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Abstract:
Short biography of a prominent Baha''i from a German-Jewish background who served as a Hand of the Cause of God.
Notes:
Written for possible inclusion in The Baha'i Encyclopedia. Posted with permission of both the author and of the editor of the Encyclopedia project.

Schopflocher, Siegfried

by Will C. van den Hoonaard

1993-06
Schopflocher, Siegfried. Born in Germany in 1877, Siegfried Schopflocher was raised as an orthodox Jew, but after leaving school turned towards agnosticism and a search for a more universal expression of religion. He emigrated to Canada and, after becoming a successful businessman, became a Bahá'í in summer 1921. An "astute, hard-driving, forceful man of the business world," he was President of the Bronze Powder Works with offices around the globe, and held the world patent rights for bronze powder.

Devotion to Shoghi Effendi

Soon after his declaration as a Bahá'í he made his first visit to Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith. One account states that his "devotion to the Guardian was immediate and lasting" (CBN, Nov. 1953). A letter from Shoghi Effendi to the Canadian believers (4 February 1924) speaks of Siegfried as a "zealous and promising disciple of 'Abdu'l-Bahá." From that moment onward he not only carried out specific assignments given to him by the Guardian, but also undertook business trips to many parts of the world. These travels gave him ample opportunity to visit Bahá'í communities; early Bahá'í magazines would carry his accounts of these visits. He knew all continents and was highly regarded by his business associates and newfound Bahá'í friends in many lands. He was one of the earliest believers in Canada to fathom the importance of the "World Order" letters by the Guardian.

Contributions to the North American Bahá'í Community

Siegfried, who became known as "Freddie" to many of his co-believers, made a number of remarkable contributions to the development of the North American Bahá'í community. The most enduring one relates to the building of the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette. Immediately after his first visit to the Guardian, he realized the importance of this future edifice for the growth of the Bahá'í Faith and was able to generate fresh enthusiasm for resumption of construction work on the exterior ornamentation of the House of Worship. Possibly in reference to Jewish scripture, the Guardian called Siegfried Schopflocher, the "Chief Temple Builder."

His other contribution relates to his interest in developing the Green Acre Bahá'í School in Eliot, Maine, where he had become a Bahá'í through his wife, Lorol, a world traveller in her own right (see hereunder). In describing this experience he once told a gathering that he said to himself when looking at the Green Acre buildings, "Freddie, if you become a Bahá'í, it's going to cost you a lot of money. Well, I did, and it did!" Thus, Green Acre Bahá'í School became the object of his attention and care and was furnished with considerable improvement and repairs, in addition to several important properties he donated. Geyserville Bahá'í School was also the beneficiary of his personal generosity.

Contributions to the Canadian Bahá'í Community

Between 1924 and 1947, Siegfried Schopflocher served on the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, and continued to serve as member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada when it was formed in 1948. Serving as its treasurer, Siegfried made a special point of "writing affectionate" notes of appreciation with every receipt. Through his efforts, Siegfried was able to secure the incorporation of this National Assembly by a special Act of Parliament in April 1949.

As in the United States, Siegfried Schopflocher contributed significantly to the development of summer schools in Canada. When in 1941 it was no longer possible for Canadian Bahá'ís to attend Bahá'í schools in the United States on account of currency-exchange regulations, he provided the material means to arrange for such schools in Canada. A much-cherished gift was the donation (with Emeric and Rosemary Sala), in 1947, of "Beaulac," a permanent Bahá'í school property located north of Montreal. This school became one of the chief means by which the Canadian Bahá'í community could acquire its Bahá'í education.

When Shoghi Effendi announced the appointment of a second contingent of Hands of the Cause of God on 29 February 1952, Siegfried was elevated along with six others around the world. On that occasion, the Guardian requested him to assist the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada in the establishment of its National Bahá'í Centre.

Personal qualities. The Bahá'ís recognized in Siegfried a profound humility, a love for punctuality, and a great generosity. In particular, Shoghi Effendi once mentioned being "deeply impressed by the sweetness of his nature, his ardour, his humility and selflessness..." (4 February 1924).

