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Donald P. Schmitz

Donald P. Schmitz

Donald P. Schmitz, age 96, of Elmwood, passed away on Friday, September 13th, 2019.

Donald was born August 14, 1923 in La Crosse, WI.  He was the son of John Peter and Estella “Stella” Mary (McDonald) Schmitz.  When he was young, his family moved to Ferndale, MI and subsequently moved several more times for his father's contracting jobs, during which he attended various grade schools.  In 1941, he graduated from Aquinas High School in La Crosse with honors and also won a national Latin contest.  Following graduation, he began college at the La Crosse State Teachers College on an academic scholarship. His education was temporarily stalled when he enlisted in the Army. He was chosen for a specialized officers training program at Texas A&M in College Station, TX.  He then joined the 12th Armored Division at Camp Barkley in Abilene, TX. From January 1943 to January 1946, Don served in the Army during World War II spending equal amounts of time in the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), Armored Infantry, and Adjutant General’s Department. Among many other accomplishments, he proudly fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was awarded the Bronze Star for his service, as well as the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, and the Victory WWII Medal.  After the war, he returned to La Crosse State Teachers College to complete his Bachelor’s Degree in 1948.  Then in 1952, he received a Masters Degree in Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  In that same year, he began his career as the Superintendent in West Grand, WI.  

He was married to Mary Ellen Coughlin of La Crosse, WI on December 26, 1953 and together they had seven children: Cynthia, Debra, Steven, Thomas, Frederic, Nancy, and David.  That same year he started as Superintendent in Readstown, WI.  In 1960, he and his family moved to Elmwood, WI when he became the Superintendent of Schools and remained there until his retirement in 1984.  Under his administration, the west wing was added to the high school and the bus garages were built. He also implemented the vocal music and art departments, as well as the guidance office.  He was recognized as an authority in school administration and even ran for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1969.  Don strongly felt, “Elmwood provided a good education--we had wonderful teachers--buildings are important--but teachers are the backbone of the school. The entire staff just seemed like family members.” Following his retirement, his passion for education led him to supervise and teach aspiring educators at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. 

The most important thing in Don’s life was always his family, especially during the holidays when they would all get together and share stories and jokes.  He enjoyed all types of sports, especially if his teams were winning!  His other interests included traveling to Mesquite, NV and Treasure Island, FL with his wife, Mary, and family members, playing fastpitch softball in his younger years, reading, going to his grandchildren’s school events, Treasure Island Casino, and Elmwood Raider sporting events. 

Don is survived by his wife, Mary; his children, Cindy (John) Sinz of Menomonie, WI; Steve Schmitz of Oxnard, CA; Tom (Jean) Schmitz of Eagan, MN; Fred (Tali) Schmitz of Mondovi, WI; Nancy Ousley of Minneapolis, MN; Dave Schmitz of Portage, WI; and son-in-law Bob Wiinamaki of Menomonie, WI; his grandchildren, Aaron Sinz; Michael Sinz (Allison Campbell);  Sarah (Jess) Roberts; Amber (Jason) Jochimsen; Nicole Schmitz; Matthew Schmitz; Alexis Schmitz; Christopher Schmitz; Daniel (Leigh) Schmitz; Zachary (Amanda) Schmitz; Hayden (Stephanie) Schmitz; Katie Ousley; and Jacob Ousley; his great-grandchildren, Samuel and Elliot Roberts; Maya and Lydia Jochimsen; Griffin and Hannah Schmitz; and Roland Schmitz.  He is also survived by his sister-in-law Sally Miller, brother-in-law Richard (Helen) Coughlin, and many nieces and nephews.  He is preceded in death by his daughter, Debra Jean Wiinamaki in 2010, his parents, and his brother, John “Jack” Joseph Schmitz. 

Funeral services will be held at 11:00 AM Saturday September 21, 2019 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Elmwood with Rev. Amir Stanislaus officiating.  Burial will be in the Sacred Heart Cemetery-Farm Hill with Military Honors provided by the Crain-Ottman American Legion Post 207 of Elmwood. 

Visitation will be form 9:00 AM until the time of the services at the church on Saturday. 

Please send memorials to Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Elmwood, WI or to the Elmwood Food Pantry.


  1. Duane Kroseman

    Just heard of Don's passing. What a wonderful man and leader he was. I am so glad that I had the chance to know him. My condolences to Mary and all of the Schmitz family.

  2. Larry Lecheler

    My condolences to the Schmitz family. I'm thankful to have known and been positively influenced by Mr. Schmitz. It is easy to relate to and echo the thoughts and feelings that have been shared on the passing of Don because while growing up/living in Elmwood so many of us witnessed and experienced a man who was consistently committed to his family, school, and community. Just the fact that many still refer to him as 'Mr. Schmitz' underlines the impact that he played in our lives...The respect many had for him was truly earned!
    Over the years when our paths crossed, Don would always take the time to visit, and of course, give his opinion on a variety of issues. I thoroughly enjoyed this because, (maybe being a little 'old-school' myself,) one came away from those conversations feeling like you had a little better handle on life...I attribute this as much as anything to the fact that he was a gentlemen who lived by 'common sense'!
    One thing I do remember is that you didn't want Mr. Schmitz raising his voice in your direction! Years ago, myself and a friend from college, Shelby Klein, (her family had lived in Elmwood during her early elementary years) was visiting and she wanted to see her old school. This was a weekend, so we had to go through the west-side gym window (remember the one with the 'always-broken-latch', guys?!...) Well, we were checking things out when we heard footsteps!...As we tried to hide behind a door, lo-and-behold: it was MR. SCHMITZ!...He saw us and yelled: "HEY!"...We both almost jumped out of our skin, but then he saw me, and said: "Oh, Larry..It's just you..." And then I introduced him to Shelby, at which point he started asking her about her family, who he remembered. Then he went on his way, without even asking why we were there....I was thankful he was, on this day, a 'trusting' person as well!...
    I'm also thankful that Mr. Schmitz left life lessons and nice memories for many people...
    Your family will be in my thoughts and prayers...

