it's the weekly Kiwanis luncheon, the Garden City Historical Commission
meetings or services at St. Raphael Church -- there will be an empty
spot in a lot of places due to the death of Francis Schmitt.
retired dentist, Dr. Schmitt was a familiar presence around Garden City
for about 60 years. He died Thursday at 93 following a brief illness.
don't think any one person knows the full scope of what he did. It's
hard to imagine anyone who could do more," said Mark Barsamian, who
bought Dr. Schmitt's practice in 1984 and practiced jointly with him
four years. "It's a pretty big loss. You can't help but be upset by
losing such a well-respected fine person. He really had a big impact on
Honored at 89 as Garden City First Citizen, Dr. Schmitt
maintained an active schedule over the years serving as a volunteer
reader at Henry Ruff Elementary School, co-chairing a committee
overseeing a large renovation project at St. Raphael Church where he
had also chaired the parish council, and was an active member of the
Garden City Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis and the Friends of the Garden
For many years, Dr. Schmitt worked as a city
election worker, had served for a number of years as the city
representatives to People's Community Hospital, organized a Garden City
fluoridation program, was a volunteer instructor at the University of
Detroit Dental School and was active in professional organizations.
Only days before his death, Dr. Schmitt was reappointed to the
"This really came as
a surprise. I just found out this morning that he had died," said Ken
Hines, fellow Kiwanian. "We had just gotten his son's address so we
could send get well cards and wishes to him. He was an all-around good
-- you couldn't find a better friend."
at how active Dr. Schmitt had remained over the years, attributing that
to his many interests and love of people. He often opened his home to
guests whether foreign exchange visitors or new city administrators
needing temporary housing while they relocated.
"I don't think I
ever heard him say something bad about anyone," said Hines. "If someone
else said something bad about a person, Doc would say 'Well, you
weren't there or weren't in his shoes.' He had the philosophy that if
you can't say something nice, don't say anything."
recalled Dr. Schmitt had planned to retire after selling his practice
but the two dentist got along so well, he decided to stay on beyond the
six month transition period they'd planned.
"Francis was such a
great teacher and a wonderful person. Even though I was a rookie and
he'd been in practice 40 years, he still treated me with respect and
listened to all my opinions," said Barsamian. "He really taught me a
lot of about dentistry and ethics. The great thing about Francis was
that he was progressive and not afraid to look at new things."
City Manager David Harvey said he lost track of how many committees he had served on with Dr. Schmitt over the years.
going to truly miss Doc -- he was kind of a Garden City icon. There was
a lot of history there -- he outlived a lot of his generation," said
Harvey. "He watched Garden City development from nothing and was happy
to share that with you. It's another bit of our history that we've
A native of Mendon near Kalamazoo, Dr. Schmitt and his
late wife, Eileen, came to Garden City after he finished his World War
II Army service.
The couple had three of their 12 children when they arrived in Garden City -- a town of 9,500 people and two dentists.
said we'd try it for five years and see if we were accepted by the
community. The five years passed and we never looked back," he recalled.
their home on Brown, where Dr. Schmitt still lived, the couple raised
12 children. Dr. Schmitt credited his wife with taking care of their
family and home which allowed him to be so involved in the community.
he was in his late 80s, Dr. Schmitt received the top honor in Kiwanis
-- the Hixon Award -- and an honor he was particularly proud of, the
Silver Beaver Award honoring his service to Boy Scouts. Two of his sons
earned the rank of Eagle Scout.
But it wasn't all volunteer work
-- Dr. Schmitt enjoyed traveling extensively around the United States
and other countries. One notable trip was to the Holy Land.
he was in the Middle East, he was taking a picture of the people he was
with on a boat and started backing up," recalls Hines. "He went over
the side and fell into the Red Sea. The guys who pulled him out
dislocated his shoulder and he had to go to the hospital."
worked out in the end. The ambulance transported Dr. Schmitt to where
the boat was docking and he was waiting for his traveling companions
when they got off the boat following lengthy disembarking process.