Donald P. Schmitz, age 96, of Elmwood, passed away on Friday, September 13th, 2019.
Donald was born August 14, 1923 in La Crosse, WI. He was the son of John Peter and Estella “Stella” Mary (McDonald) Schmitz. When he was young, his family moved to Ferndale, MI and subsequently moved several more times for his father’s contracting jobs, during which he attended various grade schools. In 1941, he graduated from Aquinas High School in La Crosse with honors and also won a national Latin contest. Following graduation, he began college at the La Crosse State Teachers College on an academic scholarship. His education was temporarily stalled when he enlisted in the Army. He was chosen for a specialized officers training program at Texas A&M in College Station, TX. He then joined the 12th Armored Division at Camp Barkley in Abilene, TX. From January 1943 to January 1946, Don served in the Army during World War II spending equal amounts of time in the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), Armored Infantry, and Adjutant General’s Department. Among many other accomplishments, he proudly fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was awarded the Bronze Star for his service, as well as the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, and the Victory WWII Medal. After the war, he returned to La Crosse State Teachers College to complete his Bachelor’s Degree in 1948. Then in 1952, he received a Masters Degree in Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In that same year, he began his career as the Superintendent in West Grand, WI.
He was married to Mary Ellen Coughlin of La Crosse, WI on December 26, 1953 and together they had seven children: Cynthia, Debra, Steven, Thomas, Frederic, Nancy, and David. That same year he started as Superintendent in Readstown, WI. In 1960, he and his family moved to Elmwood, WI when he became the Superintendent of Schools and remained there until his retirement in 1984. Under his administration, the west wing was added to the high school and the bus garages were built. He also implemented the vocal music and art departments, as well as the guidance office. He was recognized as an authority in school administration and even ran for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1969. Don strongly felt, “Elmwood provided a good education — we had wonderful teachers — buildings are important — but teachers are the backbone of the school. The entire staff just seemed like family members.” Following his retirement, his passion for education led him to supervise and teach aspiring educators at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
The most important thing in Don’s life was always his family, especially during the holidays when they would all get together and share stories and jokes. He enjoyed all types of sports, especially if his teams were winning! His other interests included traveling to Mesquite, NV and Treasure Island, FL with his wife, Mary, and family members, playing fastpitch softball in his younger years, reading, going to his grandchildren’s school events, Treasure Island Casino, and Elmwood Raider sporting events.
Don is survived by his wife, Mary; his children, Cindy (John) Sinz of Menomonie, WI; Steve Schmitz of Oxnard, CA; Tom (Jean) Schmitz of Eagan, MN; Fred (Tali) Schmitz of Mondovi, WI; Nancy Ousley of Minneapolis, MN; Dave Schmitz of Portage, WI; and son-in-law Bob Wiinamaki of Menomonie, WI; his grandchildren, Aaron Sinz; Michael Sinz (Allison Campbell); Sarah (Jess) Roberts; Amber (Jason) Jochimsen; Nicole Schmitz; Matthew Schmitz; Alexis Schmitz; Christopher Schmitz; Daniel (Leigh) Schmitz; Zachary (Amanda) Schmitz; Hayden (Stephanie) Schmitz; Katie Ousley; and Jacob Ousley; his great-grandchildren, Samuel and Elliot Roberts; Maya and Lydia Jochimsen; Griffin and Hannah Schmitz; and Roland Schmitz. He is also survived by his sister-in-law Sally Miller, brother-in-law Richard (Helen) Coughlin, and many nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his daughter, Debra Jean Wiinamaki in 2010, his parents, and his brother, John “Jack” Joseph Schmitz.
Funeral services will be held at 11:00 AM Saturday September 21, 2019 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Elmwood with Rev. Amir Stanislaus officiating. Burial will be in the Sacred Heart Cemetery-Farm Hill with Military Honors provided by the Crain-Ottman American Legion Post 207 of Elmwood.
Visitation will be from 9:00 AM until the time of the services at the church on Saturday.
Please send memorials to Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Elmwood, WI or to the Elmwood Food Pantry.
Online condolences may be made at www.rhielfuneralhome.com.
Rhiel Funeral Home & Cremation Services of Elmwood is serving the family.