Stephen A. Schmidt, 79, died suddenly and peacefully in the early morning hours of Sept. 3, 2012, surrounded by his wife, children, and grandchildren, who sang hymns and prayed in his final hours.
Born on March 28, 1933 in Jefferson City, Mo. to Henry T. and Bertha (nee Korsmeyer) Schmidt, he was baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church. As a child working side by side with his father and brother in the family truck farm, he developed a life-long love of vegetable gardening. His last weeks were spent watching tomatoes ripen in his backyard.
Prof. Schmidt made many contributions to Christian education over his long teaching career. After graduating from Concordia Teachers College in 1955, he accepted his first position at Zion Lutheran in Lyons where he taught third and fourth grade, directed a children's choir, a 35-voice senior choir, drove the school bus, served as substitute church organist, coached various team sports, and served as Walther League counselor and Sunday School teacher coordinator. Two years later he became seventh- and eighth-grade teacher and principal while earning his master's degree from Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary in Maywood.
In 1962, he began more than a decade of teaching at his alma mater, Concordia College. While there, he was granted a leave of absence to pursue doctoral studies in a joint degree program at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in New York. He completed his doctorate in education in 1969.
In 1976, he left Concordia and taught for 30 years at Mundelein College, and then at the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University, retiring in 1999. He was secretly pleased to be a Lutheran teaching religious studies at Catholic institutions.
A prolific writer, he penned at least five published books and chapters and articles too numerous to mention. When he felt passionately about something, he wrote about it. His first book, Powerless Pedagogues (1972) was born of his dismay with the role of teachers in the Lutheran church. His many years of struggling with illness led him to write Living with Chronic Illness (1989).
During his 35 years as a member of Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest, he sang in the choir, was instrumental in introducing the adult education program as it is currently formulated, founded the Chronic Illness Group, served as chair of the board of elders and the search committee which led to the calling of the current senior pastor, Bruce K. Modahl.
Steve Schmidt is survived by Hildegarde "Gick," his wife of 56 years; his daughter, Elizabeth (Douglas Swartz) and their children, Jeremy (Liliana), Benjamin, and Emma; his daughter, Deborah (Christopher Rogers) and their children, Nathaniel and Madeline; his son, Stephen (Arlene Sweeney-Schmidt) and their children, Chad, Maggie (Matt) and their children, Owen, Yasmine and Christopher; his daughter, Ruth (Kevin Zamzow) and their children, Noah and Jonah; his siblings, Herb (Grace) and Henrietta (the late Harold) Kieschnick; and many nieces and nephews.
Visitation was held on Sept. 5 at Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home in Oak Park. A funeral service was held on Sept. 6 at Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest, followed by interment at Concordia Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Institute of Pastoral Studies, 820 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago 60611 or to Grace Lutheran Church and School, School Fund, 7300 Division St. River Forest 60305.