NEW ULM — Lester Schuft’s daughter said one of his heart surgeons was so moved by Schuft’s ability to stay alive, it brought him to religion.
“He’s had quadruple bypass surgery, a pacemaker and a heart valve replaced,” said Sherry McCormick of Hutchinson at Saturday’s Minnesota Music Museum Hall of Fame Showcase.
“One doctor told me he didn’t believe in religion until he met dad,” McCormick said.
Schuft, 84, grew up on a farm near Brownton. He was inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame as a polka band leader at Turner Hall Friday.
Schuft has lead a busy life, and he plans to keep it that way. He still sells advertising at KDUZ/KARP radio in Hutchinson. He was a longtime dentist before retiring from that profession in 1969.
“I went through a lot in life,” said Schuft. “God keeps me alive, so there must be something for me to do. I couldn’t just sit around. I’d go nuts.”
Music has been a big part of his busy life. He began playing drums and a trumpet as a young boy.
Schuft has owned, operated and performed with Lester Schuft and The Country Dutchmen Band for 63 years. He required band members to be disciplined. They were not allowed to drink, use profanity or fool around. The band still performs.
Schuft has made more than 300 recordings. He taught many people to play the trumpet and helped others find instruments to play.
Musical performances helped him pay his way through the University of Minnesota dental school.
While in the Minnesota National Guard, drilling at Camp Ripley, Schuft played trumpet with Peter Wendinger of St. George, who was also in the Guard. The two men reminisced at the inductee showcase in the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame Museum Saturday.
“On (drill) weekends, we’d go play in Camp Ripley and in places in Little Falls, Pierz, and Pillager,” said Schuft. “Playing in the North Stars pep band was really fun. We’d play before, during and after games.”
He has performed for many notable peple, including the Minneapolis Aquatennial Queen’s Dance, for Hubert H. Humphrey when he ran for president against Richard Nixon in 1968, and he appeared for more than 40 years on the KEYC Channel 12 Bandwagon show and on RFDTV, among other shows.
“When words don’t cut it, music will. Music is therapy,” he added.
(Fritz Busch can be emailed at [email protected])