John Alfred Schoenemann passed away in Madison on January 30, 2020. Born in Milwaukee County on July 26, 1923, he was the son of John H. and Elizabeth (Smith) Schoenemann. His first school was a one-room school in rural Milwaukee County. A graduate of Milwaukee’s Bay View High School, John worked in his father’s greenhouse vegetable growing business before enrolling in the UW-Madison College of Agriculture, graduating with a BS degree in Soil Science. He married Fay Louise Yarbrough in 1948 and spent a year as a horticulture extension agent in Racine County before returning to UW—Madison as an extension specialist and beginning graduate studies. He completed his MS in Horticulture in 1954 and PhD in Agricultural Economics in 1959.
As an extension vegetable crops specialist and researcher with a joint appointment in horticulture and agricultural economics, John specialized in potatoes, developing a production and management program for growing the Russet Burbank variety successfully in Wisconsin. This later became the leading variety grown in the state and fostered the growth of the potato processing industry in Wisconsin.
John was a member of professional societies including the American Society for Horticultural Science, the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, and the Potato Association of America. He served as a director and a term as president of the Potato Association of America. That organization awarded him honorary life membership in 1985. To the potato industry in Wisconsin he was regarded as “Mr. Potato” at his retirement, after 36 years with UW—Madison. His colleagues have referred to him as the consummate mentor, helping to shape the careers of a generation of extension specialists and researchers.
John enjoyed his long period of retirement doing some consulting work, traveling in the US and Europe, building and rebuilding his model train layout, and spending many days with his wife Fay at their farm in Iowa County. John enjoyed his garden, growing prize tomatoes which he distributed to many neighbors and friends each season.
John was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Mildred Knappe (Herman) of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and his wife Fay. He is survived by sons Mark (Nancy) of Leavenworth, KS, and Erik (Bette) of Soldiers Grove, WI, and grandchildren Nicholas and Caitlin.
Funeral arrangements and services will be private.