More MS news articles for Sep 2001

Man's computer mission helps community

September 5, 2001
By Triveni Sheshadri

FALLBROOK -- On a recent Tuesday morning at Fallbrook Hospital's Skilled Nursing Facility, Patrick Finnegan leaned forward from his wheelchair to peer at the patterns of tiny white and blue squares on the computer monitor as Guenter Schott started a defragmentation program to reconfigure files.

Soon the task was accomplished. For Schott, it was time to get down to the really important business of the day -- helping Finnegan, who has multiple sclerosis, with his e-mail.

"Guenter has helped me with keeping in touch with my sister, my sons and my friends. I really look forward to this," said Finnegan, a six-year resident of the facility. "I now have an address book with more than two dozen entries."

For Schott, helping Finnegan has been a way of giving back to the facility where he recuperated after spine surgery almost two years ago.

"I have a special affinity for the place. I wanted to do something for the residents after I became well," he said.

Only five years ago, Schott, 70, was a skeptic about computers.

"My daughter was in college and she wanted a computer. I was not at all sure if it was going to be of any use," he said.

His daughter persisted and finally persuaded her grandmother in Germany to finance her purchase. Soon Schott was also hooked.

Like many other novice users, he felt lost when his first computer arrived by mail.

"When I opened the box, I didn't know what to do. It was a quite a frustrating experience in the beginning," he said.

However, his natural curiosity and inquisitiveness took over. Through many hours of poring over manuals and in front of the terminal, he became proficient in using his new acquisition.

A 12-year Fallbrook resident, Schott came to the United States from his native Berlin more than four decades ago. He is now retired after spending much of his career in advertising and publishing.

But retirement hasn't meant slowing down.

"I am busier than ever," he said.

As former president of the Friends of the Fallbrook Community Center, Schott helped establish a computer lab at the center.

"Guenter went out and sought donations and solicited the lowest bids for equipment," said Gordon Stone, the center's director. The facility now has 10 networked computers with ongoing computer classes.

Along with his wife, Ernestine Schott, a teacher, Schott publishes La Paloma Elementary School's newsletter that goes out to parents in Spanish and English.

He is also a five-year member of the Fallbrook PC Users Group and editor of its newsletter. In July, the 28-page monthly newsletter won first place in the Southwest Regional User Group Conference held in San Diego, the latest among a string of recognitions the publication has received. The newsletter is valued as a resource not only by group members but also by computer enthusiasts in other parts of the country, said Claudia Watson, president of the group.

"Guenter is the backbone our our group. I am astounded by his energy and enthusiasm," she said. "He almost single-handedly produces the newsletter."

The Fallbrook PC Users Group has 280 members who range from beginners to sophisticated users. Among the group's activities are weekly meetings, seminars and other educational programs. For more information about the group, call (760) 723-6539.

© Copyright 2001 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.