Goodbye to Our Biggest Fan

Written By: Dr. Steve Whitaker, Head of School


Last week one of TFA’s biggest fans went home to be with Jesus.

No one had more grandchildren walk the halls of TFA. No one attended more athletic events, logged more carpool miles, or helped with more school projects than “Papa Joe” Schrimsher. During his memorial service on Friday, his children (Frank, Steven, Michael, and Pamela Jean) told wonderful stories and remembered the life of a great man.

There were three powerful themes that captured my attention while attending the service and visiting with his family afterward. It is because of these three principles that Papa Joe powerfully impacted thousands of lives across Orlando, around the world, and on the campus of The First Academy.

His life taught us:

1) Grace makes all the difference (Ephesians 2:8) – He was born into a terribly difficult home and joined the military at a young age. In November 1951, he came to the end of himself at a Billy Graham Crusade in Greensboro, NC. He heard the Good News of salvation and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. It was a life changing decision. From that moment on, he purposed that his life and the lives of his children would be different.

2) A good name is to be treasured above great riches (Proverbs 22:1) – Following his decision at the crusade, he moved the Schrimsher family to Orlando. He opened a plumbing company and taught his children to work hard, live life with integrity, and build a reputation that would honor God. His discipline, diligence, and devotion were rewarded as his business grew and his reputation expanded. By his retirement in 1992, he and his sons were partners in a real estate company providing real estate investments, which included retail, apartments and mixed-use developments such as the Millenia Mall and associated properties.

3) You can’t out give God (Luke 6:38) – Papa Joe was a generous man. He took care of his family, he supported his church, and he gave faithfully to support The First Academy. However, there were countless others in whom he invested as well. Without any fanfare and with the promise of confidentiality, he paid for children to attend summer camp and provided college tuition assistance to the less fortunate. When he arrived at the gates of heaven last week, I’m certain that he heard, “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

Thank you, Papa Joe, for valuable lessons learned, for a life well lived, and for a legacy of Godliness. While those left behind miss you dearly, we rejoice when we think of how happy you are in the presence of Jesus and in the arms of your sweet wife, Martha Jean.



Steve Whitaker, Ph. D.
Head of School