Sandcastle Committee Founder Tommie Schuette, 1928-2011

Originally published Nov. 29, 2011 by Imperial Beach Patch.

In 1980 Tommie Schuette was part of a group of people from around Imperial Beach who went to a sandcastle competition in Canada that was able to attract thousands of people. A few months later, the U.S. Open Sandcastle Committee was founded. Over the years the Imperial Beach competition would grow from a few thousand people to more than 400,000 organizers estimated in 2011.

On Nov. 9, after 31 years, the Sandcastle Committee’s board moved to dissolve the organization.

Eight days later on Nov. 17, Schuette passed away at the age of 83 from congestive heart failure. Since her health had been deteriorating her family didn’t tell her about the Sandcastle Competition ending before she passed, her son Thomas Schuette said.

Schuette was born and raised in Bassfield, Mississippi and moved to Imperial Beach in 1963 with her husband Richard W. Schuette.

In the early 1980s she was elected to the City Council. Schuette was also owner of her own real estate business, a member of the Imperial Beach Women’s Club and was very involved in the Imperial Beach Chamber of Commerce.

“She  served in every capacity: Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President and President,” said Kim Palkovic in an email to members to announce her death. “Many of these offices she served in several different times. All of Tommie’s efforts are greatly appreciated and she will be sorely missed.”

Councilwoman Lorie Bragg will be at Schuette’s funeral Friday.

Schuette and Bragg first met arguing over a parking space 25 years ago. Bragg worked at the convenience store To Market To Market on Seacoast Drive and Schuette worked in real estate nearby.

Once Schuette was convinced it wasn’t Bragg’s car in her parking space, she Bragg said she told her “now you get in there and make me a BLT with lots of avocado and crispy bacon.”

“She never held back on what she thought. She was always very forthcoming with her opinion and sometimes you would just wonder ‘oh gosh what she is going to say now.’ Some people didn’t find it so charming but that was her way.”

After that the two became close friends.

“She was a mentor, a role model, a best friend, a mom, everything to me and my family,” Bragg said. “She just subscribed to kind of an old world philosophy about life and it was always God before country and she stuck to that.”

Bragg said people were Schuette’s first love and her work in the community was “endless” because she never turned away from a responsibility or people in need.

“It’s hard to let go of a force like that you know,” Bragg said. “You know she’s out there still but it’s hard to let go.”

Though she was better known for the Sandcastle Competition or involvement in business or political affairs, Thomas Schuette said his mother also liked to sing with her church when Ocean View Church was Midway Bapist Church.

“The convalescent home senior ministry used to go and sing at the convalescent homes in the area,” he said. “She absolutely adored doing that stuff.”

Donations may be made in Schuette’s honor to the or the Ocean View Church Convalescent Ministry.

She is survived by her children Richard Schuette, Thomas Schuette and Patricia Romero, her grandchildren Shaun Schuette, Paul Romero and David Romero and two great grand children Olivia Romero and Joaquin Romero.

A memorial service will be held Dec. 2 at 11 a.m. at Ocean View Church on 2460 Palm Avenue in San Diego. A reception will then be held in the at 12:30 p.m.

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