Bernard “Ben” Schmidt, 88, passed away Tuesday, July 23, 2019.
Bernard Joseph Schmidt, BEN, was born on Wednesday, December 3, 1930, in the family home
in Willock, Pennsylvania. He was greeted by his older brother (by 13 months) Rodger, and a
third boy, Donald, would complete the family in 1933. Willock was made up of immigrants. The
Slovenian, Polish, Russian, German, Hungarian and Italian families were neighbors and friends.
Several members of the Schmidt family lived in the section of Willock known as Dutch Hill.
Ben's grandparents and six aunts and two uncles came to the United States through Ellis Island
in the early 1900's. Ben's dad, Julius Joseph Henry Charles Carl Schmidt (the naming is a
"German thing") was the first of the ten children to be born in America (1906) and his Uncle
Ben was born a few years later. Ben's mother, Albina Kokel Schmidt, was orphaned at a young
age and grew up in a foster home. Ben often remarked on her gentle nature and beautiful
presence. Ben spoke of his home life with affection and gratitude while acknowledging the
hardships of Depression Era poverty in this coal mining neighborhood. He said he wouldn't
wish to change anything.
It was not unusual for a youngster to quit school after completing eighth grade in this
environment, either because of lack of interest in school or for financial reasons. Ben wanted
to continue his education primarily because he was enjoying significant success as an athlete.
He was the only person at Baldwin High School to letter in four sports: football, basketball,
track, and baseball. In the summer immediately following graduation (1949), the Boston Braves
(now the Atlanta Braves) offered him a chance to go into professional baseball. Ben declined
because he had already accepted a scholarship to play basketball at Gannon College in Erie,
Pennsylvania. In the summer of 1951, he was contacted by the Chicago White Sox scouts and
was seriously considering leaving college to play professional baseball when a draft notice to
report to the US Army arrived. While this notice ended his professional baseball hopes, it led to
something even better. The Army eventually stationed him at Fort Leavenworth, and it was
there that he met and fell in love with Dixie Woodson, and they married in September, 1954.
Ben finished his college degree at Southwestern College (1958) and earned an MS in History in
1964. Ben taught at Patton Junior High School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 1958-1993. In addition to History, he taught PE and Driver's Education and coached football, basketball, and track at various times. Ben was an outstanding educator and role model who inspired and encouraged his students, and he is remembered with respect, admiration, and affection.
Ben and Dixie have three children: Danny (1963), Debbie (1966), and David Schmidt (1971). In
1974, Dixie was diagnosed with MS, and this debilitating disease would take her life in 1986.
Dixie was a remarkable, talented woman, loved by all who knew her.
In 1996, Ben married Carol Alexander, a fellow teacher at Patton Junior High School. They
recently quietly celebrated their 23rd wedding anniversary. Carol is mother to four girls, Taira,
Colleen, Kelly, and Carrie. Like Ben's family, Carol's endured loss, for Colleen and Taira died
very young. In the blending of these two families who had known diminishment they celebrated new growth and renewed joy.
Left to mourn the passing of this wonderful man, Danny and Tracy Schmidt and daughters Danielle and Karli; Debbie and Mark Phillips and sons Jake and Luke (Cole Phillips October, 1998-March, 1999); David and Vanessa Schmidt and their son, Hayden and daughter, Rosie; Kelly Alexander; Carrie and Mike Raaf and daughters Georgia and Natalie, Patrick Jones, son of Taira. Ben will also be missed by the Sisters of Charity at Ross Hall with whom he spent many wonderful hours over the past five years when he, Carol, and "Connelly", his beloved dog, visited and by Rodger's family Marge, Tracy, Susan, and Mike Schmidt, his Pennsylvania cousins and lifelong friend, Jim Vaglia and family, and the families of
the local community and Sacred Heart/St Casimir parish.
Memorial contributions may be made to Xavier Catholic Schools or Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
A wake service will be held at Sacred Heart Church on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 from 5-8 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10a.m., on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 at the church. Burial will follow at Sunset Memory Gardens Cemetery.
Arrangements entrusted to Davis Funeral Chapel. Condolences may be left on Ben’s online guestbook at www.davisfuneralchapelinc.com