Breaking the rules for Laura

By Roxie Murphy with reporting by Colin Willard, Advocate Staff Writer
Posted 5/17/23

Last Thursday I walked into the Owensville office early, only to be stopped at the door and hit by the news that our former Vienna reporter and very good friend Laura Schiermeier had passed away the …

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Breaking the rules for Laura


Last Thursday I walked into the Owensville office early, only to be stopped at the door and hit by the news that our former Vienna reporter and very good friend Laura Schiermeier had passed away the evening before. The consensus was shocked that she had passed, dismayed that we hadn’t known she had fallen ill, and determined to take care of our own. In order to do that, The Maries County Advocate will have to break some journalistic rules — starting by writing ourselves into the story.

“I’m not saying that without her The Advocate wouldn’t have made it, but I am saying without Laura, it wouldn’t be what it is today,” said Jacob Warden, manager.

Talking Laura into coming on board to The Maries County Advocate was a challenge. In fact, we didn’t finally convince her until the week before the paper came out. In typical Laura fashion, her introduction to the community as a staff writer at a new newspaper wasn’t about herself. Instead, she focused on what The Advocate could give her community.

“I owe you an explanation,” she wrote in a Timely Commentary in The Maries County Advocate. “It was a difficult decision, one which you, my long-time readers, were very much in my mind and a big part of the decision I made.

“I am not abandoning you. I am looking at the past with thankfulness for all of you, my readers, who have made what I do worthwhile and important.”

For 30 years Laura devoted herself to Maries County through The Maries County Gazette, her photography business, and later through The Advocate. She never expected the community to thank her for the service. She thanked them.

“Thank you to all those folks I visited with — it was truly a pleasure and all of you will remain important to me,” she’d written in that 2016 story.

Always the one to look on the bright side, Laura promoted the new newspaper, which expanded the county’s coverage of news and sports with more color photographs, advertisements, online access, special sections and promotions, and feature stories.

“And I will continue to share my love of local history with you,” she’d promised.

She worked with us for six years. Laura would call weekly and compliment everyone’s stories, share what she loved about the paper, suggest improvements, and make sure events were scheduled to be covered.

“She kept me in line,” Warden said. “She made sure I knew what was going on and when to show up.”

She would share history I might not have been aware of when working on stories.

“Did you know so-and-so used to work for the state? They are more closed-lipped with the press and I think that is why.”

Or “I took their picture in high school. They are related to the such-and-such family.”

Or my favorite, “If you had started in journalism when men thought they were entitled to pinch all of your cheeks after they gave you information, you may think differently.”

The last one always made me laugh.

We loved Laura for being a kindred spirit. She loved stringing words together.

“I am just so busy,” she’d say. “Bring on the feature stories. People love feature stories.”

From day one, it felt like she had always belonged to us.

When Laura said in September last year that she had decided to retire we all knew that losing her would mean losing an invaluable asset at the newspaper. Her continued friendship and willingness to be a resource into the future were never questioned.

She trained her replacement, Colin Willard, who is also an amazing asset to The Advocate.

“I think he’ll do fine,” she said several times in the two weeks leading up to her final day. “Don’t worry about a farewell article for me. Just introduce him.”

Laura’s best friend Robin Teel said Laura was worried about making sure her replacement was prepared and the community was taken care of.

“She wanted to make sure she gave him the best possible training,” Teel said. “She was pleased and cared so much about her job that she wanted to give them the best she could.”

She also refused a retirement party. While we were forced to respect her “no retirement party” wishes due to time constraints (and inability to force her to show up), not giving Laura her own farewell article was out of the question.

We spent a memorable Tuesday calling everyone Laura may have ever worked with, and asked for kind words, stories, or jokes she would tell. When The Advocate came out the following morning, Laura was quick with a response to our emails.

“I was surprised this morning when I looked at the front page of The Advocate and said, ‘What?’

Thank you Roxie (sneaky person) for writing such a nice article about me,” Laura had written.

She also pointed out the secret that all writers think about when people they cover are asked to comment about them, “I am pleased, but a little nervous. It is easier to be on the end where the writing takes place than in the spotlight that draws the attention.”

The best part is something the Vienna community may not have heard about after Laura quietly stepped into retirement.

“Thanks to all of you for what you said about me,” she wrote in October 2022. “Thank you, too, for your kindness and (The Advocate) for the paycheck since I began here in the fall of 2016. You guys are good people.”

