We don’t know much about the “Schwarz” side of my family, such as when exactly they came to the United States or where they emigrated from.
There are family stories that involve the Ukraine. Plus a curious tale about a small cottage in Switzerland that was emblazoned with the family name.
At some point when I was a kid, we got a wooden sign (it might have been a gift) with our name carved into it in a pseudo blackletter font. That sign followed my father most of his adult life, from his shop at our farm in Hackett, Ark., to his shop in Fort Smith, Ark., and finally to his home in Charleston, S.C.
Last Christmas, my dad gave that wooden sign to me as a Christmas gift, and its meaning was not lost on me. He knew his battle with prostate cancer was nearing an end. And this slab of wood is pretty much our family baton.
Last Tuesday, my sister Robin called to say our dad had entered hospice. When I got the call I was driving to my workshop with a replacement part for a woodworking machine. The rest of the day was a blur, but I remember doing one thing: I put our family sign at the top of the bookcase in the workbench room where everyone could see it.
I headed to Charleston the next morning. During his final day alive, my dad sang along with my sisters to all the easy-listening songs from the 1970s that we loved. John Denver. The Carpenters. Jim Croce. Cat Stevens. Crosby, Stills & Nash. Even some Olivia Newton-John.
About 3 a.m. on Feb. 26 his breathing began to slow dramatically. And within the hour he was gone. He died at 3:52 a.m. and it was as peaceful a passing as I have ever witnessed – thanks in large part to the living saints at Lutheran Hospice.
Though we lost him too soon, his death was a relief in many ways. Diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2003, my father spent a good deal of his time fighting the disease. And the last couple years were particularly painful.
Since July, my sisters and I were with him almost nonstop. During one of my visits, he asked to have his DNA tested so he could perhaps learn something additional about where the Schwarzes came from.
The DNA results were odd. Despite my father’s last name and the way he was raised, he was not ethnically German. He was about 27 percent English with the rest of his genes scattered throughout Western and Eastern Europe. According to his DNA, his Schwarz ancestors likely immigrated to the United States in the 18th century. This does not line up with the little we know of the Schwarz family.
Our family’s reaction: Oh well.
Last week while we were in the middle of all this stuff, my sisters and I had dinner with my dad’s brother and cousins. I informed them of this genetic news. We had just received our drinks, and usually we all raise our glasses and say “Prost!” I’ve been doing this since I could lift a sippy cup with apple juice.
And so we said “Prost!” in honor of my father. And then my uncle Ron – my father’s brother – added: “Tolly ho!”
So my family remains a mystery. The only thing I have that seems a constant across the generations is the wooden sign hanging up in my shop now.
I don’t know who the Schwarzes are, but whoever they are – scoundrels, peasants or refugees – I am one of them. And I have a sign to prove it.
— Christopher Schwarz
99 thoughts on “Paul R. Schwarz (1942-2018)”
My condolences to you and your family for your loss.
Raising a glass to Schwarz’s everywhere. Wherever there are and wherever they come from.
My deepest sympathies Chris.
You and your family have my deepest sympathy in the passing of your esteemed father.
Sorry to hear about your family’s loss. I appreciate your willingness to write about personal matters like this.
That sounds like as nice a way to go as you can get…surrounded by your family singing songs. My condolences for your loss. .
Sincerest condolences to you and your family Chris.
I’m so sorry for your loss Chris. At least he went peacefully, which is the best one can hope for. Hold up your family name with pride. Family connections are fascinating and do teach us alot about ourselves.
Sorry for your lost.
I am closer to your father’s age than to yours, and I will tell you that he had to be proud of his son’s accomplishments.
I’m sorry for your loss. This post and the last are a wonderful and moving tribute to your father. You done good Paul R. Schwarz, you done good.
Sorry for your loss and prayers for your family.
So… you could be Chinese, or Jewish.
My deep and sincerest sympathies and condolences to you and your entire family on the passing of your Dad.
