Amy Schultz Johnson is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often referred to as “the Mormon Church”). She is also the daughter of the late Charles Schultz, best known as the creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip.
In today’s society, there are many people who embrace edgy and vulgar entertainment. However, Amy Schultz Johnson says that her father believed that America likes decency and that he “never swore a day in his life.” She told the Deseret News, “He always said, ‘Rats’ covers everything. That’s why he always had Charlie Brown say ‘Rats’ when things went wrong.” That is also the reason why in the nearly 18,000 comics Schulz published between 1950 and 2000, the “Peanuts” characters are never heard to say anything that could be considered offensive. It is quite evident that his comic strip characters were a reflection of his own personal character.
Charles Monroe “Sparky” Schulz was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 26 November 1922. He grew up in St.Paul, Minnesota, and was the only child of Carl Fred Schultz, who was born in Germany, and Dena Halverson, who had Norwegian heritage. His uncle nicknamed him “Sparky” after the horse Spark Plug in Billy DeBeck’s comic strip, Barney Google, which Schultz enjoyed reading.
Schulz loved drawing and sometimes drew his family dog, Spike, who ate unusual things, such as pins and tacks. He attended Richards Gordon Elementary School in Saint Paul, where he skipped two half-grades. As a result of being the youngest student in his class at Central High School, he became a shy, timid teenager. One well-known episode in his high school life was the rejection of his drawings by his high school yearbook, which he referred to in Peanuts years later, when he had Lucy ask Charlie Brown to sign a picture he drew of a horse, only to then say it was a prank. 60 years later, a five-foot statue of Snoopy was placed in the school’s main office.
In April 1951, Schulz married Joyce Halverson (no relation to his mother Dena Halverson Schulz) and adopted her daughter, Meredith. Later the same year, the family moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado. Their son, Monte (Charles Monroe Schulz Jr), was born 1 February 1952, and three more children – Craig, Jill, and Amy – were born later, in Minnesota. Charles and Joyce were divorced in 1972, and in September 1973 he married Jean Forsyth Clyde. They were married for 27 years until his death from colon cancer on 12 February 2000 in Santa Rosa, California.
Charles Schultz’s faith in America was not misplaced. In 2015, he amassed posthumous earnings of $40 million. According to Forbes, that placed him only behind Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. The Peanuts Movie, a computer-animated comedy film based on his “Peanuts” comic strip, which was released in 2015, was projected to earn more than $56 million at the box office during its opening weekend.
Amy lovingly remembers her father as “a normal, nice dad who was a good person.” She remembers that he always had time for his children. She also remembers that the environment in her home growing up was comparable to “living at Disneyland.” She witnessed first hand the impact of her father’s character in the lives of others.
Amy now has nine children of her own. She recalls that her father never talked about himself or his profession and whenever one of the kids would enter his office, he would stop what he was doing to give them his utmost attention. Because he was always available to meet his children’s needs, Amy assumed that he didn’t have a job. She told the Deseret News, “I distinctly remember walking into the room, where he would be in the middle of drawing a strip, and he would immediately stop drawing. He would say, ‘Hi, Amos,’ and would just sit and talk to me; therefore, I assumed he was never busy. He never acted like he was too busy for any of his children.”
The Deseret News reports that the Schulz family lived on 28 acres in Sebastopol, California. Over the years, the Schulzes added a swimming pool, baseball fields, a park, and a golf course, making it a place where their children — and their friends — wanted to be.
Years later, some of Amy’s friends told her about the things that were happening in their homes when they were growing up. They told her that coming to her house every weekend is what saved them emotionally. Seeing that she had a nice, normal, caring and loving dad helped her friends to survive what they were going through. She said, “Our home was a shelter from the storm for them.” She believes that the Schultz home was a place where God’s influence could be felt because “the Spirit is in homes of goodness.”
Amy credits her parents’ influence for preparing her to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when she was 22 years old. She summarizes her conversion with a quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley, who said, “We say to the people, in effect, you bring with you all the good that you have, and then let us see if we can add to it.” She added, “I see my life as taking all the good that I had, how I was raised from this great mom and dad, and then adding the gospel to the family that my husband and I are raising.”
Charles Schultz did not believe in the Latter-day Saint faith himself but he was always supportive of his daughter. When she received her mission call to England a year and a half after she was baptized, she went to her dad’s office and announced, “Dad, I got my mission call. I’m going to England.” He got up from his desk, walked around to where she was standing, and with his arms outstretched gave her a big hug and said, “Even Jesus didn’t get to go to England.” He spoke at her mission farewell and never missed a week of sending her handwritten letters in which “He would have the most beautiful things to say about Christ and the scriptures.” She considers those letters from her father to be her biggest treasure.
When Amy was married in the Oakland California Temple, her father stood outside on that cold and windy day and waited for her. She said, “He would never want me to feel anything but happiness for my new life.” He also attended the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple open house with her in 1996.
Charles Monroe “Sparky” Schulz’s legacy lives on through his children and grandchildren. His son, Craig Schultz, honored his father by writing and producing The Peanuts Movie along with his son, Bryan, and friend Cornelius Uliano. The film is a four-generation family affair as Amy’s grandson, Micah Revelli, provided the voice of “Little Kid.”