James Lewis ‘Jim’ Schmitt, 86, died Tuesday, Jan. 3 at Oak Valley District Hospital after a brief illness caused by complications from a tractor injury he suffered in May of 2009.
He was born to Edward David and Cleta Vieta Schmitt of Larkinburg, Kansas. He grew up there and attended a one-room schoolhouse where his dad occasionally picked him up on a horse. He had a younger brother and two younger sisters.
When he was young, he helped at a gas station his father owned and became good with his hands and mechanical devices. After graduation from high school he joined the U.S. Marines in September 1943 and served in the South Pacific theatre during World War II. He earned the rank of 2nd Lieutenant as a radioman and was discharged through China and Hawaii in June 1946.
Mr. Schmitt met Olive Ann Baker at a USO sponsored April Fool’s Dance on April 1, 1944 while he was going through basic training in Southern California. They corresponded throughout the war and married Oct. 6, 1946. They briefly lived in Kansas but settled in Downey in Southern California where they had two sons.
He worked for the U.S. Post Office in Los Angeles and transferred to Modesto in 1960. The young family moved to Riverbank that year and established their home on a little farm where they grew walnuts, pecans, grapes, pomegranates, citrus, and vegetables. He and his wife became fixtures in Riverbank and were active in Masons, Eastern Star, The American Cancer Society, and the United Methodist Church in service to the community.
He retired from the U.S. Post Office and Civil Service (in Rough and Ready Island, Stockton) in 1980 and enjoyed his hobbies of gardening and woodworking. They lived a long and full life together until his wife died in 2008. He continued to garden and work around the farm until a tragic tractor accident happened in May of 2009 where he was severely injured. He lived the remainder of his life at the farm he and his wife built and was visited by family and friends throughout his slow recovery.
He is survived by his sons, Brent and Kevin Schmitt of Oakdale; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 62 years, Olive Ann; parents, Edward David and Cleta Vieta Schmitt; sisters, Marge and Luella of Holton, Kan.; and brother, Larry of Kansas City, Mo.
A memorial service and celebration of life will be announced at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to the American Cancer Society.