Activist, Communicator Herb Schoenbohm Dies at 84

Herb Schoenbohm. (Photo submitted by family)
Herb Schoenbohm. (Photo submitted by family)

Herb Schoenbohm, who since his arrival on St. Croix in 1968 was a Republican activist weather prognosticator, both a radio personality and radio installer, and so much more died Wednesday, April 29, in his bed last at home with his wife Monika on the east end of St. Croix. He was 84.

“He went peacefully,” his eldest son, Chris, told the Source.

His presence on the island was felt across a broad spectrum of fields for the next 50 years. He was active in radio – ham radio and public stations like Radio One and Paradise Radio; politics – he was accused of making the local Republican Party his own party; communications – he worked for many years with the police department installing radios in its vehicles; and weather prediction – he had a degree from the University of Minnesota with a major in geography with an emphasis on political geography and climatology.

He was “an amazing father,” Chris said Saturday.

Herbs’ other surviving sons are Eric, Tim, Kevin and Thomas.

Monika, Herb’s wife of 52 years, told the Source that when he was young Herb of a dramatic event when Herb was young he dreamed of playing football. But when he was 15 he was on a roof in Rock Islands, Illinois, installing an antenna when he lost his footing and fell two-stories, breaking broke both legs and an arm and ending up in a coma. A doctor told the family he probably would not make it. An intern from Brazil was not ready to give up. He put a ball in Herb’s hand and encouraged him to squeeze it. Herb recovered, and though his dream of playing football was gone he took from the intern an interest in all things Brazil. His interest in Brazilian music became almost an obsession. He became part of band playing Brazilian, Cuban and Latin music.

When he settled on St. Croix, he played a regular gig on the piano at the Buccaneer Hotel for several years. He also played other clubs.

The experience might have affected another choice Herb made. His father was one of the founders of Camp Courage – a camp to help handicap children. Herb spent the summers in his late teens teaching a program he initiated – Handi Ham. He taught the clients that no matter their disability they could become ham radio operators.

His skills as a ham radio operator also helped when he was a sometime weatherman. Monika said he would often contact hams on other islands to see what their weather was. This was extremely helpful in the days before satellites and the internet in predicting hurricanes. The 13th Legislature honored him in 1980 for the service he helped provide during hurricanes Frederick and David. In 1990 he received the Governor’s Medal and was declared a “Hero of Hurricane Hugo” for maintaining communications circuits.

Monika said he was also busy during Hugo rescuing people in his police car which had a flat tire.

Schoenbohm worked for the V.I. Police Department from 1978 to 1992 as a communication specialist. He worked from 1996 to 2012 as fleet manager for Property and Procurement.

In recent years Schoenbohm was often in the news for his involvement with the local Republican Party. He was chosen often to represent the Virgin Islands at the Republican National Convention. He also served four terms as the State Chairman of the V.I. Republican Party.

In 2016 two groups were fighting for control of the local party. John Canegata, leading one faction, called the other faction the Herb Schoenbohm party.

Schoenbohm held strong views. This writer debated him several times about global climate change. He denied man was causing the climate to change. But though neither ever convinced the other, the debates never descended into name calling.

Former Sen. Clarence Payne also had many debates with Schoenbohm.

“I found him to be respectable in debates, which as an opponent I appreciated in this climate of vitriol and confrontation,” Payne said. “Herb stood his ground but allowed one to freely share a differing view point.”

Roger Morgan, who ran Paradise Radio station and had a popular morning show in the early part of this century, said when he heard the news of Schoenbohm’s death, “Herb was my official engineer for my Paradise Radio station, WVVI on St. Croix. But, more than that, he was a friend and a genuine wizard at dealing with broadcast engineering solutions in an environment where sheer ingenuity often replaced more traditional solutions to emergencies that occur with frustrating regularity. I’ll miss my friend and Republican leader.”

In the early ‘90s, Herb worked for several years as a staff aid for Delegate to Congress Victor Frazer in the U.S. House of Representatives 104th Congress. He also worked several years as an engineer for Ackley Communications.

His sons, each in their own way, have followed in their father’s footsteps by going into careers involving communication technology. However, the greatest lesson Chris said he learned from his father was, “Always help people when you can.”