Remembering Bernadette Schaefer

Posted by on March 18, 2016 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

Remembering Bernadette Schaefer

We are sorry to belatedly share the news that Bernadette Schaefer, one of the orphan train riders featured in our documentary, has passed away.

Her son, Rich Schaefer, told us: “She died on Nov. 1, which is celebrated by the church as All Saints Day. Seems appropriate since she lived her life in such a saintly manner.”

If you’ve seen our West by Orphan Train documentary, you will remember that Bernadette was taken to a rural area of Nebraska as a 4-year-old. As she explains in the documentary, she ended up having a wonderful childhood in Nebraska. When we interviewed her for the documentary, she told us: “I felt wonderful because I felt that was the first time in my life that I felt like I had a home.”

Bernadette, who lived in Minnesota, was 93 when she died. She was so gracious to share her story with us. We admired her  -and the thousands of other orphan train riders – for her resilience and optimism.


Bernadette Schaefer


  1. I learned about the Orphhan trains tonight on PBS program, Ancestry Roadside. I am Eighty Three years and never knew this went on In America. Why does no one include topics like this in school curriculums?

    • I am not sure why it wasn’t included in the past. I think sometimes when an event is in your recent past, the impact on your nation isn’t clear. Plus, history teachers have a lot of history to sort through in making choices. I do think schools are teaching about this more often now.

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