FAIRFIELD - World War II Air Force veteran and farmer Herbert Schmidt, 88, of Choteau, and formerly of Fairfield, died Friday, Sept. 4, 2009, at Teton Medical Center in Choteau of complications from a fall in July, and from the effects of a stroke he suffered in 2002.
A memorial service is 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009, at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Fairfield, with burial of ashes in the St. Paul Lutheran Cemetery. Cremation has taken place under the direction of Chapel of Chimes Funeral Home in Great Falls.
Herb was born in Ashley, N.D., on Oct. 19, 1920, to Jacob and Karolina Schmidt, the oldest of nine children. When he was 5, the family moved to Mildred, Mont., and in 1937, the family moved to Fairfield, (Greenfield Bench) to farm. He took the State Exam to pass eighth grade and went to work on the family farm.
In 1942, Herb was drafted into the Army and qualified as a flight engineer in the Air Force on C-46 Cargo planes. In 1944, his squadron and others were sent to India to fly over the Hump (Himalaya Mountains) carrying gas, pipeline and supplies to China. The terrible weather and rugged terrain posed a constant danger as Japanese bombers flew overhead. A 1945 issue of Time magazine reported that official estimates showed that more than 3,000 Allied transport aircraft had been lost over the Hump.
Some of Herb's Air Force decorations were the Distinguished Unit Badge, China-Burma India Air Transport Command, Presidential Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal, American Theater Service Medal, Asiatic Pacific Theater Service Medal, three Overseas Bars, and, in 1987, 41 years later, he received the last decoration of World War II, the China War Memorial Medal from the Government of the Republic of China. Herb came home in 1946, after serving 18 months in India.
Prior to being drafted, he proposed to his sweetheart, Esther Rosin and, on Feb. 3, 1946, they were married at St. Paul Lutheran Church on the Greenfield Bench. They bought a farm, had a dairy milking operation of 35-40 cows year round, and had 600 laying hens with eggs sold weekly to Super Save in Great Falls. Some of the crops raised through the years were sugar beets, oats, barley and alfalfa hay. They lived on the farm for 47 years before selling it in 1993, and moving into Fairfield. In 2007, they sold their home in Fairfield and moved to the Skyline Retirement Lodge in Choteau. Throughout their 63 years of marriage, Herb and Esther always took care of each other's needs and, during his later years, Esther would become his dedicated and loving caregiver.
During retirement, they enjoyed going south for the winter and traveling in their RV known as the 'Schmidt Haus.' They made many one-day trips to attend and support their grandchildren's various activities. Herb always was there to lend a hand to anyone who needed it, and was committed to putting in a full days work. While Herb's health issues eventually kept them from going south and traveling as much as they would have liked, his determination to remain active kept him competitive in his love of playing cards. He loved to play cards at the Fairfield Senior Center and, after moving to the Skyline, played cards five nights a week.
Herb was an active member of St. Paul Church, serving on the church council and teaching Sunday school for many years. He served on the Greenfield School Board, the Cattlemen's Association Board, the Teton County Cemetery Board and the Fairfield Senior Citizens Board. He was a lifelong member of the American Legion.
He is survived by his wife, Esther of Choteau; children Florence (Bob) Armagost of Grand Bay, Ala.; Harlan (Sherril) Schmidt of Reno, Nev.; and Betty (Jim) Clark of Havre; grandchildren Jenny (Justin) Lee of Choteau; Dexin (Jennifer) Hensley of Grand Bay, Ala.; Corey (Suzanne) Schmidt of Bakersfield, Calif.; and Jamee Clark of Townsend; and eight great-grandchildren. He also is survived by sisters Almeda Pfeifle of Power and Emma Jacobsen of Paradise, Calif.; brothers Art Schmidt and Clarence Schmidt of Fairfield; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents; grandson Jim Clark; stepgrandson Kim Armagost; brothers Bill Schmidt, Gideon Schmidt and Isadore Schmidt; and sister Maggie Stolte.
Memorials are suggested to the Skyline Lodge Activity Fund; the Teton Medical Center Foundation or to the donor's choice.
Condolences may be posted online at www.chapelofchimesfunerals.com