A funeral cortege will pass Aberdeen Town House and Marischal College this morning as final respects are paid to an “absolutely dedicated” council servant.
Coronavirus restrictions may deprive Dawn Schultz of the huge turnout which might otherwise be expected at her funeral today, but colleagues, councillors and friends are to gather in Broad Street – respecting distancing rules – to say goodbye to a woman with a hand in almost every major city event over the last two decades.
Warm tributes have been paid to Ms Schultz, who died of cancer a little over a week ago.
But the list also includes the biennial Offshore Europe conference, the Freedom of Aberdeen celebrations for Denis Law, the 2012 Olympic Torch and 2014 Commonwealth Baton relays and yearly Christmas parades – while she also played a part in striking the agreement that has led to twin city Stavanger donating an impressive Christmas tree to the city each year.
She is credited with influencing how both governments, police and even the Royals plan events and was regularly flooded with calls from other councils looking to learn from her.
Doing the right thing in the right way
Husband Gary Smith said: “Dawn was one of these very rare people who always wanted to do the right thing in the right way.
“People have told me their first memory of Dawn is of this blonde girl in her mid-20s who was absolutely commanding, like a military officer, the whole AECC during Offshore Europe.
“It’s been very comforting to receive messages from across the globe – from Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the USA, Canada – all saying people are still using things she taught them.
“But what’s hit me over the past few days is how many have mentioned the respect, dignity and good humour she taught them with.
“That is the kind of person she was and that the city doesn’t often see – they just see the council, not the officers with that level of dedication.”
The city council – where she worked since its formation in 1996 – also played a lead role in the couple meeting, as colleagues conspired with cryptic sticky notes to prompt conversation.
“There was a note saying I needed to call a Dawn Schultz… but it turned out it was just a way of getting me to talk to her,” Mr Smith said.
“It led on from there, after very quickly realising they had set us up. A couple of years later, in 2012, we were married.”
“With the attention she is getting now, she would be equal parts mortified and incredibly proud, privileged and heartened that people thought all this of her.”
Even as she battled the first of two cancer diagnoses, Ms Schultz, of Pitmedden, remained dedicated to serving Aberdonians, her husband recalls, as she dipped out of a meeting – briefly – to receive her last round of chemotherapy before rushing back to continue talks.
Mr Smith added: “Dawn was a very giving person, caring about the people around her.
With the attention she is getting now, she would be equal parts mortified and incredibly proud, privileged and heartened that people thought all this of her.”
He thanked “phenomenal” staff at Roxburghe House for their “inspirational, incredible kindness” and invited mourners to donate to Friends of Roxburghe House Grampian.
‘A force of nature’
Long-time council colleague Graham Lawther described Ms Schultz as a funny and dear friend who was “full of life and a force of nature”.
“I was so proud to have Dawn as a precious friend and close colleague for more than 15 years,” he said.
“She was a real credit to the council and her beloved north-east, bringing so much joy to so many people through the wonderful events she coordinated.
“There will be no more walks together across the Aberdeenshire countryside, setting the world to rights – but she will be with me in memory forever.”
Veteran councillors lavished praise as they too remembered Ms Schultz, who Lord Provost Barney Crockett said would leave “a very big gap” behind.
“She was exceptionally well thought of – that has come through so clearly from all councillors and staff,” he said.
“She was a particularly lively, positive and creative person and her very untimely death was therefore all the greater shock .”
Former provost, Councillor John Reynolds – whose children went to school with Ms Schultz before her career began with the former Grampian Regional Council in the 90s – said he had “never known anyone like her”, while former depute provost Councillor Bill Cormie beamed as he recalled her as “straight as a die and always with a smile on her face”.
Remembering her role in the emergency planning that helped people evacuate from their Rosemount homes on a cold night this February, Mr Cormie added: “She was just first class at her job.”
The funeral cortege will go up Broad Street, past council headquarters, shortly after 10am today.
Those attending are asked to behave responsibly, in line with coronavirus guidance.