MAY 9, 1960
Grieving Mother Still Awaits Word from Girl
It's Mothers Day, and she wore flowers from eight devoted children as she attended Mass yesterday morning at the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Philmont. "But there was sorrow in this mother's heart. Sorrow and a prayer for the daughter who didn't come home to turn the day to rejoicing.
"It could have been the happiest day of my life," said Mrs. William Schumann of Mellenville, Columbia County, New York, whose daughter, Gracie, age 16, vanished April 16 after conversion to the Jehovah's Witnesses tenets.
"Today, of all days", said Mrs. Schumann softly, "I hoped she would remember ... at least let me hear from her."
Mrs. Schumann renewed her belief that area members of Jehovah's Witnesses know where Grace has gone.
Mr. and Mrs. Peter Post, who live a few miles from the Schumann home, are among those who have been questioned by District Attorney David Hendler. They deny they have any information concerning Gracie's whereabouts.
Mr. Peter Post a Jehovah's Witnesses minister, admits he baptized Gracie in her new faith, March 13, 1960. His daughter, Helen, age 15, has been Gracie's closest friend since childhood, and it is believed Gracie's interest in Jehovah's Witnesses stemmed from the friendship.
A beautiful strawberry blonde, Gracie told her family early in February that she no longer believed in Catholicism. Clutching a Bible to her breast, she voiced dedication to Jehovah's Witnesses.
Stormy scenes ensued. Mrs. Schumann pleaded with her daughter. She forbid the girl to see members of the sect. She tried corporal punishment. Nothing dissuaded Gracie, who occasionally sneaked from the house to attend meetings.
LOST SCHOOL INTEREST
A sophomore at Ockawamick Central School, where she was an honor student and cheerleader, Gracie suddenly began to "fail miserably," her mother explained yesterday. "Her guidance counselor talked with her and she told him she was only interested in the Bible. She said she had no further interest in school."
The counselor, according to Mrs. Schumann, reported Grace was "saturated" in her new beliefs, and recommended a new environment. The girl's mother said the family was considering sending Grace to boarding school when she disappeared.
"She may have heard us talking about it," said Mrs Schumann.
Both Mrs. [Peter] Post and Helen [Post] have said they knew Gracie contemplated running away. Helen [Post] said Gracie had told her so at school the day before her disappearance.
FIND TORN NOTE
A torn-up note found in Gracie's room mentioned a Hudson, NY family, and details about clothing. The family belongs to the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Mrs. Schumann said Gracie had only about $3.00, and took only the clothes she wore, her good coat, and her best shoes.
The Schumanns have offered a $100 reward for Gracie's return. State Police at Claverack hold a warrant for her arrest as a wayward child.
Gracie is five feet two inches tall, and weighs 122 pounds. She has blue eyes. She was last seen wearing a green trench coat and sun-tan slacks.
May 8, 1960
[Governor Rockefeller's] Aid Asked in Finding Girl
A full-scale investigation to find missing Grace Schumann has been asked of Gov. Rockefeller and the Albany Catholic Diocese by a friend of the Mellenville, Columbia County, family.
"Somebody has to help us do something," Mrs. Estelle Schelegel, of Philmont, told The Times-Union last night.
Grace, a 16-year-old strawberry blonde honor student at Ockawamick Central School, has been missing since April 14.
Grace was "just a quiet, respectful girl," Mrs. Schelegel said
"Then all of a sudden Gracie wasn't acting right," she added.
The usually happy girl came home from meetings with the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mrs. Schelegel said, "with her eyelids flickering and her pupils dilated."
An honor student and cheerleader at Ockawamick High until February, Grace began failing her studies as she devoted most of her waking moments to the [Jehovah's] Witnesses and their Bible, according to Mrs. Schelegel.
Mrs. Peter Post, wife of the Jehovah's Witness minister in Columbia County, was asked by Mrs. Schelegel if she wasn't disturbed by the fact the girl ran away.
"All we are interested in is a convert. The minute someone enters our house we talk religion to them -- morning, noon, and night," Mrs. Schiegel said Mrs. Post told her.
Mrs. Schelegel also quoted Mrs. Post as saying of Grace, "She's leading a better life where she is."
Mrs. William Schumann, Grace's mother, and Mrs. Schelegel tried to talk to Grace, but it didn't help.
"I love my mother, but I love my Bible more," Mrs. Schelegel said the girl told her.
Mrs. Schelegel said she and Mrs. Schumann contacted State Police, the District Attorney, and the Children's Court -- each agency telling them they could do nothing.
That's why they are asking the Governor if there isn't some law to help this girl and her family," Mrs. Schelegel said.
She claimed that while bus drivers were told not to let Grace off at any other stop than her home, she was met at the bus by Jehovah's Witnesses, and taken back to their meetings.
JUNE 3, 1960
COLUMBIA COUNTY GIRL, 16, WHO RAN OFF, WRITES MOM
The months of fear and frightening dreams are over for a Columbia County mother.