She loved the comments from all the board members and groups she had covered for so many years. Her heartfelt thank you made all of those “sneaky” phone calls worth it, too.

Teel took a Vienna High School journalism class with Laura and said she was a natural.

“Laura had the gift of understanding the uniqueness of each personality,” Teel said. “The one thing that sticks out to her as a journalist compared to today’s journalists, you could always count 100 percent on what she shared was factual and true.”

After retirement, she would message or call once or twice a month to comment on a story.

“I liked the story about the four-day school weeks,” she’d said in February, before sharing past Maries County R-1 School Board conversations on the topic.

Or calling to ask if we had heard about legislation that would limit library funding.

“I figured I knew a few people who might be willing to share this,” she’d say.

She would always hang on the line an extra few minutes to chat, usually about her children and grandbabies. They were her favorite topic.

When I last spoke to Laura on March 30 it was to ask her for suggestions on Missouri Better Newspaper Contest submissions. I was hoping to get her at least one more award before everything she had written previously became ineligible.

“Thank you for thinking of me,” she’d always say.

The world lost Laura suddenly. A string of health issues that resulted in an early demise.

“It’s almost like I’m lost for words,” Teel said. “I think about her all the time. She was the best friend ever.”

When doing obituary features, I often find it ironic that so many people wait to give kind words about a deceased member of the community until after they are no longer around to hear it. Calling everyone last October to ask about Laura resulted in all good comments, and many people shared stories and her penchant for jokes in her October 2022 surprise retirement article. 

I am delighted she was able to read the comments and thoughts of the Vienna community before she laid down her pen for good.

Still, local boards and organizations had so much more to share about Laura when they found out the sad news.

“She was a good journalist,” said Western District Commissioner Ed Farge. “She wasn’t afraid to ask questions. And if she thought you were trying to hide something, she would dig. And she was fair.”

“She was a very private person,” County Clerk Rhonda Rodgers said. “But when she had something to say, she wasn’t afraid to say it.”

Rodgers added that Laura loved to tell jokes.

“All clean too,” said Easter District Commissioner Doug Drewel.

“Some good, some well…,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers commented on the pot holders Laura would make as Christmas gifts and doll clothes.

“She would make her grandkids doll clothes and she’d bring them in here. They were little-bitty things,” Rodgers said. “I don’t know how in the world she had enough patience to do that.”

She was also knowledgeable about the history of the county.

“I think a lot of that came with all the stories she had done,” Rodgers said.

Fagre said, “She was really concerned about leaving the historical society in the basement. She said she’d hate to see it ever out of the courthouse because she thought it was so handy for everybody and that was the place it should be. And she’s right about that.”

Laura was big on education.

“She said if people could afford it at all, they need to go to college,” Farge said.

“We have lost a true champion for the power of books and the importance of community,” said Lisa Garro, Heartland Regional Library director. “She truly cared about this community and the people who live here.”

The community writer also dedicated years to the board of directors of the Historical Society of Maries County, lovingly calling it “The Hysterical Society.”

“In that role, Laura brought an absolute wealth of knowledge of the community through her journalism, her service to many other local organizations, her childhood within Maries County, and her deep love of her community and its many citizens,” said Historical Society of Maries County President Lisa Jones. “And love Maries County she did.”

Cindy Barbarick Poles, a former Belle Banner co-worker said, “She was not all about herself, she was about everybody else.”

Laura loved her job, but when she retired, she truly let it go.

“I am so glad I no longer have the burden of news and a job,” she told me on March 9 in a text message.

I believed her.

Our hearts went out to Laura’s family over Mother’s Day. When the obituary came out, the conscious was to print it.

“Emma wrote her mother’s obituary on Mother’s Day,” Teel said when asked about the author. “A chip off the tree.”

As we mourn the loss of a Maries County icon, a beloved writer of history, an amazing community member friend and not least of all loving wife, mother, and grandmother, I think we can still learn from Laura. After all, she had very exact views on change.

“Change is difficult but inevitable,” she wrote in the Oct. 12, 2016, edition of The Maries County Advocate under the commentary I am still your Maries County Journalist. She voiced her support for The Advocate and its family. “I ask, hope, and pray that you, my readers, will understand why I have made this decision and that you will continue to read my work. I am still here for you and will continue to be your advocate and your Maries County journalist.”

Thank you for everything, Laura.


Your newspaper family.