Otto and Mollie Schmidt provided support for Theodora Cormontan (and her sister Eivinda) in the last years of the sisters' lives. Mollie and her daughter Carola (as well as Mollie’s granddaughter Barb Schmidt Nelson) preserved Theodora’s musical compositions for almost 100 years. The following includes several documents that provide more information on this extraordinary family.
The first document is a portion of an article written by the author for the Vesterheim magazine, a publication of the National Norwegian-American Museum & Heritage Center, Vol. 12, No 1 2014. The information is based on interviews from 2011-2013 with Barb Schmidt Nelson and documents supplied by her.
THE SCHMIDT WOMEN
With no children and almost no relatives, Theodora Cormontan’s few possessions would have been distributed among the workers at the Aase Haugen Home or thrown away when she died in 1922. However, Theodora had formed a strong friendship with fellow musician Mollie Helgerson Schmidt, the wife of the first administrator of the Home, and gave her compositions to Mollie. This started the journey of Theodora Cormontan’s music through three generations of Schmidt women, who kept it safe for nearly a century.
Mollie Helgerson was born in 1875 in Larchwood, Iowa, the daughter of Ole T. Helgerson and Bertha Marie Sogn Helgerson. Mollie attended Augustana College in Canton, South Dakota, studied music in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and taught piano for several years. Otto Schmidt was introduced to Mollie by his best friend, and Mollie and Otto married in 1897. Having completed seminary school, Otto accepted calls in Chicago, Illinois and Muskego, Wisconsin before serving Decorah [Iowa] Lutheran Church and then the Aase Haugen Home. During this time the couple had four children: Waldemar, Carola, Orval, and Otto. Theodora doubtlessly enjoyed hearing Mollie play the piano for the residents of the home, and it is understood that she comforted Mollie when Waldemar died in 1918 while attending St. Olaf College, a victim of the influenza pandemic.
Carola Schmidt graduated from St. Olaf College in 1925 and subsequently received nurses’ training in Rochester, Minnesota. She hoped to find a nursing position in Chicago, but her mother’s poor health forced Carola to return home to care for Mollie until she died in 1933. Subsequently, her father expected Carola to run the house for him and to work at the Home, so she gave up her career and never married. Carola, like Mollie, loved music and kept Theodora’s compositions stored safely in the attic of the family home. Carola taught herself the art of Norwegian Hardanger embroidery and was well known in the Decorah area for her intricate needlework. One of the proudest moments of her life took place when Crown Prince Harald of Norway visited Vesterheim Museum in 1960 and stopped by the table where she was giving sewing demonstrations to compliment her work.
Carola passed away in 1975 and her brother Orval, with the help of his daughter Barb, began clearing out decades of collected contents from the Schmidt attic. Early in the process they discovered a box of family letters from the 1880’s and decided to save nearly everything for a later, more careful examination. The items they set aside included several boxes of music with Theodora’s manuscripts dispersed throughout them.
Like her aunt, Barb Schmidt attended St. Olaf College (where she met her future husband, Roger Nelson) and became a registered nurse. The couple moved to St. Peter, Minnesota in 1959 where Roger taught junior high science for several decades. After a few years of working in hospitals, Barb focused on being a wife and mother before returning to work in an insurance office in 1976. Theodora’s music traveled to St. Peter and the Nelson attic where it stayed until 2011, when Barb gave several boxes of family music to Bonnie Jorgensen, a professional pianist, and her husband Michael, a professor of music at Gustavus Adolphus College. The couple believes this is an important historical and cultural discovery that needs to be researched, preserved, and disseminated.
[above] Otto and Mollie from around 1900.
OTTO AND MOLLIE SCHMIDT
[The following is adapted from a document written by Barb Schmidt Nelson, drawing on information gleaned from family letters.]
In 1885, when Otto was twelve, his parents sent him off to live with his brother Herman and wife Lou and their two-year-old son in Columbus, Ohio so that Otto could attend Capitol University. He stayed with them for three years and then was sent to Canton, South Dakota, to live with his sister Bertha and her husband, Olav Lee, and their three-year-old son Alfred. Olav had recently taken a teaching position at Augustana College, so it was logical for Otto to attend school there.
