Queen Anne’s mourns loss of ‘Sonny’ Schulz

Record Observer - - FRONT PAGE - By DOUG BISHOP & BRENT LEWIS Spe­cial to the Record Ob­server

CH­ESTER — Busi­ness leader and for­mer county com­mis­sioner Os­car A. “Sonny” Schulz, 85, died at home in Ch­ester on Mon­day, Nov. 19, 2018.

Schulz was a prom­i­nent Mary­land busi­ness­man, the pa­tri­arch of the Fish­er­man’s Inn restau­rant fam­ily, a long­time re­gional civic leader, the proud dad of three sons and a grand­dad to seven.

He was owner of the very suc­cess­ful Fish­er­man’s Inn Restau­rant, Fish­er­man’s Crab Deck, and Fish­er­man’s Seafood with his late wife Betty Thomas Schulz, and their three sons, Andy, Jody and Tracy. Many peo­ple around the county shared mem­o­ries of Sonny, and re­peat­edly re­ferred to him and his late wife Betty,

“as peo­ple who truly cared about their com­mu­nity.”

Schulz was good at busi­ness and at pol­i­tics, gen­er­ous and al­ways looked out for those in his care — whether fam­ily mem­bers, em­ploy­ees or con­stituents — friends said. As a com­mis­sioner, he prided him­self on al­ways re­turn­ing phone calls, even if it took late into the evening.

Jim Bar­ton, who re­cently re­tired as head of the county’s zon­ing of­fice, said, “I first met Sonny when he was serv­ing as county com­mis­sioner 30 years ago. I had just been hired by the county. Over the years, he and I would have lunch to­gether twice a week at restau­rants around the county. We be­came very good friends. I con­sider it an honor to have known Sonny Schulz. He’s the kind of man you want to write about.

“Sonny is one of the most giv­ing peo­ple I’ve ever known. I like his hon­esty, too. He’d al­ways tell you what he thought about things. And if you gave him grief, he give it right back to you, full blast!”

Bar­ton added, “I think Sonny’s one of the best known peo­ple in all of Queen Anne’s County. He was a true Kent Is­lan­der, and there’s not many of those left. I think he was a vi­sion­ary, think­ing about things to help the county be­fore oth­ers did. I know he and I al­ways had a good time. He al­ways had a smile on his face. Of his life, I’d say, it’s been a good ride. One of the last times I saw him, I told him, ‘You never learned to whis­per.’ He laughed, be­cause when he spoke, you never had trou­ble hear­ing him.”

For­mer Del­e­gate and County Com­mis­sioner Wheeler Baker said, “Sonny was the type of guy who cared deeply about the com­mu­nity. Even with all the suc­cess he had in busi­ness, he never let that go to his head.”

Baker added, “Sonny used to joke about his son Tracy serv­ing as fire chief at the Kent Is­land Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment. Sonny would say, ‘Tracy’s out there run­ning to all these calls for fire ser­vice while he’s still on the clock at the restau­rant.’ Jok­ingly, Sonny made ref­er­ence to Tracy be­ing the first paid pro­fes­sional fire­fighter in Queen Anne’s County, since he was get­ting paid at the restau­rant to pro­vide that ser­vice.”

For­mer man­ager at Queen­stown Bank, Frankie Smith said, “I’ve known Sonny for more than 60 years. I have a lot of re­spect for him. He was very good in busi­ness.”

Smith also spoke of Schulz’s gen­eros­ity, “Many peo­ple don’t know this, but Sonny paid for a com­plete, state-of-the-art kitchen to be put in at Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege to help stu­dents there learn culi­nary arts as a pro­fes­sion. That was done with­out any fan­fare or credit to Sonny. He did things like that with­out want­ing more than to know he helped the com­mu­nity.”

An­other ex­am­ple of Schulz’s gen­eros­ity men­tioned was when the new Kent Is­land Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment opened. The week­end it opened, the com­mu­nity was in­vited to visit, and Fish­er­man’s Inn pro­vided all the food (shrimp and dumplings with all the trim­mings) for free.

Asked about his gen­eros­ity, Schulz re­sponded quickly and with­out hes­i­ta­tion, say­ing, “The com­mu­nity has al­ways given to me!”

Mary Lee Brown, man­ager at Fish­er­man’s Crab Deck for the past 27 years, said she has worked with the Schulz fam­ily for 45 years to­tal — when she was 19, she was asked to babysit the Schulz boys — and has many fond mem­o­ries.

Brown said, “Sonny would give peo­ple the im­pres­sion of be­ing gruff, but he had a heart of gold. One day when he was county com­mis­sioner, he heard some of us girls on the wait­staff at Fish­er­man’s talk­ing among our­selves about a por­tion of the road lead­ing into Mar­ling Farms, where many of us lived, be­ing bad to travel on dur­ing icy, win­ter months. Mind you, we weren’t talk­ing to him about this, but the next day, the road was treated to make it safer to travel on. It must have been Sonny that had it taken care of. That’s the way he was, al­ways try­ing to see that things were taken care of.”

Re­becca Mob­ley has been an as­sis­tant man­ager at Fish­er­man’s Inn the past nine years. She shared her per­sonal in­sight into who Sonny Schulz was, say­ing, “He was an ex­cel­lent story teller. In the years I knew him, you could count on him like clock­work to be in booth num­ber 14 for lunch and din­ner, al­ways fac­ing the en­trance door. If he was away, he’d call in the morn­ing and again in the evening to check on busi­ness.

“Fish­er­man’s Inn is a true fam­ily restau­rant in ev­ery sense of the mean­ing: his sons be­ing hands-on. The staff is so close-knit that they re­fer to each other as their ‘Fishy Fam­ily.’ I at­tribute this fam­ily cul­ture to the ground­work laid by both Betty and Sonny. The restau­rant is an anom­aly in re­gards to em­ployee ten­ure hav­ing staff mem­bers who have been there for decades with a few 40 years of ded­i­cated ser­vice. It’s un­heard of and speaks vol­umes to the way the Schulz fam­ily col­lec­tively does busi­ness.”

She also re­called, “Sonny was in a bar­ber­shop quar­tet in his younger days and when he was in a re­ally good mood you could catch him singing out loud in the of­fice.”

Os­car “Sonny” Schulz was born on Kent Is­land on June 25, 1933. His par­ents, Os­car and Maude, had two chil­dren be­fore Sonny. A sis­ter, Char­lotta, died at the age of 4af­ter eat­ing a peach poi­soned by an ar­senic spray. Brother John was much older than Sonny. He died at age 50. Sonny’s fa­ther was an oys­ter­man and a car­pen­ter who strug­gled with his health. In World War I he’d sur­vived a mus­tard gas at­tack, the long term ef­fects of which were pro­gres­sively de­bil­i­tat­ing. Sonny was 11 when his fa­ther died.

Schulz was al­ways am­bi­tious. “I’ll never for­get the first day I made five dol­lars,” he once said. “Billy Schulz, my cousin, had a bi­cy­cle he was go­ing to sell be­cause he bought a car. He wanted five dol­lars for it. So Mother said what­ever I made that day I could put to­ward the bi­cy­cle. I picked a hun­dred bushels of toma­toes. Made five dol­lars.”

By the time he was 12, Schulz was culling oys­ters

PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

Os­car “Sonny” Schulz was one of eight lo­cal water­man who shared sto­ries about their lives at the VFW Post 7464 in Gra­sonville.

PHOTO COUR­TESY BRENT LEWIS

“Sonny” Schulz, seated, telling sto­ries at the VFW.

PHOTO COUR­TESY BRENT LEWIS

SONNY SCHULZ

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