Longtime organist was a business exec with zest for life

Generosity of time, talent, treasure were hallmarks of accompanist Sage Ann Scheer

Roxanne King

Sage Ann Scheer, a trained classical pianist who shared her talents as organist at Denver’s Risen Christ Church for more than 40 years, died April 26. She was 71.

While most of her fellow parishioners knew Scheer as a dedicated organist, many were unaware that she had a doctorate in marketing and systems design. Throughout her career, Scheer held leadership positions ranging from senior partner to president for educational firms. Companies she served included EDmin, Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, The Learning Systems Group and The University of Phoenix.

“Sage was a real lady” and “a high-powered executive,” Diane D’Aquila said about her older sister.

“She always took the high road, didn’t sing her own praises much and never said a bad word about anybody. She was incredibly generous — a big philanthropist, especially to the Anchor Center for Blind Children.… She loved to travel, loved to shop and was a spiffy dresser.”

The longtime Denver resident was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on April 12, 1948. Her family moved to Minneapolis, Minn., when she was in high school. She earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota, and a Ph.D. from The Fielding Institute in Santa Barbara, Calif. She was married to Roger Scheer for 38 years until he died in 2012.

“She was really well loved,” D’Aquila said. “She and Roger didn’t have any children, but she was like Auntie Mame to nieces and nephews.”

“No one in Sage’s sphere of influence ever lacked for anything, not did anyone feel less than perfectly adored,” Scheer’s niece Alex Johnson wrote in an obituary. “Her door always was open, as was her wine cellar. She like to write long, effusive letters to her loved ones, and when her handwriting started to fail, she would type them out. She loved her dogs, her garden, and her Denver Broncos.” 

Scheer loved to laugh and have fun, D’Aquila said, but she was also a devout Catholic and a daily communicant.

“[Former pastor] Msgr. [J. Anthony] McDaid said that when he first took over Risen Christ Parish, they had to do some job shuffling for economic reasons so Sage started to be paid only for Sunday Masses, but she continued to play for daily Mass. He was so grateful.

“That was Sage. She went to daily Mass and music is a form of prayer, so why wouldn’t she play? In her mind, it was the right thing to do.”

Scheer was openhanded with her time, talent and treasure, family and friends said.

“She was so generous with her time and talent, despite working and traveling,” said Jeanne Iske, Risen Christ’s director of music and liturgy coordinator. “When she was working she would often be traveling out of town Monday through Friday, and no matter what time she got back in Friday night she would be at Risen Christ at the organ in time for Saturday morning Mass.

Plus, she would play at weekend Masses.

“She was just a wonderful person. Very committed to Risen Christ and being part of this parish. She was an organist here, but she was also a parishioner: if we needed cakes for the fall festival, she made cakes. If we needed soup for soup night, she made soup. You could count on Sage to do anything and everything — she would do it all.”

Former Risen Christ music director Bill Kittle agreed.

“She was a bright, enthusiastic, totally giving person with the biggest heart—the most loving person you’d want to meet. She was a classy person. She was ever so enthusiastic about life and about making music. I’ve never met another person quite like her, so giving of all of her talents.”

Risen Christ pastor Father Scott Bailey described Scheer as “a prayerful person.”

“In those last months as I’d visit her, she would turn the conversation to prayer and how good God is, even in her suffering,” he said.

As her sister battled cancer the last few months of her life, Father Bailey, Msgr. McDaid, parochial vicar Father Eric Zegeer, and the parish community showered Scheer with Communion visits and attention, D’Aquila said.

“The care they showed my sister is something I will never forget and will be eternally grateful for,” she said. “The cancer took its toll, but her spirit and her soul were extraordinarily healthy because of the love and prayers given her by the community. If there’s such a thing as God walks among us, I’ve experienced that [through them].”

COMING UP: The shock of forgiveness

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Every so often, the media will pick up a story that serves as a potent reminder of what it means to be a Christian. That’s because living as a Christian in today’s post-Christian society is an unusual way of living, contrary to what the rest of society might say about it. It is not “outdated.” It is not “irrelevant.” It is radical, countercultural and, to some, even incomprehensible.

On Oct. 2, the trial of Amber Guyger came to a close. Guyger, a former Dallas police officer, was charged with the murder of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old man who lived in the same apartment complex as Guyger. On Sept. 6, 2018, she walked into Jean’s apartment, thinking it was hers, saw Jean sitting there on the couch, and after giving verbal commands, shot him twice, killing him. It was an absolute tragedy and played into the ongoing national conversation about police behavior toward people of color (Guyger is white; Jean is black).

What I want to focus on is a particular moment that came at the end of Guyger’s trial, after she had been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Jean’s younger brother Brandt took to the witness stand to address his brother’s killer directly. He wasn’t planning on saying anything during the trial but changed his mind at the last minute. A prompting of the Holy Spirit? I think yes, based on what happened next.

“I hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things you may have done in the past,” Brandt told Guyger. “If you are truly sorry … I forgive you. If you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.” He continued, “I’m not going to say I hope you die … I personally want the best for you … I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want … and the best would be: give your life to Christ. Giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do.”

But it didn’t stop there. Brandt was bold enough to ask the judge if he had permission to give Guyger a hug. He was granted it, and they embraced for over a minute, Guyger weeping into Brandt’s shoulder, just as some of us might do were we to be embraced by Christ.

Botham Jean’s younger brother Brandt Jean hugs former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger after delivering his impact statement to her in Dallas, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Guyger has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her black neighbor in his apartment, which she said she mistook for her own unit one floor below. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)

Brandt has every reason to hate Guyger. This woman gunned down his innocent brother who had his whole life ahead of him and was given a lighter sentence than what she originally faced. Those in the courtroom and watching on TV wouldn’t have been shocked to hear Brandt tell Guyger that he hopes she rots in hell. No, the shock from those in the courtroom – and subsequently, the rest of the nation – came when Brandt did the exact opposite.

With those words and the simple act of embracing his brother’s killer, Brandt gave the world an incredible witness to the forgiveness Christ calls us to live as Christians. Of course, you can count on the bickering voices of social media and pundits to take this powerful moment and exploit it for their own agenda, but that’s because many of them don’t understand. It is not normal in our culture to forgive. It is also not easy. And that’s what makes witnessing something like this so shocking. It was not supposed to happen, but it did. It defied every expectation. Make no mistake about it: Brandt was living his call to be more like Christ in that moment. And it is exactly this moment – this shocking moment – that we are able to get a glimpse of what it is to be a Christian.

Following Jesus does make for quite a shock. And it is that shock that we are called to bring to the rest of the world, just as Brandt Jean did.