Grace Schumann, 16 year old Mellenvllle strawberry blonde who left home after a religious dispute on April 14, has written her mother that she is "alive and well."
Mailed from New York City on May 22, the letter was received by her mother, Mrs William Schumann, on May 24.
The girl wrote that she has a job in New York City (WatchTower HQ) and is studying the Bible.
"ALIVE AND WELL"
Grace told her mother not to worry. "I am alive and well."
"She said she left to protect her rights and read the Bible," Mrs. Schumann told The Times-Union.
Grace, formerly a devout Roman Catholic, studied under guidance of Jehovah's Witnesses and announced to her mother she was becoming a [Jehovah's] Witness. Several arguments about her change of faith led to Grace's disappearance in April.
"At least I know she's all right," Mrs. Schumann said. "I kept dreaming I'd be called to identify the body," she said.
Mrs. Schumann turned the letter over to State Police and Columbia County District Attorney, David Hendler. The fact it was received, and its' contents, were kept in strict confidence until yesterday.
Hendler said the investigation of the girl's disappearance is continuing," but he wouldn't comment on whether or not Grace's exact wherebouts have been uncovered.
Reliable sources have indicated that Grace may not be in New York City, but in one of the hundreds of Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Halls as far away as [Astoria] California. (When Grace returned to Mellenville, the light skin girl had a dark tan.)
The letter could have been routed from another city or state through a New York mailing service, the sources said.
But wherever Grace is now, she has made her mother smile.
"I know she's physically all right, but her mind is still affected by the other things," the mother said.
The "other things," Mrs. SchLunann said, were teachings by the [Jehovah's] Witnesses.
'Tm sure I will be seeing my Gracie very soon," the mother said.
Mrs. Peter Post, wife of a Philmont Jehovah's Witness minister, converted Grace from her former faith.
She said yestesday that "we haven't heard from her at all," and denied any knowledge of Grace's disappearance.
'I'm glad she's alive. When they do find her maybe it will take some of the pressure off the Jehovah's Witnesses."
"Every place we go we are confronted with this," Mrs. Post said.
Asked if she thought the missing girl should be brought home or allowed to "study her Bible," Mrs. Post said: "It's entirely up to them whether she comes home."
June 27, 1960
Grace M. Schumann Case Remains Real Puzzle
Many Questions Raised by Teener's Breaking of Ties with Her Family
The big question raised by the Grace M. Schumann story is this:
Can a teenager, a legal minor, snap family ties like threads and turn her back on religious, cultural, and emotional bonds linking her to her home?
Grace M. Schumann, pretty, 16 year-old honor student at Ockawamick Central School, who ran away from home, and returned in mysterious fashion, has apparently cast off her family, who are Catholics, to embrace the Jehovah's Witness Religion with its promise of everlasting life on earth.
Her dramatic renunciation of the Roman Catholicism of her Mellenville family, and her renunciation, in effect, of the family itself, are seen by some domestic relations experts as evidence of a deep-rooted antipathy toward her mother, and of a search for emotional peace while accepting another religion, especially one severely criticized by Catholic authorities.
On June 20, following dismissal of a wayward minor charge against Gracie when her mother refused to prosecute, the girl left the Columbia County Courthouse with Mr. and Mrs. Peter Post of Mellenville, a devout [Jehovah's] Witness family and has taken up residence with them.
The Posts and their daughter, Helen Post, a fellow student with Gracie at Ockawamick Central School in Philmont, were instrumental in Gracie's conversion when, as an involuntary audience while doing her homework at the Post home, she overheard weekly Bible sessions and an interest in the [Jehovah's] Witnesses' faith developed.
Mrs. [Grace M.] Schumann, who has [eight] other children, is distraught and frustrated from an unsuccessful battle of wills with her daughter since the teenager first became interested in the [Jehovah's] Witnesses.
Gracie's unexpected residence with the Posts has caused her mother to counterattack with a promise to hire a lawyer to start civil Court action to compel her daughter to return to the Schumann household. "I can't abandon my child to those people (the Posts) and their Jehovah's Witnesses religion," Mrs. Schumann declared after she became certain Gracie would not return home voluntarily.
OBJECT OF SEARCH
Gracie was the object of a statewide police search following her disappearance last April 14. Six weeks later she turned herself in to New York City police and asked to be taken home to Mellenville.
She refused to tell District Attorney David Hendler, his secretary, Mrs. Jane Balcerzewski, State Police B.C.I. Corporal Fred Potts, or the Children's Court, where she had been during her absence other than to say she had been in New York City preaching the [Jehovah's] Witnesses' tenets.
Authorities did not believe Gracie at the time, and then as now, the delicateness of the religious question inhibited pressing the investigation as far as might normally be expected.
During the 120-mile automobile ride up the Taconic Parkway from New York City with the D. A., his secretary, and the BCI corporal, Gracie sat protected by a shell of silence and indifference with which she resisted most questions.
SNARLED AT MOTHER
Long-smouldering hostility flared between mother and daughter almost at the instant of reunion in front of the County courthouse and the teenager snarled at her mother to "take your hands off me." Mrs. Schumann hastily withdrew her hands and stepped back from her daughter.
