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. A Celebration of Life, Mass and Military Rites service will be held at St Mary Catholic Church in Dell Rapids SD on Saturday, July 18th at 10:00 am. The service will be Livestreamed on Facebook at: Minnehaha Funeral Home & Cremation Services. Due to ongoing concerns and risks regarding COVID-19, we ask that you use careful discernment when deciding whether you should attend. Wearing a mask is requested. We fully respect your decision and appreciate your thoughts and prayers. His burial was held on April 17, 2020 at Dell Rapids St Mary Cemetery. 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 to Bill Schmidt 805 N Vermont Ave Dell Rapids SD 57022.
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. In addition to various projects he was always doing in his basement, his favorite hobby was visiting the Dell Rapids City Landfill (aka: his favorite “store”; the poor man’s secondhand store, The Dump) where he found and restored many treasures, many of which are still in use by family members. He never fully retired; he had his toolbox with him to the very end, always finding something he could “fix”! He often said that he had a box of lumber pieces “too small to use”….yet he often found a use for them! He also kept busy sewing quilts out of old, worn jeans. He was a recycler before there was a word for it! Many local people knew Merlin as the guy who could fix anything. He was always proud if he could figure out a way to make a “tool” for a project he needed: a staple-puller for upholstery, and when his fingers could no longer button shirts easily, he made button hooks (several of the Orchard Hills residents were happy recipients of these hand-crafted, useful devices!).
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, along with his brother and a nephew, were the minds and muscles that designed and built the underground tunnel that connects the two school buildings.
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. There was never a moment that he would have said he was bored… he knew he could always find something to do! Many of us have items we use that we say have been “Merlin-ized” and most of us have “Merlin-isms” (phrases that only Merlin used…but we ALL knew what they meant!).
In 2011, he moved to Orchard Hills where he resided until March 9, 2020, when he moved to Dells Nursing and Rehab Center (which, he reminded us, was built on land that his Dad, brothers and himself had farmed many years ago).
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 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 loved visiting Grandpa Merlin and hearing his stories: Jack, Madelyn & Charlotte Thornell, Kenton, Maeve & Rayne Thorpe, Kalyce, Amity, Norie, Porter & Reeve Nohava, and Myra, Mahli & Miles Koenig.
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.
Heaven got a little louder when Merlin arrived; he’s probably already having a lively discussion (argument) with his brothers! And when the Schmidt boys decide that Heaven needs some fixing up, that box of pieces “too small to use” better still be here…they may need a piece from that box!! So in Dad’s own words, “You kids behave up there!”