Schnell awarded Celestine service award

Photo courtesy of Tony Buechler/


CELESTINE — Bob Schnell sat in the audience at a recognition breakfast Sunday morning at St. Celestine Catholic Church listening to this year’s nominations for the 2020 Celestine Park Distinguished Service Award.

As the nominees were named and their biographies recited, Schnell, 66, recalls thinking they all deserved the award. By the time his name and bio were read, he was sure he wouldn’t be the recipient — a conclusion he came to before attending the breakfast, but his wife, Cheryl, encouraged him to attend anyway.

Then, Schnell got a big surprise. He was announced the winner.

“I was happy,” he said Wednesday morning. “I felt kind of bad taking it away from the rest of them because everybody should have had it.”

He’s also quick to point out that anytime there’s something happening in Celestine, it’s a town affair. The leaders have dozens of people working in the background to make events happen, he said, and then some of those people go home and never receive any recognition. But nothing would happen without them.

Although he gives credit to the town and its residents as a whole, Schnell has created quite a community service resume for himself. A lifelong Celestine man, Schnell began volunteering around the community in the 1970s. He’s been president of the Celestine Community Club, a St. Celestine Parish Council member and vice president of the Celestine 150th celebration. He was also president of the Celestine Streetfest for its first five years and has stayed involved with the Streetfest since. He’s also an usher at St. Celestine and has served on numerous committees for the church and St. Isidore Parish, which consists of St. Celestine and St. Raphael in Dubois.

Looking back, Schnell said, he didn’t realize how involved he’d been until all his activities were read at the recognition breakfast. But it’s exactly that long and varied resume that won him the award.

“We look for somebody who has had quite a few years of service, and a diverse list of activities,” said Brad Schroering, the Distinguished Service Award committee chair.

Schroering said Schnell stood out this year because he’s been involved in the community for 50 years and played a large role in several events that are still going today, such as the annual Streetfest.

Nowadays, Schnell said he tries to be one of the background people. The younger generation — which includes his son, Chad, of Celestine, and daughter, Krista Drew, of St. Anthony — is starting to get involved and take on leadership roles. That’s fine by Schnell.

“It’s pretty satisfying,” he said of seeing the younger generation take over. “You spend your era there — 10 to 15 years, 20 years — and you’re thinking what’s going to happen when we all decide it’s not working for us anymore? And the next bunch just kind of blends in and takes over.”

It’s a sight that gives Schnell hope for Celestine’s future. He sees a good base in the small community that will keep it alive for years to come.

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