After having read your glowing and loving tribute to your Dad last week, it is clear that your Dad’s spirit, creativity and work ethic, will live on in his loving Son. You have already started to pass his “teachings” on to your children, especially your Daughter, Katy, who manufactures and sells “Soft Wax From the Anarchist’s Daughter”, all by herself. By teaching Woodworking Classes and publishing a great collection of books on woodworking, you are also passing on your Dad’s love of woodworking to an untold number of fellow woodworkers.
Obviously, a life well lived and a fine example of a man to the younger generations of the Schwarz family.
So sorry for your loss Chris. I realize you do not know me from Adam except for these blog comments, but my family is just across the river in Mount Pleasant and would be happy to provide anything you need.
My condolences Chris. Your dad was lucky to have such a loving family.
Nothing is ever really lost is it? Not for long anyway. Rest well Paul, rest well.
Sorry to hear of your loss. As I’m sure you know, it’s not where you come from but who you come from that matters most.
Sending you and your family our condolences from Toronto.
Peace with him and your family…
Sorry for this loss, prayers for all.
So sorry to hear of your Dads passing my condolences to you and your family.
p.s.when asked my families history I tell them I’m a mutt haha
Sorry to hear of You and Your families loss, my condolences.
God bless You and Your family Chris.
I’m sorry to hear about the passing of your father. Your family is in our thoughts and prayers.
So sorry for your loss. Condolences, thoughts and prayers for you and your family.
It’s been said that you should come into the world crying, and surrounded by smiling people and,
that you should leave the world smiling, while surrounded by crying people.
By all indications, it sounds like your old man did it right.
Condolences Chris. To you and your family.
Sorry to read of your loss. I’m glad you and your family had the time to spend his last days with him and able to be with him as he passed on.
My most sincere condolences to you and your family Chris.
John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
(I’m not injecting Religion into anything. This seems to fit in this event)
I’m so very sorry for your loss, Chris. I’m sending out healing vibes to you and your family.
I’m sorry for your loss, Chris. Peace be with you and your family.
I’m very sorry for your loss but glad you and your family could be together.
Chris, sorry for your loss. Bless you and your family as you deal with the loss of your father. Just remember he is now at peace.
My condolences Chris, I lost my Father 3 weeks ago also.
We are with you. Please accept my condolences from Medellín, Colombia.
Thank you for sharing Chris. Your words – as always – encourage us to be caring and true to ourselves. Like your furniture. Your dad must have been proud. For condolences, I wish I could play for you “They Are Falling All Around Me” by Holly Near.
The Schwarzes are you and your family. And honestly, in the end that has to be enough for all of us. My condolences to you and yours.
May he rest in peace.
My condolences for your loss Chris.
And may the Schwarz be with you…(spaceballs)
Your Schwarz past may be obscured, but from what you’ve told us about your Dad and what we know of you, the Schwarz name has clearly earned an honored place in our world today. I’m sure your sisters are just as worthy.
Thanks, Paul, for all you’ve done and the gifts you’ve left us. You will be missed, and remembered.
Hugs and Blessings all around. Rest is Peace.
God Speed and Rest In Peace Mr. Schwarz your work is complet and magnificent.
Thank you for writing about your Dad.
You have my sincere condolences, and much respect for this and your previous post about your dad.
I lost my father when I was 39 and I wasn’t done needing a father. I wrote this for him.
A Father’s Hug
When I use a handsaw, my father’s still behind me, his hand over mine on the handle, his other
holding the board, his mouth to my ear, a father’s hug. Quietly commanding, “Steady the blade
with your knuckle, pull twice to set, cut on the waste side, long clean strokes won’t bind the
blade.” I feel the sandpaper roughness of his unshaved Saturday face as it is pressed against
my cheek, the warmth of morning sun as we work outside, the pressure on my hand as he helps
me to keep a square line. I smell a combination of pine, aftershave, coffee and his pipe. Our
project was bookends. I now realize we were really making memories.
When I drill a hole, my father ‘s still there. My hands on the brace. His over mine. A father’s hug.
“Square the bit from two sides. Clockwise to drill. Back it up to clear the bit.”