We have an undated letter that F.A. [Otto’s father] wrote to Olav and Bertha, apparently in December of 1893, in which he wondered why Otto was so insistent on leaving Augustana immediately and living at home with his parents. It made no sense because Otto had only six months left at Augustana to finish his degree. Somehow Otto changed his mind and he did stay at Canton, maybe because he had met Mollie Helgerson through her cousin Almer Helgerson, who was Otto’s best friend and hunting buddy. Mollie was teaching piano at a girls’ school in Sioux Falls.
For some reason, Otto was back in Canton the following September when he abruptly decided he wanted to leave Canton and attend the seminary in Minneapolis. He left Canton and settled into his parents’ home in Minneapolis. During the next three school years, Otto wrote often and at length to Mollie, - sometimes almost every day. For the most part, he did not like living in the city. It was much too noisy for him, - and ‘all sin and corruption.’ He found the city streets interesting, however, and described the fine ladies and the Irish kitchen girls, all with their little dogs. He enjoyed hiking and ‘wheeling’ to the Mississippi River, to Minnehaha Falls, and to the various lakes.
He wrote about the weather--winter storms, the frozen Mississippi River, spring floods on the river flats, heavy rains that clogged sewers and left two feet of water standing on Riverside Avenue. In one letter he described the problems men faced in crossing boot-deep muddy streets, and the even more difficult problems women faced with their dainty skirts! And in spite of his distaste for the city atmosphere, he liked to describe the sunshine or the newly-fallen snow in flowery poetic style,--in fact he said he would have liked to have been a poet.
Otto enjoyed music – he played a band instrument and he was a good singer. The city provided opportunities for Otto and his brother Paul to take in an occasional concert. He described the thrill of hearing for the first time, a concert by a seventy-man orchestra. He shared another thrill when he heard the John Philip Sousa band in concert in 1896. And a few months later, he had the audacity to attend a performance of “The Merchant of Venice.” This was not a pleasure that his seminary professors would have approved, and as a pastor, he believed he would never be able to do so again. And even though he warned Mollie not to tell anyone, he admitted that he had enjoyed the play!
Otto’s letters reflect his commitment to his calling as a future minister. He often wrote in long wordy sentences about matters of faith and proper conduct. In fact, he liked to expound on various issues. In one letter, he spent more than eight pages discussing the value of education for women, and what sorts of studies they need to pursue in order to provide a happy home. In another long discourse, he put forth his position on the evils and dangers of ‘secret societies.’ He often wrote lengthy instructions to Mollie on how she should write her letters to him, - mainly often!
Seminary life was hard. Otto’s studies were demanding, and the fact that he was the son of one of the professors certainly put pressure on him. Otto spent the summer of 1895 in Mason City, IA as an intern, serving a floundering congregation with no pastor. Among other things, he was not getting paid and would have liked to leave, but “…father says I must stay and that settles it for sure...” The summer was very difficult for him and he was extremely lonesome for Mollie. To add to his distress, he was trying unsuccessfully to give up tobacco - “…a man without a chew is like a dog with a tin can attached to the end of his tail – it irritates him very much….”
The following summer was no happier. In April 1896, with several weeks of classes left of the term, Otto was abruptly sent off to Gardner IL, where he was assigned to teach school six days a week for five months – “Norsk skole” - to the local children, and to preach on Sundays. (It seems that he had been pressured to go, and eventually agreed, reluctantly.) He described the muddy town, muddy roads, poor families, rough accommodations, terrible weather and long days, including Saturdays when he taught in another town. Otto hated being there and was again terribly lonesome. He stayed in various homes and had no privacy, and the food didn’t agree with him. And to top it off, he had fleas! In spite of that, he learned to enjoy the children he taught and found that they liked him, and he and his supervising pastor became very good friends.
Tired and lonesome, Otto was finally able to return to Minnesota in September. He decided to skip two weeks of classes at the seminary in order to spend some valuable time with Molly in Northfield, but when he returned to school, things did not go well. For one thing, the classes were mostly taught in Norwegian and Otto clearly did not feel himself competent to preach or write well enough in Norwegian to satisfy his professors. [Otto's father felt led to serve in the Norwegian-American Lutheran church and Otto followed in his footsteps, though they were not Norwegian]. In addition, the church dispute was intensifying, and there were rumors that his father would be forced to quit teaching.
