Caring for Community

Posted: March 21, 2023

Russell & Berni Schelkopf Ag Scholarship Established

Berni Schelkopf reflects on over nine decades of life and love. She acknowledges that her agricultural background, strong family roots, and community involvement have given her many opportunities in life that she is grateful for.

Berni & Russell Schelkopf

Berni and her late husband, Russell, were born and raised in small towns, 30 miles apart in Southeast Nebraska. They were both from large families living on farms. Berni was one of nine children, Russell one of eight. They helped raise crops and livestock in an era prior to irrigation and modern farm advancements. While working on the farm, they also attended school and worked additional jobs in their hometowns.

The two married in college. Berni had her own daycare to support Russell as he completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Nebraska and later a Ph.D. in animal physiology and Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University.

Berni and Russell Schelkopf read a proclamation electing Russell the Honorary Governor of Nebraska. This was to commemorate his 1951 International Show Livestock Judging win.

“Russell was dedicated to constantly learning, whether that was in the classroom or through experiencing hands-on opportunities. Education was important to him,” said Berni.

The Schelkopfs moved to Illinois in 1958 when Russell began his first job as a veterinarian. He worked in Elburn for his first year before buying the Haxby Veterinary Clinic on Route 64 in Sycamore. The business moved to Bethany Road, Sycamore, in 1979 and became today’s current clinic, Bethany Animal Hospital.

Dr. Russell Schelkopf worked as a veterinarian for over 50 years.

With an interest in raising quality livestock, the couple founded Illini Swine and the Cornhusker Cattle Company. In the 1960s Russell opened one of the first specific-pathogen-free laboratories for swine in the country with the goal to have disease-free herds.

Berni helped run the business while raising three sons, Michael, Charlie, and Steve. She was very active in the community, in her church, and serving on the boards for Kishwaukee Hospital, Kiwanis, and the DeKalb County Community Foundation.

In 2004, the couple received the Sycamore Chamber’s Clifford Danielson Outstanding Citizen Award for their commitment to community.

Berni Schelkopf and her sons (from left) Charlie, Steve and Mike

Russell passed in 2011, but several of his children and grandchildren have continued in his footsteps as veterinarians. The couple have three children, six grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

To honor Russell and Berni while giving back to their community, the
family agreed to establish a new scholarship with the DeKalb County Farm Bureau Foundation for students studying agriculture.

“Russell and I were very blessed with scholarships and community support over the years. I feel that it is our turn to give back and hope that this scholarship fund will support local students developing their passions for agriculture,” said Berni.