A friend commented, at the birth of his child, that he would show his child the affection his father
never could. I told him his father showed him lots of affection. Hugs, all from behind. Each
given with love. Each meant to teach. And through all the differences of opinion, arguments and
difficult times my father and I have had, I still pull twice to set a blade, still square a bit from two
Now my son uses a saw, I am behind him, my hand over his on the handle. A father’s hug.
Godspeed to the man who put a saw in a sons hand and raised a family that’s benefited others.
Sorry for your loss Chris. The loss of a parent is something you never get over. It’s something with which one can only make peace. Be at peace Sir.
Our deepest condolences.
While i send my condolences to and your family. I would also like to say I am sure he is in a happier place now free of pain, and from what you have written over the years about him, I am sure of this, he is with his High Power smiling and watching over you and your family.
Thank you for sharing him with us through the years.
My condolences. I lost my Mom on the second last day of 2017. Look at your daughters and nieces and nephews. They are not gone just gone elsewhere.
All the best
Very sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
Sorry for your loss Chris. I like the part of the passing of the sign.
I am deeply sorry for your loss, but happy that you had that man as a father. This is among the best writing you have done. For that I thank you
Sorry for your loss Chris.
‘Tally Ho!’ to your father from good old ‘Blighty’.
Condolences to you and yours.
I lost my father two years ago. so I feel your pain. there are no words that help. display the sign with pride. you know the woodworking world is grieving with you.
Touching insides. Condolences to you and yours!
Sorry for your loss. Death of a parent is hard.
The title of your posting caught my eye, as my father’s younger brother was Paul Schwartz. Concerning your family background, it’d not surprising DNA results would show a mix of Eastern European contributions. People moved, borders changed etc. English contributions are somewhat surprising, except perhaps if they came about after Britain & Germany cozied up in – what, the late 1700s?
My own family is ethnic German, but all of my grandparents came here from Russia ( so-called Volga-Deutsch ). One or more were born in what was either Ukraine or Poland (couldn’t figure that out). My father and his sibs were born in various countries in Europe, as the young family made its way west. Their father was a blacksmith, so likely never out of work along the way.
Interpretation of DNA is a complex business, and I would be just as likely to trust oral history from family members.
USINS may have records going back far enough for you to get some information as to who arrived when and where, if you’re so inclined. You’d have to trace your family back as far as you can with certainty, then possibly pay to have a search done. But there’s much information on line as well. You might also ask the Mormon genealogists. They’ve amassed records from around the world.
FWIW Don Schwartz
Sorry to hear about your Dad Chris.
The memories will always be there for you Chris, I wish I could say it gets better with time but truthfully it doesn’t. My Condolences and Always show that sign with Pride it’s what Dad would want for You to do.
My deepest sympathy Chris. May all your fine memories carry you through your time of loss.
Damn dude. That is the saddest, happiest, funniest, most uplifting story I’ve heard in the last several years. My sincerest condolences for your loss.
Along with everything else we do and have and are, family and history is important. Be proud of your baton, display it prominently, pass it on.
Sorry for your loss
Chris, my deepest sympathy to you and your family.
I am deeply saddened at the passing of your father. Fathers are IMPORTANT and your dad did a wonderful job loving, mentoring and teaching you the importance of life and the skills of life needed to become a father and a dad. The article and picture of your dad in the field hospital in Vietnam brought back a vivid memory for me and was a reminder of the civil action story that took place in there that has never been recorded. I am a Vietnam veteran and was part of a group that was involved in civil action missions all over South East Asia. Thank you for sharing that memory of your father. Wish I could have met him, I know I would have enjoyed the time shared.
I know what you’re going through – I lost my own father a couple of years ago. I don’t know where they get those people in the hospices; the guy at the one in Rock Hill SC calls me once a year to see how I’m doing. And they don’t charge anything. Crap, must be dusty in here.
On a lighter note – Schwarz means black in German. Add that to the eighteenth century and English and a search gives… Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. It’ll make a good story anyway. Might explain your predilection for sharp iron too.
