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Published: Sunday, 5/29/2011

Paul M. Schmidt, 1920-2011: Area farmer sold, grew vegetables, bedding plants

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Paul M. Schmidt, who with his late brother Robert developed their father's farm into a leading producer of sweet corn and potatoes and, in acres of greenhouses, bedding plants, died Wednesday at his home in Lucas County's Swanton Township. He was 90.

He had heart and circulations problems, his son Bill said.

Mr. Schmidt officially retired in 1985 from what is now Schmidt Bros. Inc., in which his sons Bill and Mike and his nephews have a role.

"He was most proud of the family and the greenhouse," son Mike said. "He kept track until the last week of what we were doing every day."

Until at least 1990, Mr. Schmidt helped out and was responsible for plants in some of the greenhouses.

After that, he bought lawn mowers and kept a half-mile stretch along Scott Road cut and dandelion free. During busy times at Schmidt Bros., he also mowed the lawns of relatives.

"He said, 'You can only read so much. You need to have something to do,' " son Bill recalled.

Mr. Schmidt and his brother Robert helped on the family farm as soon as their father, J. Lawrence Schmidt, established it in 1937.

Their father was in ill health and, after his death, Paul and Robert took over the vegetable growing, which in the early years included sweet corn, potatoes, cabbage, green peppers, cauliflower, cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes for seed. Along the way, they named it "Schmidt Bros. Mapleview Farms" for the trees on the property.

They sold their produce at wholesale markets in Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Chicago into the 1950s. Later, they were joined by their brother James.

When the brothers found a better way, they embraced it. They built their first greenhouse in the 1950s to grow transplants for outdoor vegetable growing, rather than relying on imports from the South. In the 1960s, the brothers began to grow bedding plants under glass. Paul Schmidt was in charge of the scheduling of what to plant in the greenhouses and the growing.

The brothers also began irrigation in the early 1950s and were among the first to have mechanized sweet corn harvesting.

"They were pretty progressive," son Bill said.

Son Mike said, "He wanted to be successful and worked hard at it. He listened to other people who were successful and took satisfaction in having a successful business."

The operation's customers are garden centers, farm markets, and wholesale growers, according to the Schmidt Bros.' Web site.

Mr. Schmidt was a member of the Toledo Area Vegetable Growers Association and the Ohio Farm Bureau. He also was secretary to the Swanton Township zoning board for about 20 years.

He was a dedicated boater and was active for years in the Bayview Yacht Club and the Toledo Power Squadron.

He played harmonica and liked to sing.

"He was very outgoing, and he more or less said what he felt," son Mike said. "He wore his heart on his sleeve, and he pretty much could get along with most people. He struck up conversations wherever he was."

Mr. Schmidt was a member of St. Richard Church, where in the 1950s he was on the committee planning a new church building.

In the 1960s, he was a member of St. Richard's athletic development association.

He was born Sept. 26, 1920, in Monroe. Before settling in Swanton Township, the family farmed near Sylvania, and he attended St. Joseph School and the former Burnham High School.

Surviving are his wife, Helen, whom he married Aug. 11, 1945, daughters, Polly Berkebile, Elaine Schmidt, Barb Ransom, Nancy Traudt, Jane Doyle, Betsy Vaughn, and Lisa Lambert, sons, Joe, Bill, and Mike, sister, Mary Catherine Frederick, 28 grandchildren, and 24 great-grandchildren.

The body will be in the Weigel Funeral Home, Swanton, after 2 p.m. Monday, with a Knights of Columbus service at 5 p.m. in the mortuary.

The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday in St. Richard Church, Swanton, where the body will be after 9:30 a.m.

The family suggests tributes to the church or Swanton Rescue Squad.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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