I’m so sorry to report that we lost a member of our Good Man family recently. He was one of my sources, and he’d spoken with Ron Tammen shortly before Ron disappeared. That person was Bob Schuette (pronounced SHOOT-ee), an Oxford businessman—a legend in that town, really—who passed away at the age of 96 on July 13.
Bob didn’t know Ron well—but then again, I’ve yet to meet anyone who did. Bob seemed to be Ron’s polar opposite. Ron was generally quiet and kept to himself. Bob Schuette—“Shoots” to his friends—was generally not quiet. He was a gregarious go-getter in cream-colored khakis and a white Oxford rolled up past his elbows. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. He was a people magnet who could work a room like nobody else.
Bob pledged Delta Tau Delta the same year as Ron. But Bob was no run-of-the-mill freshman pledge. Born in 1926, he was seven years older than everyone in his class. He’d enlisted in the Navy before he even considered attending Miami University. During WWII, while his fellow pledges were still learning where to find Japan on a map, Bob had been serving in the Naval Construction Battalion—the Seabees—in Okinawa. Of course everyone in the fraternity looked up to him. They’d wanted to make him president of the entire chapter his sophomore year, but that would’ve been unheard of. They made him vice president instead.
We can thank Bob for solving two mysteries for us regarding the Tammen story. One is clear-cut, as in: here’s the question, there’s the answer. The other is still a little blurry, as in: here’s the answer but we still don’t know what it means. Both have contributed to our understanding of the person that Ron Tammen was, even though no one had really known him at the time.
Mystery #1: Was Ron Tammen asked to step down as the Delt song leader?
I wrote about the first mystery in my June 2017 blog post. In that post, Bob is the person whose pseudonym is “Bill.”
In 1956, journalist Murray Seeger had written an anniversary piece about Ron’s disappearance for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and included a rather strange detail I’d never seen anywhere else. The second-to-last paragraph read as follows:
“About a week before [Ron’s disappearance], the fraternity had asked Ron to drop out as a leader of its singing group because his other activities were so demanding. But this did not seem to upset him unduly—he took a place in the singing group and let someone else direct it.”
Weird, right? To have the entire fraternity ask you to “drop out as a leader” sounds like a big deal. It was as if he was shirking his duties so badly, they’d voted on whether to give Ron the boot, and the “ayes” had carried it.
Well, that’s not what happened at all, and Bob helped straighten things out. The fraternity didn’t ask Ron to step down as song leader. No way. Ron had discovered that he couldn’t be there on the night of the performance—even if he hadn’t disappeared, that is—so he passed the conductor’s baton to someone else.
The singing group Seeger was describing was a group of Delts who would be performing in the Intrafraternity Sing, an annual competition among Miami’s fraternities that was scheduled to occur on Mother’s Day weekend. Bob was in charge of the Delts’ entry in the competition. He was the main contact even though he didn’t sing in the group.
According to Bob, it was Ron who’d approached him. They met for coffee at Coffee Pete’s on a Thursday, and Ron had told him he had a scheduling conflict for the weekend of the big event. He was going to be playing with the Campus Owls at the University of Kentucky on the night of May 9, 1953, and couldn’t lead the Delts in their song. Bob said that Ron had worked everything out, even going so far as to find his replacement—Ted Traeger.
Here’s how Bob described their last interaction to me: “He went through the whole deal, what Traeger was going to do, and when that concluded, we shook hands, and I said, ‘Have a good weekend,’ and he said, ‘You too. Everything will be all right,’ and to be honest with you, that was the last I ever saw Ron.”
Bob’s story checks out despite one minor discrepancy. Whenever he would tell me the story, and he told it to me several times, Bob would recall the time interval between the coffee meeting and the Mother’s Day performance to be days, not weeks. But that’s impossible, since Ron had disappeared three weeks earlier than Mother’s Day weekend. Even so, the date of the Intrafraternity Sing was on the same date in which the Campus Owls had played at the University of Kentucky. Ron indeed had a scheduling conflict that would have needed addressing back then.
Also, what stood out clearest in Bob’s memory was that he and Ron had met at Coffee Pete’s on the Thursday before Ron had disappeared. That would establish their meeting to have occurred on April 16, 1953. Could he have been right that it was the last time that he saw Ron? Absolutely.
Lastly, we can thank Murray Seeger for providing the assist that established that, despite Ron’s no longer leading the singing group, he still attended song practice on April 19. As Seeger had written in his 1956 article, Ron “took a place in the singing group and let someone else direct it.” Because the Delts only practiced on Sunday nights, the only date in which that could have happened was April 19, the night of Ron’s disappearance.
This supports Paul’s story (see June 16, 2017 blog post), who placed Ron at song practice that same night, before he, Ron, and Chip Anderson walked back to the dorms together, just moments before Ron disappeared.
Thanks to Bob Schuette, not only do we know that Ron was simply being responsible when he stepped down as song leader, but, with a little help from Murray Seeger, we have corroboration of Paul’s story.
Mystery #2: Did Ron Tammen sleep over at the Delt house on occasion?
When Charles Findlay, Ron’s roommate, returned to their room on Sunday night to find Ron wasn’t there, he wasn’t that worried, according to news reports.
Gilson Wright, a journalism professor at Miami who had a side hustle as an on-call correspondent for area papers, provided this write-up on April 25, 1953, for the Hamilton Journal-News:
“When his roommate, Charles Findlay, Dayton, also a sophomore, returned later that evening he found the lights on in the room and Tammen’s books open on a study table. He assumed Tammen had gone out for the rest of the evening and when he failed to return he thought perhaps Tammen had decided to spend the night at his fraternity, Delta Tau Delta.”