Very sorry for your loss Chris. Speaking as one who has spent many years making signs, yours is extremely well done.
Peace to you and yours Chris.
My condolences to you and your family. Your last two posts about you Father have been both heartbreaking and inspiring.
All the best to you and your family. It sounds like your dad was a heck of a person, and imparted a lot of good on the people and places around him.
My condolences to you and your family. God Bless and Godspeed. And I am sorry about the late response; I’ve been out of the loop for a long time.
My sincere condolences Chris.
Your dad looked familiar in uniform, like maybe I had run into him in SE Asia someplace. Maybe I will see him again soon and he can tell me where.
My deepest, and most sincere condolences to you and your family, Chris.
So glad you were able to attend those last.memories. May they and others be a comfort to you all.
My condolences. Hopefully your dad’s peaceful last days brought some comfort to you and your family.
From a member of his Army family, I’m sorry for your loss and I’ll raise a glass in toast when I get to Valhalla! Did your dad stay in the medical field after his return to civilian life?
I’ll throw a “Nastrovia” in there from the PG & I … just in case.
Thanks for sharing about your dad. If you are wondering about where you come from, and what that means about who you are, I’d just give you the words of my brother, as he and his young family moved from Winnipeg to Fresno to Bolivia and back – “Home is here”. Wherever the family is together, is home.
‘Not all who wander are lost…’
I am sorry for your loss.
My deepest sympathy to you and your family. Hopefully your comfort is your memories of your father and knowing he is at peace.
My condolences Chris for you and your family.
Ecclesiastes 7:1 reminds us that a name is just a label at the beginning of our life, but by the end of it, hopefully we’ve accomplished something, giving that name significance. It appears that your father has successfully accomplished this, and left a name worthy of being carried on and heralded among his decedents (regardless of it’s precise origins)
Chris, sorry for your loss.
So sorry for your loss. I too lost my dad to cancer fathers day weekend 2006. Not a day goes by that I do not think of him or the many things he taught me over the years while I was a young boy in his shop.
As you have proven here, you are carrying on his legacy and teachings through your work at LAP.
My thoughts and prayers to you and your family.
My sympathies for your loss, Chris. What a fine and inspirational man, your dad. Thank you for sharing. Best regards, Rob.
Prost and Talk Ho, father Schwarz.
Deepest condolences sir.
Sounds like your family background is pretty much the classic blueprint of America. From our family to yours, we raise a glass to your dad. Sounds like he was a wonderful man.
If I can sing with my children on my last day, I will die a happy man. I hope your dad felt the same. My sincere condolences to your entire family.
I didn’t know my father very well. He died when I was seven. The guy, whom I would never call a man, that tried to step in and be my “dad” was well, let’s just say less of a man then I care to admit. So all I have are the memories of how I remember my father.
It sounds like you appreciated your father and enjoyed the things he shared with you growing up. That’s a gift in it self.
I know it’s been said already, but I truly am sorry for the loss you and your family has experienced. It’s never an easy thing to lose a family member especially the patriarch of the family. I think it’s only suiting the baton was passed on to you, his son, and as someone who has been such a valuable leader in this community.
My deepest sympathies to you and your family. I honor your father’s service to our country. So great to see a son honor his father.
my deepest condolences to you and your family. and “proscht” in case your family actually are “Schwarzes” from Switzerland.
My sincere condolences to you and your family. I know how difficult it is losing a parent. I have no information about my paternal great grandparents from Germany, I’m still looking.
Sorry for your loss. I’m right there with you. My father passed away two weeks ago, and my mother, brothers and I will be picking up the pieces for a long time. My dad spent an enormous amount of time in his last years working on family genealogy, but he knew there were knots he would never be able to untangle. It’s a fascinating puzzle, but family is something you build, not something you dig for – that was his conclusion.
I’m so sorry for your loss
My condolences to you and your family. Peace. And “Na Zdorovia” in case your family is actually from Ukraine.
Sorry for your loss, Chris. Cancer, in all its forms,…. sucks.
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