor Matt Doyle said of Schaper. “He was the last of a dying breed. You don’t find too many people today that no one has anything bad to say about.”