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Published: Sunday, 7/20/2003

Veteran of WW II led canning firm

BLISSFIELD - Cecil J. Schmitz, 85, retired president of Home Canning Co. who oversaw operations at what was this town's oldest business, died Friday in Flower Hospital, Sylvania, of congestive heart failure. He was 85.

He was ill recently with pulmonary fibrosis, a lung condition, his son, John Schmitz, said.

Mr. Schmitz retired in 1992 as Home Canning president. He was hired in 1958 as vice president and general manager. He became president in 1982.

The firm closed several years ago.

He contracted with area farmers to buy their produce, oversaw canning, and marketed the product. At the height of canning season, about 125 people worked at Home Canning, which processed peeled whole tomatoes and packed squash for institutional buyers, including restaurants and frozen-food companies.

Much of what is sold as canned pumpkin actually is squash, Mr. Schmitz told The Blade in 1987, because federal rules allow squash to be labeled as pumpkin. The types of squash grown for Home Canning - Boston marrow and golden delicious - are more oblong and yellow than pumpkins with denser walls and, so, have more flesh to cook and can.

Mr. Schmitz was chairman of the board of Blissfield State Bank and was a board member for at least two decades. He was a former president of the Blissfield Rotary Club and was a founder and past commander of VFW Post 10912 in Blissfield.

Mr. Schmitz grew up in Jordan, Minn., and was valedictorian of his graduating class of 12. He received a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics from the University of Minnesota.

He was an Army veteran of World War II and served in England, Italy, and France on a supply convoy. While in North Africa, he contracted malaria and recovered in a tent hospital, where he was in the care of Army nurse Catherine Crowe. They married Dec. 1, 1945.

Mrs. Schmitz died Sept. 13, 1992.

He worked at a corn canning plant in Iowa until his move to Blissfield.

In retirement, he traveled the world, visiting Europe and Asia and taking cruises to Alaska and around Cape Horn.

Mr. Schmitz was a former chairman of the finance committee and a past president of the credit union at St. Peter Church, Blissfield, of which he was a member.

Surviving are his son, John Schmitz; daughter, Kathleen Schmitz, and two grandchildren.

The body will be in the Tagsold Mortuary, Blissfield, after 2 p.m. today, with a wake service at 7 tonight in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow in St. Peter Catholic Church, Blissfield.

The family requests tributes to the Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis, San Jose, Calif.

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