Published on 11/04/03

Beekeeper's 'heart' lives on in UGA research

By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia

Myron Schaer was a food scientist by profession, but his heart belonged to beekeeping. He was, for the most part, a self-taught apiarist who loved tending his hives and marketing his honey to stores in Rome, Ga.

When he did have a beekeeping problem he couldn't solve, he'd call on University of Georgia entomologist Keith Delaplane, whom he'd met through the Georgia Beekeepers Association.

"Myron never made extraordinary demands of my time," recalls Delaplane, a honeybee researcher with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "I got a phone call or two from him and he'd ask a question or two after a meeting."

$200,000 and beekeeping equipment

Apparently, Schaer truly appreciated Delaplane's advice and supported his honeybee research program. When he died last fall, he left a $200,000 estate donation and $3,000 worth of beekeeping equipment to Delaplane's research program.

"This has been a humbling and sobering lesson," said Delaplane, who accepted the donation for the university this month.

"In the education business we can never take lightly our potential impact on our clientele," he said. "What to us appears a simple and routine inquiry can represent a major issue in the life of the inquirer."

Schaer's donation will be used to establish the Myron Schaer Memorial Endowment to support of honeybee research and education at UGA. The equipment was actually donated last spring by Schaer's sisters, Dora Barra and Frances Mercer.

"Myron always loved insects as a boy," Barra said. "So we weren't surprised when he began beekeeping."

Food scientist and outdoorsman

Schaer grew up near Lockville in Fairfield County, Ohio, on a 160-acre farm. He was an active 4-H'er who used his 4-H award winnings to buy a farm tractor and his first car.

After serving as an engineer in the U.S. Navy, Schaer attended The Ohio State University on the GI Bill. He earned a bachelor's degree in food science and began working for the PET Food Corporation bakery division in 1962. He worked as a quality control supervisor for the company until he retired in 1992.

"He started beekeeping in 1980 as a hobby," said Mercer. "But after he retired, beekeeping became his vocation."

Schaer processed and bottled his honey and sold it to supermarkets and country stores in the Rome, Ga., area under the name Penataka.

"We're told Penataka is an American Indian word for sweet," Barra said. "Myron enjoyed the Indian culture and adopted a lot of their philosophies -- particularly that of living on the land and giving back to the land."

He understood the importance of research

Schaer's sisters say he decided to support UGA's research program in his will when it became clear to him that he was not going to recover from cancer.

"Myron was scientific by training, so he understood the importance of Dr. Delaplane's work," Mercer said.

Schaer's beekeeping equipment is being used by Delaplane's students.

"They used the hives and the equipment in their classes last spring and will continue to do so," Delaplane said. "I learned from Myron to treat each client seriously and give them the full benefit of your attention. We can never fully know what that will mean in the life of that person."

Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.