Jerry Schumm and Steve Shelton

Jerry Schumm and Steve Shelton with their canoe at the Mississippi River in Aitkin in September 2000.

When the “Paddlin’ Pastor” traveled through Aitkin on the Mississippi River in 2000, the Aitkin Independent Age was there to write about his adventure.

A childhood dream of 40 years was being realized for the Florida man, who also enticed 19 of his friends and relatives to join him in a sort-of relay canoe trip.

Age 53 in 2000, the Rev. Dr. Jerry Schumm had talked about paddling the entire river when he was but a Boy Scout.

When Schumm was granted a three-month sabbatical leave from Coral Gables Congregational Church in Miami where he worked in youth ministry, he began to prepare for this journey. The planning took him one year, nine months.  

The trip began in August 2000 beginning at Lake Itasca. It took 113 days and covered 2,205 miles of Mississippi. The trip was divided into 21 segments ranging in distance from less than 30 miles to more than 200 miles. It was a relay, passing a ceremonial paddle from one conoeist to the next.

The canoe trip ended in New Orleans in December 2000.


Now people can read about the memorable journey in a book written by Jerry Schumm, John DeFraites Jr., and Jeanne Schumm, Pass the Paddle: Mississippi Dreamin’ Come Hell or High Water.

The book is the Paddlin’ Pastor’s memoir of this journey. It is a story of family, friendship, spirituality and the goodness of people encountered along the way.

In the announcement of the book’s release, Schumm said, “I was not particularly concerned about how my trip might be exceptional. Some have paddled to break a record of distance or time. Some have paddled for a spiritual awakening, to transition from a traumatic life experience such as the death of a loved one or divorce, or to raise awareness for a particular cause or issue. My motivation was simple — having the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream.”

The book is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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