Jack Rankin Schroeder, 76, painted wildlife on Shore

August 13, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Jack Rankin Schroeder, an artist who painted the Eastern Shore's wildlife and who twice won the Maryland duck stamp contest, died of cancer Aug. 6 at his home in Arlington, Va. He was 76.

Mr. Schroeder also helped preserve the workshop and barbershop of the well-known Crisfield decoy makers Lem and Steve Ward, whose works he depicted.

Born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Mr. Schroeder served in the Navy's medical corps during the Korean War and moved to Chestertown to study English literature at Washington College.

For many years he lived in Kent County's Still Pond and worked as a contract artist for Smithsonian Institution scientists at the Natural History Museum. They named a fish, Ecsenius schroederi, and a species of microscopic crustaceans, or Ostracoda, Rutiderma schroederi, after him.

"He used a microscope to draw them," said his wife, Carolyn Settles of Arlington. "He was successful as a scientific illustrator because he was a perfectionist. In his wildlife paintings, he loved to do exquisite details."

During the Vietnam War, Mr. Schroeder did numerous paintings of Southeast Asian wildlife that were reproduced and distributed to U.S. military pilots so that, if downed, they could identify animals and tell whether they were poisonous.

About 30 years ago Mr. Schroeder began painting Eastern Shore wildlife.

"When, in 1977, he entered and won the Maryland duck stamp contest, his life took a sharp new turn," said a 1981 article in The Sun. The 850 prints of that painting, Bluebills at Sunset, immediately sold out. The stamp sold at the time for $1.10.

Several years later, Mr. Schroeder befriended Crisfield decoy maker Lem Ward, who with his brother carved and painted several thousand working decoys before they turned to decorative carving in the 1950s. The brothers were among the best-known carvers in the country, and their creations are highly prized.

In 1980 Mr. Schroeder won his second Maryland duck stamp contest with an entry titled Ward Brothers -- A Legacy to Maryland. The colored-pencil drawing was of a 1948 decoy by the Ward brothers.

After Lem Ward's death in 1984, Mr. Schroeder became a founding member of the Ward Brothers' Homeplace Inc., created to restore the brothers' workshop in Crisfield. The Homeplace is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Family members said that in 1990, Mr. Schroeder was appointed to the Maryland State Arts Council, for which he served as vice president and chairman for eight years.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. Aug. 20 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.

In addition to his wife of eight years, survivors include a son, Creighton Paul Schroeder of Phoenix, Ariz.; a daughter, Kathryn Manning Schroeder of Newark in Worcester County; a stepson, D. Chestlee Settles of Arlington; a stepdaughter, Sloane Sewell Settles of Arlington; three sisters, Jean Vanek and Eleanor Siko, both of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and Carol Schneider of Spring Hill, Fla.; and a grandson. His first wife, Barbara "Dolly" Vosburgh, to whom he was married for 35 years, died in 1983.

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