A funeral was held for former Pickering Manor plant supervisor John Scheetz Jr. late Sunday afternoon and into the night.
It was one of those celebrations of life events, with lots of good food and drink, music, laughter and everyone talking to everyone.
And the best part was that Scheetz, a former Langhorne Borough councilman, was alive and there to enjoy every minute of it.
Roughly 200 people dropped in at one time or another on the “living funeral” held at the borough’s Jesse W. Soby American Legion Post 148 in Langhorne Borough. Helping Scheetz to celebrate were dozens of family members and friends, including state Senator Frank Farry, Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, former Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. James Cawley and Langhorne Borough Councilwoman Kathy Horwatt, who served with Scheetz for many years on that body.
Scheetz, who has terminal cancer, had been looking forward to the event for several months.
“Here’s the deal,” said Scheetz, 67. “People die and everybody has a wake for them. But I said ‘Nah, I want to have a wake while I’m still alive and I can see all my friends and get to say goodbye on my own terms.’ I just thought it was a great idea, let’s go for it. I want to live life and end life on my terms.”
That life has been a rich and full one. In addition to his 16-year service on council ending about 2020, Scheetz was a 30-year member and former president of the Langhorne-Middletown Volunteer Fire Company, a constable, and a Republican committeeman, among other roles.
A construction superintendent for much of his working days, Scheetz was forced to retire from his last job as plant supervisor at Pickering Manor in Newtown about two years ago because of the cancer. His five-year battle with the disease that started with a tumor around one of the tubes that connects his bladder and kidneys has included several surgeries and seven rounds of chemotherapy. The cancer has now spread to several other parts of his body, including his lungs, and Scheetz said doctors have given him about another month or two to live.
“I’m going to make liars out of them,” he stated firmly.
In addition to his wife Francie, Scheetz has two sons and two grandchildren, and also another son who died and who he is “looking forward to seeing again in heaven.”
With his wife and Farry – whom Scheetz described as being like another son to him – by his side while being interviewed at his living funeral, Scheetz alternated between sitting and standing with the help of a cane. He was friendly and talkative and displayed none of the despondency you might expect from someone with his severe disease.
“Even going through this, he has kept a great attitude and disposition, even though it’s been really, really tough on him,” said Farry, who worked with Scheetz for many years at Langhorne-Middletown, where Farry is still chief.
“John is someone who has dedicated himself to the community,” he continued. “He’s just a quality friend and neighbor. When we were getting married, my wife and I decided we could each pick one person to speak at our wedding, and John was the one I chose.”
Knowing Scheetz’ personality and positive outlook on life, the idea of a living funeral seemed very appropriate, said both Farry and one of Scheetz’ sons, John III.
“Every time you go to somebody’s service, people are talking about them,” Farry said. “You learn stuff about people you didn’t know and you think ‘God, I wish I had known that about this person, I would have liked to talk to them about it while they were still alive.’ John is making sure that happens today.”
John III agreed a living funeral made a lot of sense.
“My dad figured ‘Why would I have a big party everybody will be at and I won’t be there,'” he said. “This is something we could do to commemorate the old man and let him know how appreciated he is while he’s still alive.
“This was going to happen anyway, this type of event, so why not do it while he’s here to enjoy it. One of the big things I always hear people say as they approach the end of their life is they want to be remembered. This event today is proof positive that my dad will be remembered by a very large group of people.”
John III choked up and couldn’t speak for a few seconds as he thought about his father and how much he has meant to him and so many other people.
“He’s always been someone who stands up for the little guy and does his best to persevere,” John III said. “This has been very difficult, but through this entire fight, he has tried to stay upbeat and be who he is, this warm guy who is always there for everyone else, always helping everyone else. In watching him go through this and how he has handled it, I’ve learned a lot about how to deal with adversity.”
Scheetz and his wife are in the process of selling their borough house so they can move as soon as possible to their new home in Florida. The Langhorne-Middletown Fire Company is raising money to help with the move. Donations can be made to Langhorne-Middletown Fire Co., P.O. Box 203, Langhorne, PA 19047 or at gofund.me/d41efaee.
“John has given so much to this community, the least we can do during their challenging time is to help pay for his move to help him and Francie settle into their new home,” read a statement from the fire company.