Gary Rost Schmidt, 84, of Winona, passed away on Friday, April 30, 2021, at Mayo Franciscan Healthcare Hospital in La Crosse, Wis., surrounded by his family.
Gary was born in Winona to Elizabeth “Bette” Mae and Carroll William Schmidt on December 5, 1936. Growing up in Winona, he loved everything about his hometown and was proud of its history. Gary was a proud charter member of the Drag-Ons Motor Vehicle Club, which began in 1954, and he served as president of the club in 1958. Following high school, Gary worked at the local A&P and attended Winona Business College in 1957. When asked to go on a double date with his buddy, Gary met his friend’s date, M. Judith “Judy” Bambenek. After a few double dates, Gary decided to call Judy and their courtship began.
In 1959, Gary enlisted in the Army and started basic training at Fort Carson in Colorado, eventually serving at Fort Knox in Kentucky. On April 4, 1964, Gary married Judy Bambenek at Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Winona. When Judy completed her degree at WSU, they moved their young family to Caledonia, Minn., for her first teaching position at Loretto High School, and a year later they moved to Houston, Minn., where they made their home for more than 35 years, while Judy taught for Houston Public Schools. Gary attended Winona State University under the G.I. Bill and graduated in 1971 with a Bachelor of Science degree in speech and a minor in library science. His first teaching position was as a substitute teacher for his wife, Judy, while she was on maternity leave with their youngest child. In 1974, Gary started his own business called Food & Popcorn Supply, based in Winona, supplying and delivering snack items for restaurants, bars and businesses in southeastern Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. As a young father, Gary served as scout master for the local Boy Scouts and supported local community and high school play productions under Judy’s direction. He is most known for his knowledgeable guidance and smiling face in the hardware department at Mill’s Fleet Farm, where he worked full-time for 25 years, retiring in 2013, at 76 years old.
Gary is survived by his three children, James (Kim) Schmidt, of Eau Claire, Wis., Philip (Elaine) Schmidt, of Lake City, Minn., Catherine Schmidt, of Winona; six grandchildren, Hunter Koenigs, Andrew Schmidt, Benjamin Schmidt, Abigail Schmidt, Elizabeth Schmidt, Eva J. Elson; brothers-in-law, James Bambenek, Charles (Joyce) Bambenek, and Gary (Claire) Bambenek; sister-in-law, Laurie (Fred) Krause; many nieces and nephews; cousins, Nino Cezar, Virel Schmidt, and Jim (Jeanie) Schmidt.
He is preceded in death by his wife, M. Judith Schmidt; his parents, Carroll W. Schmidt and Bette M. Schmidt; sister, Nancy (Schmidt) Hilton, of Winona; brothers, Owen J. Schmidt, of North Mankato, Minn., Ronald A. Schmidt, of Minneapolis, Minn.; father-in-law, Jim V. Bambenek; mother-in-law, Phoebe (Abrahamsen) Bambenek; sister-in-law, Marilyn Bambenek; uncles, John Schmidt, Elmer Schmidt; aunt, Kate Schmidt; and grandchild, Faith Marie Schmidt.
A funeral service to remember Gary will be held on Friday, May 7, at 1p.m. at First Congregational Church in Winona with Rev. Danielle K. Bartz, officiating. This service will also be livestreamed through the church Facebook page. Visitation will be held on Thursday, May 6 from 4-6 p.m. at Fawcett-Junker Funeral Home in Winona. Interment with military honors will be at Woodlawn Cemetery, on Saturday, May 8, at 10 a.m. Full obituary at www.fawcett-junkerfuneralhome.com.