A much-loved teacher

A very special lady will celebrate her 105th birthday on June 13. Lorena (Schumacher) Schmidt taught elementary school in the Dunkirk Public Schools. Her career began in Dunkirk in 1928 and she taught here until she retired in 1966. She then moved to Cape Coral in Florida where she taught for 11 more years.

She still lives in Cape Coral. One of her former students, Carol Schulenberg Hood, posted information about Mrs. Schmidt’s birthday on the Facebook group “I grew up in Dunkirk/Fredonia NY.” Mrs. Schmidt’s address is 4920 Viceroy CT. # 109, Cape Coral, FL 33904-9048.

In her post, Carol suggested, “What do you say we flood her mailbox with birthday cards from some of her former students?”

That post got some likes and general positive comments about Mrs. Schmidt. Carol then was able to make contact with Alicia Schmidt, Mrs. Schmidt’s daughter, who lives near her mother in Cape Coral. Carol and Alicia were childhood friends. Alicia liked the idea of sending cards to her mother.

Alicia spoke about her mother who, she said, is “still sharp as a tack.” She explained her mom wanted to teach from the time she was 4. She found a stubby pencil that came from school and she just wanted to be part of school.

Born in 1909, Mrs. Schmidt graduated from Fredonia Normal School in 1928 and received a teaching contract right after graduation. She traveled to the former school located on Lake Shore Drive West in a Model T Ford. Alicia said her mom liked to talk about her adventures driving out to the school. For example, a tire on the car once fell off.

After that, Mrs. Schmidt taught at both School 6 and ended her Dunkirk career at School 3. In 1948, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Fredonia State Teachers College.

Carol recalls, “When I was nearing the end of second grade, I remember wishing I would get Mrs. Schmidt the next year. Well, I was lucky enough to have Mrs. Schmidt for third and fourth grades and a neighbor on Franklin Avenue as well. She was a fantastic teacher and a wonderful, caring and loving lady.”

Alicia seems to be the only one who didn’t want Mrs. Schmidt as a teacher, because Mrs. Schmidt is her mom.

She said, “I was assigned to my mother’s class in fourth grade. That only lasted about 45 minutes. I remember the principal coming in and telling me to go to the other fourth grade class. I greatly appreciated that.”

Alicia reflected on the impact her mother made. “She taught generations of students. … I saw many former students say to her ‘I became a teacher because of you.'”

Cindy (Dutton) Manning lived with her family on Lincoln Avenue and had Mrs. Schmidt for fourth grade at School 3. Cindy has taught school since 1973. Now living near West Palm Beach, Fla., she just retired at the end of this school year.

Cindy remembers, “She let each of us choose a lucky number. I chose 17, which is still my lucky number. I use that same strategy in class to organize the students’ work. … She taught us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ … She wore high heels but because she walked toe to heel, her footsteps never echoed.”

Cindy expressed gratitude for the positive interaction Mrs. Schmidt (and other teachers at School 3) had with the students’ families. It is something she values and tried to put into practice during her own teaching career.

Cindy’s mother has kept in contact with Mrs. Schmidt for years. Mrs. (Barbara) Dutton explained the connection.

“We go way back. My mother (Anna Bannister) was friends with Lorena’s mother,” she said.

As for Mrs. Dutton’s six children, “They loved her,” she said. “Especially Sandy.”

Sandy (Dutton) Abel who graduated from Dunkirk High School in 1975 is now an Occupational Therapist who lives in Chattanooga, Tenn. Mrs. Schmidt and Mrs.Clifford were her two favorite teachers.

Sandy remembers Mrs. Schmidt as her second-grade teacher and her class doing a play for Thanksgiving. Most of all she remembers a caring woman who came to her First Communion. Sandy would stay after school to help Mrs. Schmidt and talk to her.

“Years later, I sent her a card and she wrote me back a letter. She had so many students and yet she remembered me,” she said.

Charlie Kuhfuss, a classmate of Carol’s posted, “Having Mrs. Schmidt for both grades 3 and 4 was very special for me. They were happy times for sure. Both Mrs. Schmidt and my mom shared a room at Brook’s Memorial when Alicia and I were born because our birthdays are one day apart. Mrs. Schmidt told me once to always stay the good worker that I was in her class. And here I am after 42 years on the job being fortunate to have never missed a paycheck. Thank you, Mrs. Schmidt, for the kind encouragement; I have carried it with me. Wishing you health and happiness on your special day, and Happy Birthday too!”

When asked what her mom’s secret for longevity is, Alicia said, “It’s a mystery to me. Even today she remembers things that I forget.”

Some of her former students think they know the secret. Donna Ver Hague Desmond posted, “Mrs. Schmidt was one of my favorites at #3 school. I remember her asking us to try Wheat Germ because it was good for us. Evidently Mrs. Schmidt ate it all the time to have the long healthy life she has lived. Happy Birthday Mrs. Schmidt!”

Chuck Harcrow agreed. He posted, “Mrs. Schmidt was the Greatest! She was always there with a caring word or a hug if the occasion called for it. I had her in 4th Grade and I think 5th Grade, I know I didn’t have her in 3rd Grade. Yes, she believed in Wheat Germ; I ate it for months after she told the class how good for us it was. We need more teachers like Mrs. Schmidt!!!!!

Happy Birthday Mrs. Schmidt.”

Let’s hope Mrs. Schmidt’s mailbox in Florida is flooded with birthday cards.

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