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Rising Above Circumstances: Jim Schindler

Monday, September 25, 2017   (0 Comments)
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“I just can’t help but think that if my father had been the man he should have been, my brothers and sisters and I would have had such a different life,” says Jim Schindler, founder of Bandido’s Restaurant. “This is hard to say…but I have always told myself I would never be anything like my father.”

The words are spoken with tears in his eyes. Even now, at 80 years old, Schindler remembers the day he and his brothers and sisters became orphans.

“It was March of 1938 and I was three years old,” he recalls. “My mom dropped off me, my three brothers and two of my sisters at St. Vincent’s Villa in Fort Wayne, a Catholic orphanage off Wells Street. I was the youngest and I remember being scared, but I had no idea what was happening. My brother, Joe, was 5 and he knew we were going to be left there. He threw himself on the ground and was crying and kicking. I will never forget that day.”

Schindler was the youngest of 9 children born to Louis and Rose Schindler in Portland, Indiana. One of the children, a toddler-aged girl, died from scarlet fever before Jim was born. The two oldest girls in the family were taken in by a relative while the other six children were taken to the orphanage. 

“My father was an alcoholic and would come home every day and beat the crap out of my mother,” he painfully remembers. “Then he would disappear for a few days and come back. He always said he would try to find a job, but he didn’t. He left for good when I was a newborn, leaving my mother with absolutely no income and no one to help care for us kids. As horrible as it was to become an orphan, I have to give them credit at St. Vincent’s for giving us three meals a day and a good education. And I have fond memories of Sister Brigideen. She would hold me and hug me, which really made me feel special.”

Schindler remained at St. Vincent’s for eight years. His mother visited her children once during that time.

“I never held that against my mother, but Joe did. He resented her until the day she died.”

After leaving St. Vincent’s, Jim and Joe were sent to foster homes, where Jim says they were treated like slaves and sometimes beaten. For a short time, they were sent to live with their father, but he never stopped drinking and neglected to care for them, so they were taken away. It seemed the misery would never end.

Thankfully, it finally did. Joe and Jim were taken in by Miss Christina Schurger in Decatur. 

“She was very kind and very sweet and she had taken care of my other two brothers when they left the orphanage. She sent us to Decatur Catholic High School where I met Sister Agnes Therese. Because of her, I ended up getting the inspiration and courage I needed to pursue a higher education.”

Schindler earned a bachelor’s degree in social science from John Carroll University in Cleveland. Much to his surprise, his mother paid for the first semester and his aunt paid for the rest of the four years. 

“It must have been Divine intervention,” he laughs. “I couldn’t believe that my mom was willing to help me.”

After school, he joined the army for two years and then started his own drywall business. Eventually, he and his first wife, Rita, started a local pizza chain called Jimmy’s Pizza.

After divorcing, he sold his share of the chain and in 1980, opened the first Bandido’s Restaurant off Winchester Road. It was a huge success and he and his second wife, Fry, opened four more.

“It felt good to be successful after feeling like I was inferior all my life. There’s nothing worse than thinking your own mom and dad don’t love you. I mean, if they don’t love you, then who will?”

Schindler officially retired as owner of Bandido’s two years ago, handing the reigns to his son, Jimmie II. They have lunch together every week. Schindler has seven children and a dozen grandchildren. 

He keeps very busy exercising, spending time with family and writing books, including an autobiography called St. Vincent’s Child.

“I have a new publication coming out at the end of this year called The Best Damn Poems You’ve Never Read. One of my personal favorites is called, ‘An Ode to the Porcelain Throne’”:

The seat was up again, she said, as angry as could be.

I lifted it to keep it dry so you wouldn’t be mad, said he.

I sat down, she continued on, and fell right in, you lout!

My dear, said he, you might have drowned – thank God you buttom-ed out!

His autobiography is dedicated to Sister Brigideen, Christina Schurger and Sister Agnes Therese… “the three ladies who nurtured and encouraged me to rise above my circumstances.”

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