World War II Veteran Freezes To Death In His Home

January 29, 2009

When I first read this story after being sent a link to the story by Haole Wahine, I had many emotions going through me. Feelings of shock, frustration and extreme anger to name a few. Anger that the health and welfare of one of our veterans was less important to a power company, than the ‘almight dollar.’ Outrage that the power company would even think about putting the lives of people at risk in temperatures, like the ones being experienced in Michigan right now.

Marvin Schur, center, stands with his nephews Gerald Walworth, left, and William Walworth in this photo taken in Pompano Beach, Florida

Marvin Schur, center, stands with his nephews Gerald Walworth, left, and William Walworth in this photo taken in Pompano Beach, Florida


On January 17th, 93 year old World War II Veteran Marvin Schur was found dead in his home in Bay City, Michigan by his neighbors. His death was caused by hypothermia. A few weeks before, the utility company notified Schur that his power could be shut off, because he was more than $1,000 behind on his utility payments. On January 13th, just 4 days before he was found dead in his home, the utility company had installed a ‘limiter’ at his home and left a notice on his door. The limiter device was set to shut off Schur’s electricity when usage surpassed a pre-programmed amount. The week that Schur died, saw frigid temperatures with nights dipping down well below zero each night. According to the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Schur, he died a ’slow, painful death’ as the temperatures in his home fell below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.2

“Now that I know it was hypothermia, there’s a whole bunch of feelings that I’ve got going through me,” Jim Herndon, a neighbor of Schur’s said. “There’s anger, for the city and the electrical company.”3

In many states, where the temperatures often reach below freezing during the winter months, laws are in place to protect people in this type of situation, due to the severely low temperatures that often occur. Apparently that isn’t the case in Michigan. According to the neighbors that found Schur’s body, on his kitchen table was a utility bill with a large amount of money attached to it. Evidence that his intention was to make a payment on his bill.

The week that Schur died, the temperatures in nearby Saginaw, Michigan was 23 degrees for a high and a low of minus 4 degrees, on January 13. For the next three days, the temperatures dipped even lower, dropping to as low as minus 10 on the 14th. According to the neighbors who found Mr. Schur’s body, the furnace in his home was not running and the insides of the windows were covered with ice.

The outrage and anger directed towards the power company, since the details of Schur’s death has been made public, has been swift and harsh, as well it should be. Since Schur’s death, the power company, Bay City Electric Light and Power has removed around 60 limiters from homes that it had installed on homes, because of late payments.

“It has never been our intention to put anyone at risk,” Phil Newton, the electric department director said. He further stated that in 28 years of working in the electric utility field that he’d never experienced a situation like Schur’s case. He further went on to say that his staff is doing a lot of soul searching and asking themselves if this situation could have been avoided.4

This situation should have never happened. I realize that utility companies aren’t in the business of providing charity, but give me a break! This happened in the middle of the winter, in sub-zero temperatures and the victim was a 93 year old man who was living off of his retirement. This man was a veteran. Is this what our veteran’s have to look forward to? I certainly hope not!

Since this incident occurred, the Bay City Electric Light and Power company is re-evaluating how they handle situations such as Schur’s. They are reviewing Schur’s particular case and how it was handled and determining what procedures should be changed. Unfortunately for Mr. Schur, their actions are too little, too late. Not only was this man 93 years old, but he was a proud veteran of World War II, who earned a Purple Heart during his time in the Army as a medic.

“I am just livid over this,” said Jerome Anderson, 55, who lives across the street from Schur. “It’s unconscionable that something like this could happen.”5

Family members, after learning the cause of Schur’s death were shocked and outraged as well. It’s a given that the elderly and the very young are at an even greater risk of hypothermia, after even after exposure to even a small drop in temperature. As I stated earlier, most states have regulations in place to protect the elderly and the very young in these instances and many prohibit the cutting off of power during times of extremely low temperatures. I hope, with this tragedy that city and state officials in Michigan will take a strong look at what their lack of even the slightest human empathy has caused. John Sellek , a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said the office was reviewing the circumstances of Schur’s death.6 I hope that the city and power company are held accountable for the death of Mr. Schur. In my opinion, it’s the only course of action and they should be held accountable.

Marvin E. Schur, 93 year old World War II Veteran was laid to rest on Wednesday. Members of the Patriot Guard Riders flanked the entrance of the Bay City Funeral Home, to pay their respects to this fallen hero.

Rest in peace Mr. Schur and thank you very much for your selfless service to our country.

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4 Responses to “World War II Veteran Freezes To Death In His Home”

  1. jen on January 30th, 2009 4:46 pm

    How sad this is,May god have mercy on the ones who murdered this wonderful man,my prayers are with the family

  2. World War II Veteran Freezes To Death In His Home - World War 2 Talk on January 30th, 2009 7:33 pm

    [...] he died a ?slow, painful death? as the temperatures in his home fell below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.2 World War II Veteran Freezes To Death In His Home : A Soldier’s Mind __________________ [...]

  3. Jerry on February 1st, 2009 9:44 am

    The Gas compant did me the same way with small children in my house, lucky I went electric and have stayed with it ever since, that was 10 years ago, I have never spent a dime on gas since then and God willing I wont

  4. Gary Thomas Pyles, SFC, Retired US Army on February 3rd, 2009 6:46 am

    I heart goes out to his family, this is so sad and unforgivable to the city government. Did that money mean that much for a World War II Veterans Life. He fought and lived in the dead cold and you let him die an unforgiveable death. The Veteran who gave his life to Protect and Honor this country and that is how you repayed this VETERAN. Nothing has changed, regardless of what type of veteran the end result is the same. A World War II veteran, this shamefull, all of those employees, I hope that they can deal with their lives, because they have done a grave misjustice to this Veteran. I saw a TV commercial with Joe for Oil and he was giving an World War II Veteran oil so he would not freeze to death in his home, this was so sad, but this government organization did the opposite. I hope this does not happen to one of their family members or a family member that served in the military or any war for this country.

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