His boyhood was spent on a farm in the adjacent Town of Menomonee (now the Village of Menomonee Falls), where he developed a knack for mechanics. As he grew into a young man, he also worked for a while for A.O. Smith Corp., a Milwaukee-based steel company.
Schroder (who always went by his nickname, Al) later paired up with Roy Stier in a farm machinery sales business (where Sussex Auto is today). Farming was big business in Sussex back then, and the sale and repair of farm machinery was a big deal in “Cow County, USA” (Waukesha County). Among the items they sold was Case machinery and equipment.
The son of a blacksmith, Roy Stier (1907-86) was an outstanding mechanic who could make anything work. He must have seen a similar talent in Al Schroeder, and they joined forces.
Stier was a charter member of the Sussex Lions Club when it was founded in 1939 and probably had something to do with recruiting Schroeder to the club.
Stier was also a politician, serving for decades on the Sussex Village Board while still finding time to put in 39 years with the Sussex Fire Department. At one time, he was both fire chief and village president.
The Stier and Schroeder farm implement business gave out many small Christmas gifts to its farmer-customers, which have since become collectibles, marking an era of Sussex-Lisbon history.
By 1955, Schroeder wanted to branch out and he left Stier & Schroeder to start Schroeder Implement in the former Andrew Davidson-Charles Rose barn in east Sussex.
The farm machinery remained healthy for a while, but gradually gave way to lawn and garden equipment, which Schroeder capitalized on by becoming the local Simplicity dealer.
Al’s son, Dave, now runs the business, still out of the same barn, Sussex’s last.
The Sussex Lions elected Al Schroeder their president for the 1960-61 term. Seven years later, when the club initiated the first Lions Daze, Schroeder played a big role with his corn-on-the-cob steamer.
A Lisbon resident with a home at N77 W22014 Wooded Hills, he was appointed to the Town Board in December 1968 to replace Ted Stewart, who had resigned. Lisbon voters continued to elect him to the supervisor’s seat after that, until 1981, when he chose not to run.
He served with three Lisbon town chairmen: Art Manke, Mary Burg and Dick Young. He focused in particular on working with the town’s road crew, advising on equipment purchases and repair.
He also became something of a peacemaker between Lisbon and Sussex, with a foot in both camps.
The biggest change during his 13 years on the board was its changeover from three at-large seats to five numbered seats elected separately. It was a contentious issue, and Schroeder sided with the opponents of the change, who saw a tax savings with only three on the board.
He also found time to join the Sussex-Lisbon Business and Professional Association (forerunner of the current Sussex Area Chamber of Commerce) and served on the Board of Directors of the Farmers and Merchants Bank, which had branches in Sussex, Lisbon and Lannon.
He and his wife, Mildred “Millie” (Wittlin), had three children: Susan, Sally and David. Now 90, Millie was one of 21 charter members of the Sussex Lioness Club when it was founded in 1965. Of those 21, she and Shirley Zimmermann are still with the club to this day.
Al Schroeder died suddenly at home Nov. 10, 1986, at the age of 69. The Lions honored him posthumously with their highest award, the Melvin Jones Plaque.
His son, Dave, had already taken over Schroeder Implement before his death. The Schroeder Implement business has now operated 53 years in Sussex. Dave also followed his father’s footsteps into the Sussex Lions Club in 1985, serving as president for the 1992-93 term.
I’ve always considered Al Schroeder the Abe Lincoln of Sussex-Lisbon. He had a knack for putting a complex situation into a few pithy phrases that covered all approaches to the problem.