Peter Carl Schmitt, 1923-2017

Peter Schmitt as a technical sergeant in the famed 10th Mountain Division of the U. S. Army (the “ski troops”), which saw action at the front lines in Italy in the winter of 1944-45.

Peter C. Schmitt died on Saturday, June 10, 2017 after a brief illness.  He was born on March 19, 1923 in Norwalk, Connecticut, the fourth son of Carl and Gertrude Schmitt.  He was raised in Silvermine, Connecticut, and graduated from New Canaan High School, where he met the love of his life, the former Jane Hunt.  Upon graduation in 1943, Mr. Schmitt enlisted in the U. S. Army and served in Italy with the famous Tenth Mountain Division Ski Troops.  He participated in the battle of Riva Ridge and was awarded the Bronze Star.

Upon discharge from the army, he married his high school sweetheart and settled in Silvermine, raising their six children and pursuing a career as a commercial artist in the advertising industry in New York City.  After his retirement he relocated to Bedford, New Hampshire.  He and his wife later returned to Connecticut in November of last year.

His funeral mass will be celebrated at the Basilica of St, John the Evangelist in Stamford, Connecticut on June 15.  He is survived by Jane, his wife of seventy-one years, and their three sons and two daughters, as well as his sister, four of his brothers, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Mr. Schmitt is preceded in death by his daughter Carolyn Jane “Karen” Schmitt, and brothers Austin, Michael, David, and John Schmitt.

Among David Schmitt’s many stories and recollections of his growing up is the following portrait of his brother Peter.

Peter Schmitt at the age of 3½.

Peter’s temperament is a lot like Dad’s.  If there was ever a person true to the character of St. Peter’s, my brother Peter is the one.  Just like St. Peter in the gospel, he is a leader.  He is outspoken, to the point.  He is spontaneous; he is intuitive; he’s extroverted.  Black and white.  Truth is charity and there’s no such thing as unnecessary charity!

Peter at an early age wanted to play the violin.  The only hitch was he had to learn and unfortunately that was at the expense of all the rest of us.  Dad remedied the situation by having him practice at the other end of the acre of land we owned.  There was an old shack there and I remember after school Pete was free to go to it by himself.

Peter (far left) and his brothers David, Jacob, John, and Carl, Jr. about 1932.

Peter was also a fast talker. I remember once when our friend Harry was visiting, Peter sent me to the house to get a quarter he had in his desk.  We were all going to go to Guthrie’s market for candy. While I was getting the quarter, Peter and Harry took off on their bicycles and when I came out I was shocked to find out they’d left without me, and I was a little hurt too!  When they got back an hour later, I complained, and Peter’s reply was, “Well at least we didn’t take off in front of you.  We were decent enough to send you in the house for the quarter so you wouldn’t see us.”  From then on in life I knew what I was dealt, or up against.

My aunt Martita once took me aside and said to me, “David, if you wouldn’t cry when Peter bully’s you, he wouldn’t enjoy it so much and he would leave you alone.” That evening I did better than that. When he started in on me, I punched him on the nose, knocked him down and beat him up.  It’s amazing what a word from a grown up will do for a little courage when one is down or depressed!

He never challenged me again; in fact he’s always respected me since and I respect him too!   I think when I was about six he taught me that lesson.

Peter (left) and his brother David about 1924.

Another time when we were in Rome, Chris (who was about eight) went down in the driveway to play with the boy who lived below us.  The boy, being the only son of a military man, was quite spoiled and got everything he wanted.  He got mad at Chris.  Their maid heard him under the kitchen window so she thought she’d help him by throwing a glass of cold water on Chris.  Chris came upstairs crying, his feelings more outraged than anything else.  The big kids, Peter and Mike, came to his defense.  They told him to go back down and yell up at the maid, which he did.  Sure enough, she moved into position above him with another glass of cold water.  When she did, she got a whole dish pan full over her head.  This time no one came to pound on the door.  In fact, we all celebrated at an easy victory.


Christmas in Silvermine

We continue our series of reminiscences by Carl Schmitt’s late son David, who died this past March at the age of 89.

