John Schad


Funeral services for John Schad, age 81, of Emmetsburg, Iowa were held on Wednesday, March 27, 2024 at Holy Family Catholic Church in Emmetsburg, Iowa.

John F. Schad, the voice on the radio for Emmetsburg, Iowa, died of complications from pneumonia on Friday, March 22, in hospice care at the Palo Alto County Hospital. He was 81 years old.

John’s life pursuits were inventive and often unconventional, but they were focused on
serving his community. Through the mediums of radio and technology, John served his
communities as a journalist, broadcaster, and local leader. John discovered his love of
radio as a teenager at Pekin High School in Pekin, Illinois.

His first job in broadcasting was driving the reporting vehicle Little Mac for WSIV radio. He soon found his way from behind the wheel to behind a microphone, a place he would stay until his last years.

After high school, John attended Denver University where he met his future wife and
lifetime partner, Jan. John was a member of Theta Chi fraternity but spent most of his
time at the campus radio station where he and Jan reported on the Kennedy
assassination in 1963.

A day after graduating from college with a BA in Communications, John and Jan were
married. They moved to Pekin, Illinois, and lived there for two years until they accepted Kennedy’s call for service and joined the Peace Corps. They were assigned to an educational television program in Bogota, Columbia, where they produced educational episodes broadcast to school children in classrooms. Educated teachers were difficult to find in Columbia, but students could be reached through a broadcast signal. Through their time in Colombia, John and Jan made lifelong friends with fellow volunteers and the people of Colombia who folded them into their families.

Following the Peace Corps and the birth of their first child, John F. Schad III, John and Jan moved to Puerto Rico where John worked in sales for Ampex Corporation, covering the Caribbean territory. While waiting to meet with the Ministry of Communications in the Bahamas, John picked up a broadcasting magazine and saw a want ad for a general manager of the radio station WSMI in Carlinville, Illinois. This led the family to their next move. Jeanne and Peggy were born during their time in Carlinville, and the young family were frequent visitors to the WSMI studios.

John often felt called to leadership roles. While in Carlinville, he became the president
of the Chamber of Commerce. Carlinville was a town of 5,000 people with a coal mine
at its economic heart. Exxon, the owner of the coal mine, produced a television
commercial featuring their Carlinville community connection and John was the star. This commercial aired for several years during network prime time. The few dollars that John earned in royalties from that commercial became the seed money for their next adventure.

John had always dreamed of owning his own radio station. In 1976 the young family
moved to Jan’s hometown of Emmetsburg, Iowa, and put KEMB-FM on the air in
January 1977. With a tower located on his mother-in-law’s farm, John and Jan’s radio
station was a format unique to small towns of news, weather, farm reports and local
sports with music to fill the time in between.

John was not only the voice on the radio; he was also the voice for local issues, joining
the Emmetsburg City Council in the early 1980s and later serving as the mayor of
Emmetsburg from 2008 – 2012. As mayor, John started the community garden and held true to his convictions of governmental transparency and service for the people.
John was always interested in how technology could be used to improve operations.
Through this interest and the timing of the invention of the personal computer, John
began experimenting with writing code to automate simple tasks. His own
experimentation drew the interest of other local broadcasters, and through
overwhelming demand, John began to sell his code. This led to the sale of KEMB in
1989 and the birth of Smarts Broadcast Systems, a company which creates computer
systems to automate radio stations. The company continues to operate today with
hundreds of systems sold worldwide. For their service to the industry through both
KEMB and Smarts, Jan (posthumously) and John were inducted into the Iowa
Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2022.

Recognizing the need to bring local radio back to Emmetsburg, John was instrumental
in starting the low-power FM radio station for the Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce.  He was able to secure the original call letters retired over a decade before and KEMB- LP once again became a local institution.

After Jan’s death in 2016, John retired from the business and public service, and
enjoyed summers at his cabin on Ingham Lake and winters at his family home in

John is survived by his children Johnny Schad (Lori Hebel) of Emmetsburg, Jeanne
Schad (John Nestor) of Huntington Beach, California, and Peggy Stolley (Andy) of
Emmetsburg. He was also a proud big brother and is survived by his sisters Pam
Gasper (Don) of Pekin, Illinois, and Christine Jones (Terry) of Wellington, Florida. Also
surviving John are nephews B.J. Jones (Carrie) of Atlanta, Georgia, and Matt Jones
(Jenn Hahn) of Washington, D.C.; and great-nieces and nephews Justine Cabell, Ben
Jones, Charlotte Grace Jones, and Sawyer Jones. John’s family also includes the
current and former staff of Smarts Broadcast Systems. He was preceded in death by his wife Jan and his parents, Jack and Nelda Schad.

Arrangements by Martin-Mattice Funeral Home