By Celine Klosterman
DAVENPORT — From his premature birth to World War II combat to numerous health scares, James Schaefer has seen God’s protection throughout his life.
Now 88, the member of Holy Family Parish in Davenport wants to inspire others to consider how God’s hand has guided them, too. So he’s written and self-published a 51-page autobiography, titled “HE is Watching.”
“The more I’d share my stories with people over the years, and the more I thought about them, the more I realized I ought to get the message out to people to reflect on their own lives,” Schaefer said. After starting and stopping the effort to write an autobiography several times, he finally finished the book in time for publication this past fall.
“HE is Watching” traces Schaefer’s life from his birth to the death of his wife Marge in 2001 and his marriage two years later to Evelyn Barton. In each life event he shares, he describes how he feels the Lord was at work.
When he survived two, almost-deathly allergic reactions to tetanus shots, “I beat the odds with HIS help,” he wrote. During near misses from friendly fire, a sniper and German machine guns during World War II, God was present, he recalled. When he tore an artery, survived a plane crash and narrowly avoided a potentially major car accident, the Lord was standing by, the parishioner believes.
Not that Schaefer was aware of the Lord’s help each time he received it. Though he attended a Catholic school for several years, he didn’t used to put much thought into how God was at work in his life, he said. But a 1964 scare in which the electrochemical engineer and scientist started losing his sight made him start to take notice. While suffering from a rapid case of macular degeneration, he prayed often and dabbed his eyes with holy water from the site of a Marian apparition in Lourdes, France. After about a year of taking numerous medicines, his eyesight recovered.
He said doctors were surprised by his improvement. “I wondered, Why would that happen?” Since then, Schaefer said, he’s paid more attention to God’s hand in his life.
He relied on knowledge of the Lord’s presence especially during the 20 years he cared for Marge as she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. About 10 of those years were very challenging, he recalled. He prayed constantly for God to direct him, and the couple often attended weekday Mass.
After she died, Schaefer continued praying for guidance. He received a response in Barton, a widow whom he met during a reunion for veterans from his infantry and their families. Though the two attendees forgot to exchange contact information before leaving the event, he believes God helped her later track him down.
“HE had to have been watching and leading us together for our mutual benefit,” he wrote. The couple married in 2003.
Schaefer said he’s quite happy now. Though he believes God has protected him numerous times over the past nearly nine decades, he’s not sure why. “I’m no special, chosen person.” But he is certain the Lord wants others to notice God’s presence in their lives. “That’s why I wrote the book.”
Book available at Davenport store
“HE is Watching” is available from Religious Supply Center in Davenport for $11.95. The store’s owner, Mark Gould, said Religious Supply welcomes spiritual and inspirational books by area writers. “It’s nice to support local authors.”