Belmont County woman killed in childhood home

Belmont County woman killed in childhood home

Bruce Yarnall
For the Enterprise

Each fall for over 50 years, parked autos covered the manicured lawn of the home of Martin and Dorothy Nau Schumacher located along State Route 800 just north of Barnesville.

This year, during a pandemic that forced the cancellation of the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival, the “Schumacher Pumpkin Patch,” staffed by “masked" family members, continued the tradition of selling orange pumpkins to joyful children and adults alike.

On Thanksgiving Day, the Schumacher lawn wasn’t packed full of happy “pumpkin picking” families, but countless law enforcement and of Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation vehicles, punctuated by a sea of yellow caution tape.

By evening, news spread far and wide that Norma Matko, 69, the Schumacher’s daughter was found dead inside her childhood home. Matko’s daughter, Thoue Nicole Bronowski, a registered nurse at Akron’s Children’s Hospital and resident of Cuyahoga Falls, was also missing and feared abducted.

News of Bronowski’s disappearance was broadcast widely by Cleveland and Akron television, radio stations, and newspapers including the Akron Beacon Journal.

While the likelihood the death of a mother and disappearance of a daughter were linked, law enforcement officials were mum until last Wednesday morning when Belmont County Sheriff Dave Lucas and FBI officials held a press conference to announce the death of the perpetrator of both crimes was killed in a shootout with FBI agents in Pineville, La., the previous day. Bronowski was unharmed in the standoff.

Lucas, a Barnesville native, was visibly emotional as he choked up and shared “these were good people, are good people. We live beside them and they are our neighbors.”

Norma’s parents, Martin (1921-2019) and Dorothy (1925-2012) were active in the community. Martin was a founder and vice president of the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival. He was also a longtime member of the Rotary Club. Dorothy was a cook for the Rotary for 31 years. Both were devout members of the Assumption Catholic Church while home was the farmhouse and land in the valley just north of the village. They were blessed with five children.

Norma Matko and her husband Bud lived in St. Clairsville. Her late parents’ home served as a staging post for her many activities in Barnesville. A retired registered nurse at Wheeling Hospital, she was a great help to her parents as they aged. When Martin was no longer able to drive to the weekly Rotary meeting each Tuesday, Norma accompanied her father as a guest, eventually joining the Barnesville Club where she played an integral role until her death.

Norma also helped get her parents to church for Mass each week and she maintained an active spiritual life in the Assumption Church where her Mass took place last Saturday morning.

Of the many tributes and posts on the Campbell-Plumly-Milburn Funeral Home website where her obituary is posted, several are striking including this one from a lifelong friend:

I have been so amazed to hear Norma sing at Sunday Mass - she certainly was a beautiful singer. She was always so friendly to everyone and was so sincere to all she knew. God Bless All - our prayers go out to everyone. We have known the Schumacher family for many, many years from grade school and up through many pumpkin festivals.

“In St. Clairsville, she was an active member of Auxiliary of the American Legion 159. She helped with the summer lunch program and preparing funeral dinners for the church. Norma was always willing to lend a helping hand. She was an angel on earth and now and angel in heaven,” the family shared in her obituary.

In addition to her husband of 48 years, Matko is survived by two children, five grandchildren, two brothers, and a sister.

This is not the first time the tragedy has befallen the Schumacher family. On May 17, 1966, her 13-year-old brother, Thomas Henry Schumacher, was struck and killed by a truck as he alighted from the school bus and crossed the highway in front of the family home.

As it was then, the family’s strong Christian faith, strong community bonds, and support of the Barnesville community provide solace and comfort at this sad time.