Whether it's the weekly Kiwanis luncheon, the Garden City
Historical Commission meetings or services at St. Raphael Church --
there will be an empty spot in a lot of places due to the death of
A retired dentist, Dr. Schmitt was a familiar presence around
Garden City for about 60 years. He died Thursday at 93 following a
"I don't think any one person knows the full scope of what
he did. It's hard to imagine anyone who could do more," said
Mark Barsamian, who bought Dr. Schmitt's practice in 1984 and
practiced jointly with him four years. "It's a pretty big loss.
You can't help but be upset by losing such a well-respected fine
person. He really had a big impact on my life."
Honored at 89 as Garden City First Citizen, Dr. Schmitt
maintained an active schedule over the years serving as a volunteer
reader at Henry Ruff Elementary School, co-chairing a committee
overseeing a large renovation project at St. Raphael Church where he
had also chaired the parish council, and was an active member of the
Garden City Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis and the Friends of the
Garden City Library.
For many years, Dr. Schmitt worked as a city election worker, had
served for a number of years as the city representatives to People's
Community Hospital, organized a Garden City fluoridation program,
was a volunteer instructor at the University of Detroit Dental
School and was active in professional organizations. Only days
before his death, Dr. Schmitt was reappointed to the Historical
"This really came as a surprise. I just found out this
morning that he had died," said Ken Hines, fellow Kiwanian.
"We had just gotten his son's address so we could send get well
cards and wishes to him. He was an all-around good guy
-- you couldn't find a better friend."
Hines marveled at how active Dr. Schmitt had remained over the
years, attributing that to his many interests and love of people. He
often opened his home to guests whether foreign exchange visitors or
new city administrators needing temporary housing while they
"I don't think I ever heard him say something bad about
anyone," said Hines. "If someone else said something bad
about a person, Doc would say 'Well, you weren't there or weren't in
his shoes.' He had the philosophy that if you can't say something
nice, don't say anything."
Barsamian recalled Dr. Schmitt had planned to retire after
selling his practice but the two dentist got along so well, he
decided to stay on beyond the six month transition period they'd
"Francis was such a great teacher and a wonderful person.
Even though I was a rookie and he'd been in practice 40 years, he
still treated me with respect and listened to all my opinions,"
said Barsamian. "He really taught me a lot of about dentistry
and ethics. The great thing about Francis was that he was
progressive and not afraid to look at new things."
City Manager David Harvey said he lost track of how many
committees he had served on with Dr. Schmitt over the years.
"I'm going to truly miss Doc -- he was kind of a Garden City
icon. There was a lot of history there -- he outlived a lot of his
generation," said Harvey. "He watched Garden City
development from nothing and was happy to share that with you. It's
another bit of our history that we've lost."
A native of Mendon near Kalamazoo, Dr. Schmitt and his late wife,
Eileen, came to Garden City after he finished his World War II Army
The couple had three of their 12 children when they arrived in
Garden City -- a town of 9,500 people and two dentists.
"We said we'd try it for five years and see if we were
accepted by the community. The five years passed and we never looked
back," he recalled.
At their home on Brown, where Dr. Schmitt still lived, the couple
raised 12 children. Dr. Schmitt credited his wife with taking care
of their family and home which allowed him to be so involved in the
When he was in his late 80s, Dr. Schmitt received the top honor
in Kiwanis -- the Hixon Award -- and an honor he was particularly
proud of, the Silver Beaver Award honoring his service to Boy
Scouts. Two of his sons earned the rank of Eagle Scout.
But it wasn't all volunteer work -- Dr. Schmitt enjoyed traveling
extensively around the United States and other countries. One
notable trip was to the Holy Land.
"When he was in the Middle East, he was taking a picture of
the people he was with on a boat and started backing up,"
recalls Hines. "He went over the side and fell into the Red
Sea. The guys who pulled him out dislocated his shoulder and he had
to go to the hospital."
It all worked out in the end. The ambulance transported Dr.
Schmitt to where the boat was docking and he was waiting for his
traveling companions when they got off the boat following lengthy
Dr. Schmitt is survived by 10 children: Thomas, Richard, Mary
Masal, Paul, Lucy Smythe, Michael, Gregory, Martha Christensen,
Alice Bimrose and Philip. Son Mark and daughter Anne Lendrum
predeceased Dr. Schmitt.
Other survivors include: three sisters and three brothers; 21
grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
Visitation for Dr. Schmitt will be held 5-8 p.m. today (Sunday)
with a 7 p.m. Scripture service on Sunday at Santeiu and Son Funeral
Homes on Inkster Road at Marquette.
Dr. Schmitt will lie in state at 10:30 a.m. Monday at St. Raphael
Church followed by an 11 a.m. Mass. In lieu of flowers, donations
are requested to the SSJ (Society of St. Joseph) Guild, Nazareth, MI