Remembering Aaron Schuster: Aaron Schuster’s family remembers his energy, his intellect, his appetite and his nurturing sideProfessors at the University of St. Thomas have probably heard every excuse in the book when it comes to students being late. So, last fall, Aaron Schuster knew that being late for a big test wasn’t an option. That said, he was in a real pickle.
By: Chad Richardson, The Hastings Star-Gazette
Professors at the University of St. Thomas have probably heard every excuse in the book when it comes to students being late. So, last fall, Aaron Schuster knew that being late for a big test wasn’t an option.
That said, he was in a real pickle.
He had been busy doing laundry in his campus apartment and realized he had locked himself out of his room. His shoes were inside, and so were his glasses. Calling someone to help him get the door open would make him even later, so he just took off, running through campus with no shoes.
“Did you get any strange looks?” his stepmother Heidi Schuster asked.
“I don’t know,” Aaron replied. “I couldn’t see them if there were any.”
Last week, Aaron’s parents laid him to rest. He died tragically in a car crash on Oct. 3. His funeral was Thursday. Obviously, it hasn’t been easy stretch of time for the Schusters, but they’re finding comfort, at least in a small way, in reliving some of their favorite stories about Aaron.
Like that time in December 2007, when Heidi and Rick Schuster were expecting parents. They had watched the evening news and were relaxing when Heidi’s water broke. The baby was on the way. The Schusters grabbed their bags and headed off into the garage.
That’s when Heidi Schuster came to a sudden realization. The baby wasn’t going to wait to get to the hospital, and that’s when things got crazy. Aaron grabbed the phone, called 911 and watched as his father and stepmother, along with a few paramedics, delivered a baby right there in the garage.
That sister, Olivia, is now 3 years old, and he was also the big brother to 5-year-old Mikayla. He took a great interest in their lives, something that didn’t go unnoticed.
“Not many teenage boys were comfortable with little girls hanging on them,” Heidi Schuster said. “He just loved having them. He was very nurturing toward the little girls. He’d feed them and change diapers. There’s not many 16-year-olds who would do that.”
The relationship he had with his big sister, 22-year-old Nicole, was strong, too. She was described in his obituary as a “dear friend and sister.”
“She’s moving to Rochester, and one of the last things he did for her was help her pick out an apartment,” Heidi said. “He was just a really good brother to her.”
• After Thursday’s funeral, the hearse carrying Aaron to Lakeside Cemetery was followed by a large group of bicyclists that were on a team Aaron rode with during The Ride Across Minnesota, an annual event that raises money for multiple sclerosis.
Aaron was the youngest and fastest member of the team, and the teammates gave him the nickname Honda because he was always going so fast. In fact, they figured it was fitting that they ride behind the hearse because Aaron was always leading.
Aaron’s father Rick is a bicyclist and at first, he and Aaron would do the TRAM together on a tandem bike. Aaron would be in the back and Rick in the front. Some days they’d cover 40 miles and other days the ride would last closer to 100. Never, though, could Rick go fast enough.
“He’d just sit behind and push, push, push,” Heidi Schuster said. “One of those rides, when they were by Wabasha and all of those hills, they got to the top of a hill and Aaron was like, ‘Dad, why weren’t you pushing?’
“Rick was like, ‘Little do you know, I’ve been hauling you over these hills for a whole week.’
As Aaron got older, he kept wanting to do the ride on his own bike and he finally got the chance a few years ago. That’s when he realized how hard the ride itself was to do on your own, let alone while you are toting around a 10-year-old behind you.
“That was probably pretty hard for you, wasn’t it?” he later asked Rick Schuster.
• Aaron’s grandfather, Rodney Schmidt, taught him how to hunt, and the two often went deer hunting.
One day, Aaron literally shot two deer with one shot.
“For his grandfather, that was a huge day,” Heidi Schuster said.
• When Aaron would go to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, there was no stopping him when it came to the portages, the rocky trails that lead from one lake to the next.
“He was such a strong kid – he could put one of those big Duluth packs on the front and on the back and carry a canoe,” Heidi Schuster said. “His favorite part about the Boundary Waters was portaging. It was probably the physical challenge (that he liked so much). They always had to haul more food because he could eat so much.”
• Aaron was very active and had boundless energy. That meant he ate. A lot. But there was one thing, and one thing only, that he wouldn’t go near: Cinderella pie.
Heidi had found the recipe in some church cookbook, and since she was always experimenting at home, she thought she’d try the concoction of orange juice, shredded hash browns and eggs.
“It just was not a good combination,” she said. “He took two bites, and that was it.”
• Heidi said Aaron was very bright. He frequently made the honor rolls and the dean’s list and was always gifted in school. That said, when you combined his intelligence with his energy, he got bored easily in elementary school and would act up.
As long as he was busy and challenged he would be fine, she said.
He was eventually a first-grade buddy. When he was a fifth-grader, he would come to a first-grade classroom and listen to a first-grader read books. The family still has a photo of Aaron and his first-grade buddy. That relationship meant a lot to Aaron.
“It helped him feel like he had a purpose,” Heidi said.
Later, he gravitated toward electrical engineering, and this summer he earned an internship with Xcel Energy, a perfect job, obviously, for somebody in his field.
“For the summer, his job was to hunt down all the downed power lines,” Heidi said. “Anything that was called in as an outage, he had to go figure out what the problem was. He had to drive around the metro and write up a work ticket so the crews could fix it. One of the engineers he worked with was really surprised he could figure some of these out. He wasn’t even done with school – he had only gone for two years.”
The internship at Xcel meant he wouldn’t be coming back to the position he held in Hastings in the summer of 2010 when he worked for the school district cutting grass at Todd Field and around the city.
• Tinkering with mechanical things was nothing new for Aaron. When he was just 3 years old, he took the license plates off Rick’s truck and turned them upside down.
• Aaron got to be friends with many of his father’s friends, and one of those men, Terry, developed a fun relationship with Aaron. The two were running partners and would often go to Afton State Park to race up and down the hills for a workout.
• When Aaron was born to Rick Schuster and his then-wife Lisa, they gave him the middle name of Matthew. For years in school, though, Aaron was convinced his middle name was spelled Mathew.
So, when he got his first job and had to present his Social Security card, he was convinced the government had made a big mistake and had misspelled his name.
“What’s wrong with them?” he asked Rick.
“That’s how you spell your name,” Rick told him.
“I do not,” he said.
Rick then encouraged Aaron to get out a Bible and check to see how Matthew is spelled there. He did, and that’s when he realized he had been spelling his own name wrong all those years.