Jim Bishop: Paul or Barney – A big, big man either way

Paul M. Schrock in his beloved office haunt, Mennonite Publishing House, circa 1967-68.

For most folks who knew him, including his large extended family, he was “Paul.” To high school and college friends, he was known by the moniker, “Barney.”

Paul M. Schrock was large in stature, but kind of a teddy bear with a hearty laugh, an engaging smile and a keen interest in people, fueled by an inquisitive nature.

Over the years, he became a household name in the Mennonite Church and beyond.

Now, suddenly, the bigger-than-life yet genteel man is physically absent, too soon, at age 75. Yet his legacy and memory will live on, thanks to the many lives he touched and numerous contributions made to the church and larger community.

On April 15, Paul stumbled and fell down the inside steps of Hartzler Library at Eastern Mennonite University as he was leaving his weekly volunteer shift in the Menno Simons Historical Library.

Paul regained consciousness and talked clearly for about two hours after the fall. But a brain scan revealed internal bleeding and he lost consciousness en route to UVA Medical Center and died there early Monday morning. His wife of 53 years, June, and children, Carmen, Andrea and Brent were at his side. This sudden demise came as a shock to everyone who knew Paul.

My first encounter with Paul came at the workplace that was his fixture and passion – Mennonite Publishing House in Scottdale, Pa., where he devoted 41 years as magazine editor and book editor and later as director of Herald Press Trade Books.

The summer of 1966, between my junior and senior years of college, I did an internship at MPH, working in several editorial offices, including Paul’s.

That experience was pivotal to my decision to pursue some sort of writing-editing-journalism work following graduation; exactly what, I wasn’t sure at the time, but my experience with Paul and his colleagues convinced me that I wanted to use my gifts and calling to some sort of writing-editing-journalism work following graduation.

A native of Tangent, Ore., Paul was the oldest in a farm family of eight siblings. His parents wanted him to remain on the home place, but a deep desire to broaden his horizons, literally and metaphorically, lured him from the West to the East Coast, specifically to (then) Eastern Mennonite College the fall of 1954.

Friends there picked up on the nickname “Barney,” after Barnabas, the Apostle Paul’s right hand man, and it stuck.

Paul thrived in this learning community, where he enjoyed sports and guided the school newspaper, The Weather Vane, in its transition from mimeograph to newsprint production. He earned a BA degree from EMC in 1958 and a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University in 1963.

Paul often found himself juggling several vocational ventures at once. Regardless of the activity, though, words figured into the equation.

During his long tenure with Herald Press, Paul built relationships with hundreds of new and seasoned authors, participating in publishing more than 750 books, including an MPH best-seller, More-With-Less Cookbook with nearly a million copies in circulation. He negotiated translation rights for more than 100 Herald Press titles into 26 languages.

To supplement his income, Paul set up and ran a modest stock photography business, Paul M. Schrock Photos. I wasn’t long into my public information/media relations role at EMU until I started receiving boxes – often recycled Kodak photographic print boxes – with 30-40 8×10 black-and-white photos sent on speculation.

I frequently found just the right photo to illustrate a brochure or other print project I was working on. Several months later, another yellow box would arrive in the mail.

This relationship with Paul soon became reciprocal.

When Paul was editing “Words of Cheer,” a children’s magazine (later “On the Line”), and “Purpose” a church take-home paper, I returned the favor. Every so often one of my free-lance photos would show up in these periodicals.

In addition to his professional involvements, Paul was involved in the local community, including serving on the board of the local hospital and as president of the retail merchants’ association, in his congregation and on church-wide boards.

It seemed apparent to this observer that Paul never worked a day in his life, because he delighted in everything he did, viewing all his labors as a “ministry.”

After jointly operating Inn the Woods Bed and Breakfast with life-long partner June for several years, the couple relocated to Harrisonburg in 2003 to be closer to family. Along with his work in EMU’s historical library, Paul volunteered regularly with Booksavers of Virginia, where he researched book donations to sell online to benefit Mennonite Central Committee.

So, even though it doesn’t soften the blow, if Paul had to leave this world in an unexpected way – which he did – at least he was surrounded by volumes of books in a place he loved, a library.

And that speaks volumes of a remarkable man, Paul M. (Barney) Schrock.

Jim Bishop is public information officer at Eastern Mennonite University. He can be contacted at bishopj@emu.edu.


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