Ottomar A. Schramm was the son of Moravian missionaries and a man who spent much of his life helping others in his Nazareth church.
So when, on New Year's Eve 1998, his wife and daughter saw a nurse tending to his lifeless body in a room at Easton Hospital, they assumed that the nurse had made his final moments more comfortable.
Now Lorraine Schramm believes that nurse may have caused her husband's death.
That nurse, Schramm believes, was Charles Cullen.
"The man who wheeled my husband out is the man who killed him," Schramm said Thursday. "I saw it and my daughter saw it. We know it was him."
It remains to be determined whether Cullen, who worked at Easton Hospital from November 1998 to March 1999, had anything to do with Ottomar Schramm's death, but Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli on Thursday named Cullen as a suspect.
Cullen worked at nine hospitals and a nursing home during his 16- year nursing career in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. Last weekend, authorities say, he admitted to killing 30 to 40 patients in his care, in most cases, by giving them a lethal dose of digoxin to "alleviate their pain and suffering."
To his family, Schramm's death at 78 was not a fitting end for a man who had given so much of his time to others. Ottomar Schramm was born in Bluefields, Nicaragua, where his parents were serving as Moravian missionaries. He moved to Nazareth when he was a boy, worked for 33 years in Bethlehem Steel's shipping yard and retired in 1976 to devote his efforts to the Nazareth Moravian Church.
If there was a funeral, a service or wedding at the church over the four decades before he died, Schramm was probably there. A former church elder who was head usher for more than 40 years, Schramm played trombone and later, bass horn, in the church's brass choir.
"If there was something going on in church, he was usually there helping out," said Barbara West, the church's secretary since 1971. "He was very dynamic. He was a small man, maybe 5 foot 3, but he spoke his mind. We were all saddened by his death."
In the neighborhood around his home on Center Street in Nazareth, Schramm often could be found rounding up his three children, when they were young, and the neighborhood children to play baseball at nearby Nazareth Junior High School.
Other times he could be found making birdhouses in his workshop, fishing or practicing his favorite hobby, photography.
"He was a wonderful man and a loving father," said his daughter Kristina Toth. "He dedicated so much of his life to others. His No. 1 priority was the church."
In his later years, Schramm's diabetes made it more difficult to keep his busy volunteer schedule. Yet, he still wanted to help. One year, he asked Susan M. Dreydoppel, executive director of the Moravian Historical Society, how he could help with the society's annual arts and crafts fair. Dreydoppel knew Schramm could no longer do much walking, so she jokingly asked him to count the people who attended the fair from his home, which was next door to the historical society.
As Dreydoppel waved hello to Schramm on her way into work the next day, she was stopped in her tracks.
"There were 2,593 people," Schramm said.
"Excuse me?" Dreydoppel said.
"Two thousand, five hundred, ninety-three," Schramm said back. "That's how many people attended the fair."
The historical society still uses Schramm's count -- the only time anyone ever counted -- as its estimate of how many people attend the fair annually.
Schramm was admitted to Easton Hospital on Dec. 28, 1998, after having suffered a seizure. Three days later, he died.
According to a malpractice lawsuit the family filed in 2001 in Northampton County Court against Easton Hospital and several other parties, Schramm died because he was administered a lethal dose of digoxin. Not only was the amount injected nearly four times the therapeutic level, but it was given to a man with a pacemaker, who should not have been given any digoxin. The lawsuit says doctors at Easton Hospital should have treated him for aspiration pneumonia and ensured he was given proper medication.
Cullen is not named in the suit, but Schramm's death followed a pattern eerily similar to the one Cullen has admitted using. Prosecutors say Cullen told them he usually performed his "mercy" killings by injecting a high dose of digoxin.
If Cullen is found to have been involved in Schramm's death, any defense that he was trying to put a terminally ill patient out of his pain won't carry any weight with Lorraine Schramm.
"My husband was going to recover," Schramm said. "He was not terminal. I miss him terribly."
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