Longtime Bartlesville resident, William John “Bill” Schmidt, Jr., 89, died suddenly but quietly, of natural causes, on September 13, 2022 in his cozy Green Country Village apartment. Bill was a quiet conversationalist, true gentleman and loving father who left us the way he wanted: without any fuss.
Bill was a depression-era baby, born June 25, 1933 in Brooklyn, NY. He was an only child to William Sr. and Catherine Lees Seeley Schmidt. When he was three years old the family moved to Westwood, NJ, where he graduated from Westwood High School in 1951 as class Vice President and a member of the track team, intramural football team, Boy’s Glee Club, and Honorary Service Society.
Despite living near New York City, Bill developed a love for farming during visits to his great uncle’s dairy farm in South Woodstock, VT which led him to study agriculture at Cornell University.
At Cornell he was awarded Numerals for Varsity Rifle, joined ROTC, was a member of the Honorary Agricultural Society, and in 1954 won 1st prize in the Eastman Stage in Public Speaking with a speech entitled “Let’s Have More Working Scholarships”. He worked his way through college waiting tables, re-selling single cigarettes and managing a creamery where he eventually earned 25 cents/hour. He was also House Manager at Tau Kappa Epsilon. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Animal Husbandry in 3 ½ years and completed his Masters of Science in Agriculture Economics in 1959 with a thesis entitled “The Costs and Returns from the Beef Enterprise on 43 New York State Farms, May 1957-58.” In 1955 he served at 1st Army Headquarters on Governor’s Island, NY and in 1957 became Company Commander of the Quartermaster Corps at Ft. Lee, VA. Serving in the Army Reserve from 1957 to 1963, Bill taught training courses at West Point.
It was at Cornell where he met Vivian Smith Goodrich whom he married in 1956. They were married for nearly 60 years at her death in 2016. In 1959, after Vivian and Bill had earned their masters degrees, they moved to Warren, OH and then Fort Wayne, IN where Bill held various management positions with Central Soya Company, eventually managing the inland marine operations. In Fort Wayne, Bill and Vivian had two children, Elizabeth in 1962 and William, III in 1965. Bill taught his children to love the outdoors through Scouting, fishing, and several backpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail.
In 1981, the family moved to St. Louis, MO where Bill was Vice President of Inland Marine Operations for multi-national grain exporter Bunge Corporation.
Bill retired in 2001. He and Vivian moved to Bartlesville to be closer to their grandson, Charles, and son William and his wife Tina Trotter who worked for Phillips Petroleum. They were soon joined by their daughter Elizabeth, her husband Steve Hine and granddaughter Catherine.
Bill and Vivian loved to travel, visiting Japan, England, Russia, Jamaica, Mexico, Italy, Costa Rica, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand and nearly every US state. Bill continued to travel after Vivian’s death visiting Spain, Scotland, Ireland, and checking off a bucket-list Octoberfest visit to Munich, Germany.
Bill loved black licorice (a reliable Father’s Day present) and root beer. Not a big fan of vegetables, he loved cooked spinach (and drank the warm spinach juice). He made great soups with any and all leftovers in the refrigerator. He loved babies but was not enamored with loud toddlers or teenagers. His favorite activities were live theater, music and ballet, tending to gardens, being on river boats, watching and identifying birds, fishing, backpacking, Scouting, jigsaw puzzles, bingo, drinking Dewar’s Scotch, making spicy Bloody Marys, slurping raw oysters, peeling boiled shrimp, sitting in the sunshine, cheering for the St. Louis Cardinals and being surrounded by family. “Proud Mary” was Bill’s favorite song, no matter if sung by Tina Turner or Creedence Clearwater Revival.
After Vivian’s death, Bill was seen around town attending athletic events at Bartlesville High, Dewey High, Oklahoma Wesleyan, and Doenges Memorial Stadium. He was a volunteer with the literacy program at the Bartlesville Public Library and as an ardent supporter of the Nature Conservancy where he volunteered as a docent at Tallgrass Prairie Nature Reserve for several years. Despite carrying an impressively large handicap, Bill was passionate about golf and a member of the Adams Senior Men’s Golf Association, playing every week. Bill was a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bartlesville and had served as its Secretary and Treasurer. Bill and Vivian were generous supporters of the Washington County SPCA and Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF), the Tulsa Opera and Tulsa Ballet, Broadway in Bartlesville, the Community Concert Series, the Bartlesville Symphony and OK Mozart. He enjoyed attending musicals at BHS and was a generous supporter of the Children’s Musical Theatre of Bartlesville.