Dell Rapids, SD
April 11, 2020
Merlin Francis Schmidt was born on April 7, 1922 to Nicholas Jr & Emma (Heer) Schmidt on their family farm north of Dell Rapids, SD. He died on April 11, 2020, just 4 days after his 98th birthday.
He lived a quiet, (if you can use the words quiet and Schmidt together), simple life devoted to his family and the community of Dell Rapids. He was Nick Jr and Emma’s 7th of 10 children (3 died in infancy). At the age of 10, his mother passed away, leaving his dad to raise the 7 surviving children, all boys. His Dad never remarried and kept all the kids together, an amazing accomplishment in the 1930s. Merlin attended St Mary Academy through 8th grade. After spending his early years growing up on the family farm north of Dell Rapids, farming and working in construction with the Schneiders brothers, he was called to serve in the US Army on Nov 21, 1942 and served in World War II with the 400th AAA Battalion. After his honorable discharge from the Army on Nov 21, 1945, he returned to Dell Rapids on Thanksgiving Day and resumed construction jobs and farming duties at home, eventually moving to Colman to farm with his brother, Lewie.
He married Mary Heinemann on May 1,1957, and the couple raised their five children in Dell Rapids. During these years he hauled livestock for farmers, worked in construction for Lloyd Welbig, Wayne Bjordahl and Industrial Contractors. He was also employed at LG Everist, drove a school bus for Dell Rapids and spent many years upholstering furniture in his basement workshop.
Merlin was active with the Dell Rapids American Legion Post 65, where he was Commander in 1997 and was honored with a 75-year membership award in November 2019. He and Mary spent many happy years going to reunions with some of his Army buddies throughout the United States.
For many years he and Mary both worked as school bus drivers in Dell Rapids, and he developed a special bond with the kids on his bus route. In 2001, he was honored to receive an honorary diploma from St Mary High School. Many local people knew Merlin as the guy who could fix anything.
He was a devoted member of St. Mary Catholic Church throughout his lifetime; donating countless hours helping with many repairs and construction/building projects at the church and school.
He was a talented craftsman who loved children and enjoyed teaching carpentry skills to his grandchildren. He was often seen wrestling with the grandkids, teaching them to use a hammer, and treating them to ice cream. While he rarely shared stories of his military experiences with his kids, he happily shared them with his grandchildren, giving them a glimpse of why his generation was considered “The Greatest Generation”. His kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids knew he was always happy to see them, he enjoyed visiting with anyone, and always had a project in the works to keep his hands and mind busy.
Grateful for sharing his life are his five children: Kathy Hegge (Dennis Mammenga) of Baltic SD, Nick Schmidt (Connie) of Lewisville TX, Jan Bot (Ben) of Cottonwood MN, Tony Schmidt (Norilee) of Sioux Falls SD, and Bill Schmidt (Denise) of Dell Rapids SD. He will be missed by his 14 grandchildren: Kassy (Dusty) Thorpe, Karly (Doug Nohava) Hegge, Kyle Hegge, Chelsey (Tyler) Koenig, Eric (Kathy) Schmidt, Adam (Bailey) Schmidt, Cole Bot, Ella Bot, Kellen Schmidt (Claire Hemmer), Hailey Schmidt, Jessica (Ryan) Thornell, Casey Schmidt, Ethan Schmidt & Ryan Schmidt. His 14 great-grandchildren also loved visiting Grandpa Merlin and hearing his stories. He will be missed by his sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, Joyce Lerdal, Virginia (Dick) Mergen, Ruby (Richard) Nelson, and Arlene Schmidt, and many nieces, nephews, friends and community members. He was preceded in death by his wife Mary in 2006, all of his siblings: Elberta, Alfred, Gertrude, LaVern, Norbert, Bertram, Lewis, Roy and an infant brother. He was also preceded by his son-in-law, Kent Hegge, several sisters-in-law and a brother-in-law.
Due to the current COVID 19 concerns, a private burial was held on Friday, April 17 at Dell Rapids St Mary Cemetery and a Celebration of Life for Merlin will be held at a later time. The family requests that there be no floral memorials and asks that memorials be directed to the Dell Rapids American Legion Post #65 for the Veterans Park Project or Dell Rapids St Mary School in Merlin’s name. Please send memorials %Bill Schmidt 805 N Vermont Ave Dell Rapids SD 57022.
Video tribute at www.minnehahafuneralhome.com.