In February COVID-19 still required people to wear masks and limited the number of people who could attend a funeral. Out of respect for the family and to keep people safe, many who would have liked to attend Roger “Pete” Schmidt’s service didn’t. Here is the eulogy that his son, Steve Schmidt, wrote and gave in Pete’s memory.
ROGER “PETE” SCHMIDT” – EULOGY BY STEVE SCHMIDT
Together Forever at Last
We are here today to honor the life of Roger Pete Schmidt. Pete had a great run, as part of the greatest generation, and he would want us to enjoy our time here.
We all know my dad had a unique positive manner. As frigid as it is today, I recall recently complaining to him how cold and drafty it was in his old house. He said, “Yes Steve, I am very lucky to have fresh outside air coming it, those new houses are so tightly sealed that they have air quality issues.” 😊 He was serious.
I am Steve Schmidt, Roger’s youngest son and one of two boys. There were four sisters so Dave and I got picked on a lot. And here I am now……………..Actually I am honored, and honoring Pete is easy.
Years ago Pete chose the theme for today, “Together Forever at Last,” and it speaks volumes about how he views the world. It is always about relationships. In this case, we are speaking of his relationship with his wife Kay. They got engaged after six months of dating, so it was true love ……. or else one of them was very impatient. Very impatient.
Either way, more than anyone I have met, he understood the truth that Life is Relationships. Everything else is a complication. Hundreds more folks would be with us here today if allowed …but due to Covid 19, we’re restricted. Even then, when he learned about the virus, of course he had an upbeat outlook. He actually said, “Boy sounds like a good way for me to go.”
Speaking of relationships……Who makes new friends while they are in their 90’s? He was always telling us about someone he recently met, and his many friends transcend all age groups and cultures. People are people, and he loved them all.
Just last month two adults with some young kids walked out of the park next to Pete’s house and he practically lept out of his Lazy Boy to stand on the ice-cold porch in his t-shirt and talk to them for 10 minutes. Total strangers…. not anymore I guess.
Pete Schmidt lived very simply, yet was a very powerful and rare person. I tend to view him like a Thank You card. They are by far the best cards to receive, right? And they are so basic, so small and simple. Yet so rare. Like Pete, they are very compact and very cherished.
Why are those cards so small anyway?
Official survey results are in and 100% of people describe him with the words cute, sweet or wonderful. So today’s message is a big Thank You back to Pete: a cute, sweet and wonderful man.
So…trying to capture the essence of almost 93 years on the planet in 15 minutes is a challenge, like putting a history book into a text message. So we summed it up as Simply Amazing Service.
Simple or Simply
What could be more simple than growing up a poor farm kid during the Great Depression? Milking cows and weeding vegetables with his five siblings. He joked that “he worked so hard as a kid that he didn’t have the energy to grow up very tall.” The truth was he was very sick the first year of his life. Times were tough and most folks didn’t pay much attention to important figures of the day like Ty Cobb or Calvin Coolidge, Babe Ruth, or Amelia Earhart.
He grew up in and lived in the same community his entire life, the same house for 60 years, the same church for 93 years, he actually remembers the OLD church before the NEW one we are in today was built. He has had the same Dodge truck for 35 years. 😊 A piece of junk in my opinion.
The one that gets me is the same favorite TV show. WHAT IS IT? Lawrence Welk. I did some research on this. Lawrence Welk went OFF the air in 1982 almost four decades ago, yet he still watched it more than once a week.
Simple but favorite restaurant? Yes ….Culvers. We just had a Culver’s Caravan on the way here in his honor. He lived off of that two or three times a week and we all know it was primarily a place to meet people. It wasn’t for the food, he would eat anything and be happy.
And to work off that fast food – his choice of exercise – you guessed it, WALKING, of course, the most simple form. No Zumba class for Pete.
He even liked simple technology. Once he gave me an old manual typewriter as a joke and put a notecard on it. “This is wireless, mobile, virus-proof, and never needs charging.” Even funnier than that, just last month he told me, “The only thing I know about a computer is what they look like on the outside.”
In reality, he didn’t need a computer, his simple entertainment was enjoying birds, trees, squirrels, music and good conversation, and always those beautiful tomato plants.
Amazing. But Simple is not Boring. In fact, his life was amazing by most standards. Although he never tried BASE jumping, that I know of, he had a lot of exciting things happen throughout his lifetime.
He was an amazing wrestler, getting 2nd in state in 1943 on a team so good they won six championships in a row. Robbinsdale high school was a dynasty but when he lost his own championship match he said he felt really good for the other guy. Thank you for being gracious Pete.
By age 18 he enlisted in the Army to fight for the freedom for our great nation and was soon boarding a ship for a seven-day journey to Japan. The teen-aged soldiers were very anxious about mines in the water, a lot different than teenagers now……. worrying about “likes” and “thumbs up” on social media. Anyway, he saw Hiroshima shortly after the atomic bomb was dropped.
