The Story Behind the Brick—Thelma Shanafelt Schoonover

The Trenton Education Center campaign is selling inscribed brick pavers to be placed near the entrance to the newly renovated and expanded facility.  One of these brick pavers was purchased by the family of Thelma Shanafelt Schoonover, a remarkable lady who became a Registered Nurse through Kaskaskia College at the age of 60.


According to the family, “Thelma Shanafelt Schoonover, Kaskaskia College Nursing Program Class of 1974, graduated at the age of 60 and practiced as a Registered Nurse until a few months before she died in 1994 at the age of 80.  In 1932 she entered the St. Luke’s Nursing School in St. Louis.  Because she married before she graduated, she had to leave the program.  In those days you had to be an unmarried, childless student.


Following a divorce, she and her son returned to Salem, Illinois where she obtained work as a nursing assistant to Dr. H.E. Schoonover.  As has been known to happen, Dr. Schoonover, a widower, and Thelma fell in love and were married in October of 1939.  She continued to assist him in his medical practice until his death in 1969.  They raised his three children, her son, and added three more children to the group.


Dr. Schoonover was the old time “Country Doctor” who was more concerned about his patients’ health than in sending bills for his services.  When he passed away, Thelma was left with a mortgage, accounts receivable (which she made no attempt to collect) and little else.  After recovering from some challenges to her health, she started working as a nurse’s aide at Salem Memorial Hospital.


When Kaskaskia College announced its Nursing Program, she immediately began working for admission.  She was questioned that at her age it might be too difficult and/or she would have a shortened work career.  It was suggested she shouldn’t take the place of a younger student who would have more years to nurse.  Finally, she was accepted, graduated, and passed her state boards the first time around.


Thelma, a member of the Marion county Ladies Medical Society, was chosen to receive their Nursing Scholarship to help her through school. She nursed at Salem Community Hospital for 15 years and at Bryan Manor another four years.  She truly spent 60 years nursing, although because of Kaskaskia College, 20 of those years were as a Registered Nurse.


Her family is so proud to honor this extraordinary woman on the Kaskaskia College campus.  She knew the importance of an education for both men and women.  We are grateful Kaskaskia College made it possible for Thelma and so many others to achieve their dreams.”


Thelma’s family has commissioned at brick paver that will be installed at the Trenton Education Center entrance, reading “Thelma Elaine Schoonover  RN Class of 1974.”


If you would like to honor someone with a permanent brick paver, inscribed with a message of your choosing at the entrance to the Trenton Education Center, please contact Suzanne Christ at 618-545-3069 or by email at


© 2017 Kaskaskia College - 27210 College Road - Centralia, Illinois 62801 - (618)545-3000 (800)642-0859