One Christmas when I was about seven dad and mother bought me a present much better than I anticipated.  Dad called my name and I stepped forward and he handed me a large box attractively wrapped.  “To David from Mother and Dad.”  I tore it open and inside was a large pair of brown hunting boots with a jackknife in a leather pocket on the left side of the left boot.  I was overwhelmed.  I put the boots on and paraded around the house upstairs and down all the rest of Christmas day.  I could see nothing but those two boots.


Michael, pastel on paper, 1935

Unfortunately, my brother Mike had gotten a model airplane kit—the kind one puts together from balsa wood and covers with Japanese tissue paper, then paints to match the real airplane.  It actually flew and took a lot of work to build.  Late in the afternoon, just before supper, I was coming down the stairs, and of course Michael was assembling his plane right at the foot of the stairs.  You guessed it, the inevitable happened; my big boot went “crunch” right in the middle of his plane and completely demolished it.  It was a case of the inevitable force meeting the immovable object.

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Carl Schmitt sons ((left to right) Peter, Jacob, Michael, John, David, and Austin, c. 1932.

Mike wanted to take it out on my hide but he didn’t, remarkably, because I pointed out that after all that wasn’t the best place to put his plane together.  Naturally, he didn’t relish hearing my defense.  It was a case of arrogance vs. pride which most kids excel in.  I still don’t remember how the situation was resolved short of parental arbitration and both of us eating a little crow.


Christmas card (c. 1925) for John Kenneth Byard, a friend and patron of Schmitt in the 1920s who later became a well-known antiques dealer.

David Tod Schmitt, 1924-2014

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David Schmitt as a student at New Canaan High School, c. 1940.

David T. Schmitt died on Saturday, March 22, 2014, after a long illness.  He was born on July 8, 1924 in Norwalk, Connecticut, the fifth son of Carl and Gertrude Schmitt.

At the age of eighteen, while still in high school, he was drafted into the U. S. Army, beginning his service in March 1943 as a member of the legendary 10th Mountain Division (the “ski troops”).  After a year and a half of training in the mountains of Colorado, he served in Italy along with his brother Peter as a Technical Sergeant (Communications) in the Headquarters Division, seeing combat in the Italian campaign of 1944-45.  

In April 1953 he married Louise Stitt; they would have eight children.  During the 1960s he worked alongside his brother John at Thomas More School, a Catholic boys’ boarding school in Harrisville, New Hampshire.  After the school closed in 1971, he moved his family to Canaan, Connecticut, where he lived the rest of his life.  

David Schmitt is remembered by his family and friends as a loving, humble, and wise man.   In his last years he showed remarkable patience and cheerfulness in the face of illness and the loss of his beloved wife, Louise.  

His funeral mass was celebrated by his son, Rev. Thomas Schmitt, at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Canaan on March 26.  He is survived by his daughter and six sons, as well as his sister, five of his brothers, and numerous grandchildren.  His was preceded in death by his wife of over 50 years, and son David, Jr., who died in 2007.

A number of years ago he wrote down some recollections of his father and of his life growing up in a family of ten children in Silvermine, Connecticut.  We will be highlighting these stories here in the next few weeks.  A particularly vivid memory concerning himself and his father he called “Bear in the Coal  Bin.”

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David (second from left) and his brothers Peter, Jacob, John and Carl, Jr., about the time of “Bear in the Coal Bin” took place.

When I was about six it was my job in the family to get the coal from the separate cellar (in the hillside) where the coal bin was located. You had to go out the front door and around the side of the house to get there.  I was afraid of that cellar because I was afraid of the dark, and the coal bin was always dark because there was no light bulb in there.  The question was, was I more afraid of Dad’s spanking for disobeying, or the dark–it was clearly a case of which was the worse! Besides, I was sure there were bears in the coal-bin.

So I hesitated in getting the coal—no one in the family knew why.  I guess they thought I was just lazy; they had no reason to think otherwise.  I used to fill the scuttle half-full at a time because otherwise it was too heavy for me to get it off the ground to carry.

One day it was about noon and mother was still begging me to please “get the coal.”  When Dad came home from his studio for supper, I made the mistake of letting him hear Mom still asking me to “get the coal.”  He didn’t tolerate disobedience, and he taught me right then and there that Fathers should be feared much more than either imaginary bears or the dark.  I got the worse licking I ever got from him!  Later I found myself getting the coal in the dark, bears and all.  I was no longer afraid of the dark or the bears—it was amazing!

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David (left) and his brother Jacob, 1928.