Grace's stony silence endured through an afternoon of questioning in the District Attorney's office. At the end of the day Mrs. Schumann announced she would seek psychiatric help for her daughter.
Grace was starting to receive therapy at the Rip Van Winkle Clinic in Hudson when she made her latest break.
The uniqueness of the present relationship between headstrong Grace and her family causes speculation to arise on these points:
What legal resources does a mother in Mrs. Schumann's situation have to bring her daughter back home?
Can any teenager, at will. leave home and live with some other family of her own choosing?
What moral guides does a mother have in determining how far she may go in the courts and by personal persuasion to recapture the physical presence, interest, and possibly even affection of her daughter?
Is Children's or County Court action the only remedy such a parent as Mrs. Schumann has?
Even the best intentioned court action is a form of coercion which a mother may be naturally reluctant to initiate. Legal sources say renewed wayward minor charges against Grace may be necessary to bring the influence and resources of the County Court and Judge William Connor to bear on the situation.
Other equally difficult questions concern the legal responsibilities and liabilities for Grace's behavior which still be long to her mother and to what extent the Post family Is responsible for her.
Judge Connor, in commenting unofficially on the case, said Grace could now move in with any respectable family she wanted to and which would accept her. Judge Connor declined official comment on the case pending further developments, such as new wayward minor charges by Mrs Schumann upon which he might have to rule.
Is the Judge, in effect, giving tacit consent to Grace's new role as a member of the Post family as the best solution to an agonizing dilemma?
Philosophically, and perhaps practically, can it be that the "adjustment," the rapport, Grace feels with the Posts is but a temporary solution, a time bomb which will explode later on in the form of maladjustment to present society, sanctioned and reinforced by the moral strength of religious conviction and making future psychiatric therapy more difficult?
Grace's silence on the reasons for her leaving home last April was partially broken recently when she said she ran away to convince her mother and others of the sincerity of her beliefs and because of the difficulties with her mother arising from her belief in her adopted religion. There is evidence of incompatibility between mother and daughter long preceding the issue caused by Grace's conversion.
She related how preceding a short disappearance on Sunday, June 19, when she walked out of the Schumann house while her mother attended Mass in the village's Sacred Heart Church, a furious argument arose between herself and her mother over telephone calls Grace received.
Mrs. Schumann claims the telephone calls were from [Jehovah's] Witnesses and that Gracie lied to her about their origin. Mrs. Schumann admits tearing up a Bible and several Witness tracts used by her daughter, but explains her actions by saying 'The calls came from people using false names; Gracie was not truthful with me about them. If the Jehovah's Witnesses teach people to he deceitful and lie then I don't want their books in my home."
Mrs. Schumann said she'd offered Grace complete freedom of belief if she would come home but to no avail; Grace avers her mother refused to let her attend [Jehovah's] Witness services in the Stottville Kingdom Hall.
Mrs. Peter Post explained that the [Jehovah's] Witnesses did not force Grace to join "but only offered her the chance for everlasting life on earth the same as to any other potential convert and she joined the religion."
Said another member of the Post family: "It is unlikely Grace will go home to her mother because she was unhappy at home. She had to get out. She was going nuts there. She was taking nerve pills."
Principal Lester Benson of Ockawamick Central School, where Grace started the term as an honor student in her sophomore year, says she does not have to return to school because she is 16 years old and free to do as she pleases. Benson explained that Grace took Regents tests in three of her five subjects last week in an effort to keep her sophomore rating so she will be promoted. "If she wants to return to school in the Fall, she can." Benson said.
Several startling questions in parental-teenager relationships have been aroused in some minds by the case of Gracie M. Schumann, who has left her home and family against her mother's wishes. Questions raised by Grace's behavior and still unanswered are these:
Where did she go when she left home, and who provided transportation and food and lodging money?
Was and is her silence a device to protect others?
Does she intend to keep up her psychiatric counselling if the [Jehovah's] Witnessese pay for it? Will the [Jehovah's] Witnesses subsidize such treatments?
Mrs. Schumann related how the psychiatrist told her Grace's enthusiasm for the [Jehovah's] Witnesses probably would wear off before long ii she is handled properly.
Is Grace's conversion merely an escape from a difficult home life?
Is Grace's behavior based on true religious zeal or is it merely a convenient raitonalization for rebellion against her mother?
Is Mrs. Schumann genuinely concerned with Grace's salvation and membership in the Schumann family or is she anxious to save face as a mother?
As for Grace's present attitude, she says she is "sorry for the hatred and misunderstanding inspired by her conversion", but she just wants to be left alone to practice her new religion in a sympathetic atmosphere in peace.
** Gracie eventually married into a devout multi-generation Jehovah's Witness Family, and produced five Jehovah's Witness children of her own, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Given that her husband and she have lived in California for years, we suspect they both were Bethelites.
*** Original articles published in the Albany, New York, TIMES-UNION. Edits and emphasis ours.