In November 1953, Wright wrote: “It wasn’t that unusual for Tammen to spend an evening at his fraternity, Delta Tau Delta.”
A year after Ron’s disappearance, on April 19, 1954, Wright similarly wrote:“Findlay had some classes the next morning and again didn’t worry about Tammen. After all, he thought, the lad might have stayed overnight at the Delt house.”
I don’t care what Gilson Wright says, staying overnight at the Delt house seems unusual, especially for a residence hall counselor who’s paid to look after a corridor full of freshman men. That goes double for someone who’s a studious, non-drinking introvert, whose own dorm room is a 10-minute walk away.
Wright’s reporting was different than what Joe Cella had written three days later for the same paper. Cella, a reporter for the Hamilton Journal-News who had uncovered most of the pertinent discoveries of the case, wrote this in a full-page article on April 22, 1954:
“Charles (Chuck) Findlay, 22, a junior in business administration who lives in Dayton, returned to Fisher Hall Sunday night around 10:30 p.m. to find his roommate’s book open on the table, the lights on, and most of Tammen’s personal effects in the room. He assumed his roommate had gone to his fraternity house, Delta Tau Delta.”
It’s one thing for Chuck to assume Ron was at the Delt house at 10:30 p.m., as Cella had written. That’s normally where Ron would be at that hour on a Sunday night because of his weekly song practices, and, according to Paul, that’s exactly where Ron had been walking back from at around that time on April 19. It makes sense for Chuck to make that assumption.
But the way Gilson Wright phrased things, it sounded as if Ron had slept at the fraternity house a few times before and Chuck had simply presumed he was staying there again.
I needed to pin down whether Ron ever stayed all night at the Delt house, and if not, whether Ron had used that excuse before with Chuck. In other words, was it a pretend alibi he used if he was planning to be somewhere that he didn’t want Chuck to know about?
According to Bob Schuette, it’s extremely doubtful that Ron ever stayed all night at the house.
Here’s Bob’s and my conversation about it in our first phone call:
BS: “…We all slept upstairs in bunk beds. We didn’t have a roommate to sleep with or anything. Everybody was up there.”
JW: “Oh, really? You guys all shared this giant room?”
BS: “Yeah, it was almost like the attic. Let me tell you something, it was not plush.”
JW: (laughs) “So it was like a barracks or something, just a giant room with a bunch of bunk beds?”
BS: “Yes, it was just like being up in the attic.”
So if you were a Delt and you lived in the Delt house, you shared a room with someone, but that room would be where you could go to study or to have a little privacy and to store your stuff. But you couldn’t have a bed in your room. All of the beds were up in the attic.
Also, at bedtime, the attic was characteristically loud and rowdy, and Bob, who needed his sleep, would frequently have to yell at his fellow Delts to knock it off and go to sleep.
Bob doesn’t ever recall seeing Ron up there.
And why would he? Why would quiet Ron want to spend the night with a bunch of noisy Delts instead of in his own bed, which was a short walk away? Answer: I don’t think he would.
In late 2014 or early 2015, I was chatting by phone with Charles Findlay. It wasn’t the first time we spoke, and I had a long list of topics I wanted to cover with him. Here’s what Charles was able to recall when I brought up the issue of Ron’s night life:
JW: “So you had mentioned when we were talking last that [Ron] really wasn’t around a lot, right?”
CF: “No, we really didn’t have much contact. We went our separate ways.”
JW: “Yeah…did he stay out of the room a lot…like stay all night elsewhere?”
CF: “Sometimes he would stay at the fraternity house, I’m pretty sure.”
JW: “Uh huh…so he would tell you, ‘I’m going to be staying at the fraternity house’?”
CF: “You know, it’s been so many years ago. You’re trying to build facts or something and I don’t want to sidetrack you. I don’t remember.”
(I totally get that. Chuck wanted to be helpful, but he also wanted to be careful not to say something that wasn’t factual, which I can appreciate.)
JW: “OK. But you thought he was staying at the fraternity house?”
Several years later, in 2017, I tried reaching out to Chuck again after learning new details concerning the case. That was when I’d learned the sad news from Chuck’s son that Chuck had passed away in May of that year.
So this is where things stand: Chuck Findlay had remembered thinking that Ron had stayed overnight at the Delt house, possibly more than once. However, based on Bob Schuette’s description, the Delt house wasn’t exactly amenable to overnight guests. And neither Bob, nor any other fraternity member I’ve spoken with, remembers Ron every spending the night in the Delt house.
Bob Schuette went on to lead a remarkable life. Every time we talked, he’d share stories about his wife and family, who were the center of his universe. He earned a business degree from Miami in 1955. From the mid-1950s through the early ‘70s, he worked hard in the food service and bar industry, becoming owner of two legendary Oxford establishments, the College Inn and The Purity. In 1972, he went into real estate, and remained active in that field, not just into the ‘90s, when many of his friends were retiring, but into HIS 90s. I don’t know if I’ve met anyone who loved Miami University and the city of Oxford more than Bob Schuette. His office on High Street was a veritable museum filled with some of the most incredible Miami memorabilia and photos I’ve ever seen.
But that’s just the froth on the pilsner—there’s so much more to Bob Schuette. When you have a moment, I encourage you to read the beautiful obituary his family wrote. And be sure to play the video montage at the bottom. You’ll see what I mean.