Dad: A civilized man

This week we are honoring David T. Schmitt, Carl Schmitt’s fifth son, who died on March 22 at the age of 89.  Below is David’s portrait of his father, taken from a collection of memories he wrote down not long after his father’s death.

My father was born in 1889 in Warren, Ohio.  He was the second son of Jacob and Grace Schmitt, who had only two boys. His father Jacob taught music in Youngstown and donated his expertise as the choir director for St. Mary’s Church in Warren for over fifty years.  He also played the organ every Sunday for that period.

Jacob Schmitt with his sons Carl (left) and Robert, c. 1905.

From the beginning Dad could always draw, he had the talent of the discerning line.  He pursued this talent and made it his vocation, leaving high school to study art in New York, at the National Academy of Design.  He always knew what he wanted to do and he did it as far as art was concerned. He was given the gift and he knew it was his responsibility to develop it.  He further studied abroad in France and Italy before the First World War.

Later he returned home to marry Gertrude Lord and settle in Silvermine, near Norwalk, Connecticut.  Here he and other like-minded artists founded the Silvermine Guild of Artists, a colony where they could exchange ideas, paint and exhibit their skills.  This included drama, sculpture, painting, drawing, etching, water color, and some crafts such a pottery–they established a shop.

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Self-Portrait, charcoal and pencil on paper, December 1916

My father was what I call a civilized man: you could count on him to not only do the right thing at the right time but from the right motive, and he always knew why he should do things so.  He had good will and intelligence.  He was mature.  He not only nursed the gift of Faith, but he welcomed the gifts of the Holy Spirit, contemplated them, and tried to integrate them into his everyday life as much as possible.

He was civilized in the Christian tradition and he saw God’s creation as a magnificent manifestation of his love, because God is magnificent.  He wasn’t stilted in Puritan observations and taboos because Christ has redeemed creation to the extent that it wants or has cooperated in submission.  Consequently the Holy Spirit has informed nature to raise it above itself through grace.

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Self-Portrait, oil on hardboard, c. 1965, 15 x 12 in.

Mother always said Dad had an “artistic nature” or “temperament.”  In a word, he responded almost innately: dramatically, responsibly to any given situation.  He had instant commitment or involvement, with integrity.  To balance this innate tendency he was also extremely analytical to the point of being almost scientific about evaluating everything.

He was a true contemplative at times and even mystical at others in his deep understanding of the true nature of persons, places, things, situations—he would speak of the symbol and reality of the Trinity again and again in creation!

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Untitled, pastel on paper, 14 x 16 in.

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5 thoughts on “Dad: A civilized man

    • He taught for many years at a music school in Warren called “Dana’s Musical Institute,” which merged to become the Dana School of Music at Youngstown State University in early 1940s. He was then professor there until his retirement in 1950 when he was 90 years old. He started teaching at DMI in 1886 (!) – a sixty-four year teaching career.

  1. Really love hearing the history of our family. The pictures are priceless. I remember dad telling us about granddaddy’s ideas and character but this is the first time I have seen them in writing – really wonderful to reflect on. Thank you.

    • So glad you’re enjoying these, Cathy. All of the recollections of Granddad’s life and character are valuable – but especially those of his own children. One of my priorities is to record this “oral history,” a particularly important part of his legacy. Plus the stories are just plain wonderful.

  2. It is wonderful to read an account of a son who loved his father and appreciated his noble character and great dedication to his Creator, his family and his art. Uncle Dave’s clear headed and straightforward first hand recollections are a great honor to the memory of Grandpop and a testament to the wonderful heart of Uncle Dave as well. Both men are so greatly missed, yet the legacy is so compelling.

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