An unobstrusive person, he conveyed a deep humility. After his return from pilgrimage in January 1952 he gave his report to the National Spiritual Assembly, but omitted to mention his appointment as Hand of the Cause of God which the Guardian would announce the following month. When he would make his customary three-day business trip to Malone, New York, from Montreal, he preferred to ride in the baggage car, playing cribbage with railwaymen. A number of these men and borderguards came to his funeral, lining up alongside the bier.

"Freddie" was never known to be late for a meeting. He was often heard to say that he would rather be ten minutes early than one minute late for a meeting.

His great generosity affected both the Bahá'í Cause and, on a more personal level, many individuals whom he would forever give small meaningful presents.

Siegfried had a capacity to bring to the believers a clearer appreciation of the services of the Guardian, and a new understanding of the Hands of the Cause of God.

Siegfried was planning to attend the New Delhi Bahá'í Intercontinental Conference despite his advanced age of 76 years. Before his departure, however, he passed away after a few days' illness at 9:30 am, 27 July 1953. He was buried close to the grave of Sutherland Maxwell, another Hand of the Cause of God, in Mt. Royal Cemetery, Montreal. A message cable from Shoghi Effendi on occasion of his passing reads in part: "Profoundly grieved passing dearly beloved outstandingly staunch Hand Cause Fred Schopflocher. Numerous magnificent servuces extending over thirty years administrative teaching spheres United States, Canada, institutions Bahá'í World Centre greatly enriched annals formative age Faith. Abundant reward assured Abha Kingdom."

Florence Evelyn "Lorol" Schopflocher. Siegfried's wife, Lorol, was probably the most striking member of the early Montreal Bahá'í community. Born in 1896, her father was Swiss (George Albert Snyder) and her mother a New Yorker (Agnes Louis Ransom). She was at first privately tutored and later went to a high school in Chicago and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Lorol also took extension courses in several European and American universities. In 1918, she married Siegfried Schopflocher at Marble Collegiate Church, New York City.

Living in an affluent home, she "suddenly became bored and antagonistic toward her life, its ... interests and limitations" (Harrison, 1940: 638). Her travels negated her boredome to a large extent, but her contact with the Bahá'í Faith provided her with the means to uplift her life in service to a cause that preached universality and the unity of humanity. To that end, Lorol traveled extensively around the world, making particularly effective presentations on the Bahá'í Faith to both notable people and others.

During 1924-1925 she cooperated with Mrs. Keith Ransome-Kehler in her attempt to bring about amicable relations between her persecuted co-religionists in Iran and Shah Pahlavi. Between 1924-1929 she toured Iran, to the extremes of North-South, and East-West. A biographer (Harrison, 1910: 639) states she was partially responsible for removal of the veil in Iran. By 1934, she had undertaken nine world tours, in the interest of the Bahá'í Faith and the League of Nations Union, and had taken active part in the emancipation and education of women in Asia.

Lorol had several "firsts" in her name, including the first woman to fly from England to India (1926), the first Western woman to cross the Hamad Desert between Damascus and Baghdad (early 1920s). She traveled on the Hindenburg twice; her passage on the ill-fated voyage on the Hindenburg was cancelled. Her book, Sunburst, was published in 1937 and had a "tremendous appeal" to anyone interested in international problems, recording her visits to many lands.

She was associated with numerous organizations, such as the Women's International Association of Aeronautics, International Leage for Peace and Freedom, and the League of American Pen Women.


Sources

    [Canadian] Bahá'í News, Nov. 1953; Letter from Shoghi Effendi to the believers in Canada, 4 February 1924;

    Interview with Rowland Estall by W.C. van den Hoonaard, 1992;

    National Bahá'í Historical Record Card, National Bahá'í Archives, Wilmette, Ill.;

    Canadian Bahá'í News, May 1966: 4, and June 1966: 4;

    W.C. van den Hoonaard, Bahá'ís in Canada: A Social History, 1898-1948;

    The Bahá'í Magazine (v. 18, April 1927-1928) contains a series of Siegfried Schopflocher's travel accounts around the world.

    Information on Lorol Schopflocher is derived from H. Harrison, ed. (1940) National Reference Book on Canadian Men and Women. 6th ed., Canadian Newspaper Services (1940): 638-639. Her Bahá'í life and travels are recorded in her autiobiography, Sunburst, and in such Bahá'í publications as The Bahá'í Magazine (April 1927-1928: 91-95

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