  3. Susan Dzubay

    I will miss Don's visits to the Elmwood Library. Don's story about Herb Husby's haircutting skills & Don's visit (??? since Don didn't fly) to the Pope was a hoot. I remember, years back, when Don & Doc Springer would be at the library & engage in a conservative vs. liberal political discussion. Always friendly & respectful but pointed.
    Thankful, also, he gave Philip a job teaching English.

  4. Thomas and Maggie White

    For Donal P. Schmitz family: Please accept our condolences for your tremendous loss. Don was a man where family came first with his passion for education a close second. He was a great asset for Elmwood Area Schools and the community as a whole. Along with his wife, Mary, Don raised a family he was very proud of and they set an example for others to follow. He was a good man to work for because a person always knew where they stood with him. I enjoyed working for him. May God be with you as you grieve your great loss. Tom and Maggie White

  5. Bob Afdahl

    I always admired Don for his leadership and great knowledge of education. It was nice that he organized our breakfast get togethers. My sympathies to Mary and the entire Schmitz family on your loss.

  6. Mary and Tom Baier

    Tom and I always had the greatest respect for Mr. Schmitz. As a school administrator, I had him as my role model. May he Rest In Peace.

  7. Lisa (Schmiling) Boettcher

    Sending prayers of comfort during this tough time! So blessed to have had a wonderful life so filled with family, fun and friends!

  8. Aaron Weber

    My condolences to the Schmitz Family. Mr. Schmitz’s passion for education had (and continues to have) such a positive and powerful influence on so many lives. His legacy will live on!

  9. Diane (Traynor) Welsh

    Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Donald Schmitz. Our father (Sylvester Traynor) and the rest of the family had the utmost respect for Donald.

  10. Joe and Jan Drier

    Our Sincere Sympathy to all the Family!!

  11. Steven Schultz

    My condolences to the Schmitz family for the passing of Don. I'm also saddened to read the passing of Debra. Don was a person whom I had a lot of respect for. Your family will always be in my prayers daily.

  12. Linda Brenner

    Don was a great guy! He was so energized and made everyone feel like family. When I think of Elmwood, I think of him. My contact with Elmwood was 40 years ago, and because of him I have very fond memories. My condolences to Mary and all of Don’s family.

  13. Mary Hartung

    Dear Cindy and John,
    I was sadden to hear of the death of your Dad. What an amazing long life he lived! Mr. Schmitz's love for education showed with how he ran the School District of Elmwood for all those years so successfully. My thoughts and prayers are with you, your siblings and your Mom.
    Mary Hartung

  14. Fred & Anne Sinz

    Our prayers are with you all. Don was a great guy.

  15. Suzi Crownhart

    My sympathy to the Schmitz Family.

  16. Richard Bates

    Don was a good man. The Good Lord had a special place reserved for him when he completed his journey here on earth. My sympathy to all.

    Dick Bates

  17. Ron & Lona Wacker

    To Tom, Jean and all of your family members.
    So sorry to hear about your loss.
    Our thoughts & prayers are with you.

  18. Lizabeth Wiinamaki

    Condolences to the family. It was so interesting and inspiring to hear of Don's WWII illustrious service. They truly are the greatest generation.

  19. Bruce and Pat Schmiling

    We are sending our prayers and thoughts to all of you . You are so lucky to have all the wonderful memories to share with each other . Blessings to you all ❤️

  20. Brian Larson

    Mr. Schmitz (Don) has always been an inspiration for me; from his challenging math classes when I was his student in high school, to his being my boss after he hired me to start the art program, to the "breakfast club" meetings of Elmwood men,s faculty in his retirement. He was my teacher, employer, and friend. I owe him a lot. Condolences to Mary and family.

  21. Leah Buerkle (Gauvin)

    Don was a wonderful role model for both me and my children. R.I.P. Mr. Schmitz. Prayers to you and your family.

  22. Steve & Diane Radle

    To the Schmitz Family,
    Keeping you in our thoughts & prayers-so sorry for your loss. We both admired & respected Don very much. He will be missed by many.

  23. Marge and Tony Binkowski

    Sincere sympathy to the Schmitz family .
    Thinking of you all.

    Marge and Tony and Family

  24. Russ & Mandy Phillips

    Our sincerest sympathy goes out to all of "Mr. Schmitz's" family and friends...
    He was our schools superintendent my entire 12 years... He was always so kind and I always had nothing but the utmost respect for him...
    May he rest in peace...
    (My Father, Wayne Ottman wanted me to send his condolences also)
    Sending healing prayers to you all...

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