He was a successful entrepreneur for 35 years and that is amazing in itself but he did it without ever really wanting to grow his countertop business for fear it would distract him from what is really important………. family, faith and service. Of course, he jokingly said he made his living by being a “counter-fitter.”
Speaking of amazing, did I mention he was on the Hamel Fire Department in the 1970s? This was well before they had firefighter calendars and all that. Even with the wife, six kids, and business he still found time to teach CCD classes, volunteer in politics, run the PTA, and join the Knights of Columbus, and – OH – make a little maple syrup. 😊
Thank you dad for learning to water ski at age 40, you taught us about taking risks and having fun. As a young adult, he played 2nd base for the Hamel Hawks baseball team and his athleticism lasted throughout his life. We recall ice skating with him when he was 75 years old and he was still riding a bicycle into his 80’s. Amazing.
Athlete, yes, but he could also sing and dance. He was in the church choir for 50 years. Who does anything for 50 years?
And like his brother, Gordy, right there, Pete was the Hamel Hawks baseball coach and also was inducted into the Hamel Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016 for his playing, coaching, and volunteering.
He continued his amazing life well into old age due to his positive perspective and sense of humor. Recently his doctor was checking him for vertigo and asked him “Does it feel like it feels when you’ve had too much to drink?” Pete quipped, “I actually couldn’t say Doctor, I’ve never had too much to drink.”
That may be true, anything worth having he only took half. Half a brownie, half a beer, half a piece of pie – he had amazing willpower. In my case it would be more like half of a pie, thank you. So anyone that needs a new diet, just try, “Pete’s Half diet.”
Closing out the “Amazing” section we have his amazing patience. He never swore but he did make up swear words like horse-feathers and son of a buck. Brother Gordy explains it well, “I worked for Pete, and one time I accidentally drilled too deep on over 25 cabinet doors, ruining all of them by going right through the other side. Pete just shrugged his shoulders.” No swearing.
Amazing LIFE, now we move on to service.
The Simple and Amazing aspects of his life would be enough for normal souls but Pete used almost every spare moment making the world better. As Gandhi said, “Find yourself in the service of others,” and our dad did exactly that.
I hope I have the source right but I believe it was Pete’s father who said, “there is no need to brag, if you are really great, they will already know.” And in Pete’s own words, he recently told me, “No one’s perfect, especially me.”
He was far too humble to relate any of his Service accomplishments, so I will cover a portion of them now.
He was the Northwest Suburban Chamber of Commerce President and received their annual Community Service Award, not once but twice! I know what you’re thinking, NO, he was not the president when he got the awards.
He was heavily involved in the Hamel Athletic Club for decades and was elected president of that organization as well.
He was deeply involved in this church and I guess he must have really liked the title because he was named President of the St. Anne’s Parish Council. For decades he and his pal, Jerry Dykhoff, were the main go-to guys to get stuff done AROUND Hamel.
After retiring he traveled to Guatemala to do mission work and later he had a major hand in developing the impressive community park across the street. I think somewhere out there you could find a frozen park bench with his name inscribed.
Also after retiring he started a successful business group called Uptown Hamel which promotes local businesses. He was way ahead of the curve with the whole “buy local” thing.
With his strong memory, he will always be our one and only Hamel historian. Check out his beloved Hamel Library building about 100 feet east of here.
All this Service…………………….does anyone else feel like a bad person right now?
And finally, thank you Pete for donating land in 2013 to create Schmidt Woodland Park so we can all enjoy your beloved woods forever.
Put it all together and he has had one Simply Amazing Life of Service. So humble but yet he was top-notch.
Leader, Farmer, Dancer, Historian, Grandfather, Soldier, Listener. Wrestler, Singer, Craftsman, Husband, Baseball Player, Philanthropist, Entrepreneur but most of all ……😊…………..a Super Dope Dad.
There are a load of good memories on the funeral website but I wanted to share just one that seems to capture his life. As we know, he was always meeting new friends.
One day last year he said to me as we looked out the window of his home, “ Hey there goes my friend Mao, he’s a real nice guy!” And I said, “That’s wonderful! What do you guys talk about?” Pete said, “Well, he doesn’t speak English, but we understand each other and we get along just fine.”
Thank you Pete for being a simple inspiration to all of us. You are amazingly rare and when you get to heaven you better be wary, Kay was possibly not as patient as you are and you kept her waiting ………………………………….for 20 long years.
Together Forever at Last.
In closing, when we think of Pete I know we will all be thankful for this compact, rare but very powerful man. As a thank you for all who attended today, and keeping his spirit alive, we are handing out THANK YOU NOTES for you to pass along to others. For Pete’s sake. Thank you all for coming.