January 20, 2013
Dear Members of the Dudley Family,
I write to you with the sad news that our longtime first lady, #16000 Lois Schmidt, passed away on Saturday morning, January 19, in La Jolla, California.
Mercifully, she died in her sleep, perhaps dreaming of the trip to Hawaii that she was about to embark upon with longtime Dudley friends #7314 Don and Jeanne Stevenson.
Lois was born in Buffalo, NY, February 5, 1932, the daughter of John T. “Jack” Parsons and Frances Oakes Parsons. She graduated from Sharon High School, Sharon, MA, and the Medical College of Virginia, in Richmond.
Her life took a decisive turn in 1952 when she met a young man by the name of William J. Schmidt who was, of course, our #7405 Willie. As she wrote to her parents in January 1953, “I have added a new fellow to my social life, Will Schmidt. The fellow I dated before Xmas. He asked me to go steady a week ago Monday and I told him I’d date him but none of this steady business while I was in school. I’ve seen him every night since. He is very nice and a very good catch.”
Lois and Willie married in 1954, and Lois worked as a physical therapist while Willie completed his education. His teaching career took them to the Tilton School in Tilton, New Hampshire in 1964, then to Wayland Academy, in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin in 1970. Happily, they moved to Westport in 1974 with their family that now included Doug, Steve, Ed, Beth and Don. During this entire period, she worked as a physical therapist at hospitals in Philadelphia, Chapel Hill, Laconia (NH), Beaver Dam, Elizabethtown, and Asheville. Her most rewarding work was with children, the elderly, and the severely disabled.
We think of “The Schmidt Years” at Dudley in a very special way. For more than two decades, Willie and Lois were an inseparable partnership, inspiring the full acceptance of women staff at Dudley, finding and offering thousands of kids scholarships, while “making fun happen” for all of us who had the good fortune to arrive at Dudley in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
During these years, Lois raised a family of five, was a physical therapist in Elizabethtown, was a strong member of the St. Philip Neri Church in Westport and attended hundreds of Dudley Reunions all over the country. During the summers, she could be found enthusiastically participating in the “Staff Hill Stompers,” the women’s choir during Chapel services, and being the “Dudley Mom” for the homesick camper who needed a hug and the Leader who needed help with his costume for a show. When Willie suffered a heart attack just before the opening of a Camp season in the 1980s, Lois stepped in to greet campers and parents at the gate and to help run the Sunday morning staff meetings. To the entire Dudley community it was “best ever” summer, thanks to Lois.
But it didn’t stop there. When the idea of a girls camping and leadership program emerged in the early 2000s, Lois was among the very first to not only “get it” but to become a primary cheerleader for the cause. Said Kiniya Director, Marnie McDonagh,
“From the earliest moment, I felt like I had a great partner in Lois. Grandmother to six Kiniya campers, regular work weekend volunteer, Chapel Speaker and Annual Kiniya Tea Honorary Guest, Lois was a very special part of our Kiniya family who was known, loved and admired by all of us! So clearly devoted to the needs of others, Lois was kind-hearted, compassionate, incredibly thoughtful, patient and kind. She was a terrific listener and always offered meaningful contributions and guidance. Lois had an immense impact on us, exuding what we believe to be her strongest message in life… ‘It is important to have and share an opinion, but equally important to share it in a respectful and kind way.’ Lois will be deeply missed.”
Lois brought optimism, calm, patience and friendship to every contact she had. She managed to find a kind thing to say about everyone. Her contributions to the wellbeing of Dudley are incalculable. She has, without doubt, left this place, and her world a much better place than she found it.
Lois leaves her five children and their spouses and nine grandchildren, as well as her sister Kay Parsons Eckler. A Memorial Service is planned for Sunday, August 25th at 10 am at Camp Dudley and we will keep everyone informed of details. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers or gifts, that contributions be made to the William J. Schmidt Scholarship fund in Lois’s name.
Matt Storey #13804
Director, Camp Dudley