When new innkeeper Vickie Matthews started at the Cotton Palace Bed and Breakfast a few months ago, many regular guests anxiously asked same question: Will Dutch still be there?
First-time guests and long-time regulars alike will tell you that, while the rooms at the Cotton Palace are cozy and comfortable and their stay in downtown Waco was absolutely lovely, their delicious gourmet breakfast would not be the same without the man who has been serving it for over 16 years.
A former inn-keeper, long-time Waco resident, World War II veteran, coach and teacher at Baylor University for 42 years, Dutch Schroeder is as much a part of Waco’s history as the Cotton Palace Bed and Breakfast. His is a truly a legend and he bleeds green and gold. A masterful storyteller, Dutch’s guests quickly become captivated as he begins to spin his yarns. With so much experience and wisdom from which to draw, it seems that there is not a place or person on earth to which Dutch does not have a personal connection. Sometimes the conversation is about the bed and breakfast and it’s rich history, sometimes its politics, sometimes Baylor history, but there is never a lull in the conversation. Dutch is skilled at drawing people into the conversation, and he admits that he has “built a big store of knowledge sitting there [at the table], from people that come and tell me new things.”
The Cotton Palace Bed and Breakfast holds a special place in Dutch’s heart. Dutch, his wife of 67 years, Betty, and his two daughters, Becky and Emily, opened it in 1998, and all the guest rooms are named for his children and grandchildren. Even at the age of 91, Dutch says that working at the Cotton Palace “gives him purpose.” He loves the Lord with all his heart, and sees his breakfast conversations as an opportunity to show that love to his brothers and sisters. God put him here to take good care of the other creatures in this world, and he often finds himself in unique situations where someone just needs to talk.
After the generous breakfast is served, Dutch offers a heartfelt prayer of thanks for the meal, pours himself a cup of coffee and presides over the long wooden dining table. “I like people,” Dutch says, and his genuine care for and interest in the people at his table is obvious. Breakfast is often filled with laughter, excitement, knowledge, and sometimes, tears. Dutch has even been known to lead guests in a hymn or a devotional, if the Lord lays it on his heart.
Time seems to stand still as Dutch shares his “morning lectures” and engages with his guests. “Whatever you say is important,” Dutch says, and guests never feel rushed. Long after the breakfast has been eaten and the coffee cups drained, the conversation continues. Official check-out time at the Cotton Palace Bed and Breakfast is 11 am, but it is not uncommon for guests to be sitting at the breakfast table when check-out time rolls around.
The 91-year-old “waiter-in-training” considers it a privilege to spend time with the guests of the Cotton Palace Bed and Breakfast. When they leave his breakfast table, not only are guests physically nourished with an amazing meal, but they also leave feeling known and loved, thanks to the ministry of this incredible man.
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