In early October, Otto was told by ‘headquarters’ to “get ready to go to Chicago where a mission [congregation] is sorely in need of a pastor.” He flatly refused to go, as had several other seminary students. Then in January Otto was summoned by the Chicago congregation which he had earlier refused, and he went. It was cold on the train going down, and even much colder in Chicago, which he found to be a dirty, unappealing city. He preached twice to the congregation, but wrote that he did not “exert” himself at all and really would not mind if he made a poor impression. “…
Otto received a call in early May from the very mission congregation he had earlier visited in Chicago. The work there would be almost entirely in Norwegian. He also had heard that he might be offered a call at Vermillion SD. He wrote to Mollie to ask her preference. The pay at the Chicago church would be $600 if he were married, otherwise $500. “…If I turn out to be a Mormon, don’t blame me…” By May 19th, the decision was made and he agreed to begin his work in Chicago as soon as possible. “…I will take that place in Chicago for reasons that I will later explain to you and which I know will be satisfactory to you also. It is my duty. And therefore I will go now though no one else will…”
June was a busy month – Otto finished his exams, was ordained on June 20th, and married Mollie at her parents’ home in Canton on June 30th. He went to Chicago, and she stayed in Canton with her parents, to pack up her things and wait until Otto could find them a place to live, preferably one with plumbing! (He did.)
By the time Mollie arrived on August 9th, Otto had been informed that the treasury of the Mission Board was empty and there was no money to pay him probably for several months. Apparently they were able to get by on some money Mollie had saved. But a year later, both F.A. and Olav wrote to Otto to give him advice about his financial situation in expectations of a cut in his salary.
Otto and Mollie stayed in Chicago for three years, and during that time Otto often received advice from his father on questions that arose in his ministry. Otto apparently was unsettled in his position and several other ‘calls’ were offered to him. Usually, F.A. would counsel him about his decision. In one such letter, F.A. told Otto “…If you preach a probation sermon, that would not, I think, act much in your favor, for you do not seem to have the gift of winning hearts at first sight…”
Otto did accept a call in 1901, to Muskego, Wisconsin, a rural area where they were very happy. They had two children while living there – Waldemar and Carola. Orval and Otto Eugene were born in Decorah, Iowa where Otto was pastor of Decorah Lutheran Church from 1907 to 1915, at which time he became the superintendent of the Aase Haugen Home. There he worked until his retirement in 1944. For much of that time, he also managed the farm on which the Home was built, finding the joy in farming that he had described to Mollie many years earlier in a letter. Like the other Schmidt men, he not only loved gardening and growing things, but he also thoroughly enjoyed hunting and fishing. He made good wine too!
The family enjoyed camping together, often with the Lee family at lakes in southern Minnesota where they would fish. For many years Otto went fishing and hunting in Canada with a good friend and some Indian guides. In 1926, the family drove all the way out to Yellowstone National Park, camping all the way.
Mollie died in 1933 after a long illness, and Otto died in 1946. Carola studied nursing, but spent much of her adult life working at ‘the Home’ and caring for her parents. She died in 1975. Both Orval and Otto became Lutheran pastors. Otto died in 1978 and Orval in 1997.
[above] Photo taken in 1913 in Decorah, Iowa. Otto is driving (with the steering wheel on the right!) and Waldemar is in the other front seat. Mollie is in the back seat with Otto Jr. on her lap, Carola sitting next to her mother, and Orville sitting next to Carola.
[above] Mollie poses on the grounds of the Aase Haugen Home.
MOLLIE HELGERSON SCHMIDT
[by Barb Schmidt Nelson, from a letter written to her granddaughter for a school assignment. Most of the information was told to Barb by Carola.]
Mollie Helgerson was born in Larchwood, Iowa on June 30, 1875, but grew up in Canton, South Dakota. She learned to play the piano when she was quite young, and she was only nine years old when she played the organ at the church. As a teen-ager, she lived with a family in Sioux Falls, so that she could study piano with a very good piano teacher named Anna Strom.
It was while Mollie was studying with Ms. Strom that there was an opportunity for someone to teach music at All Saints’ Normal School, an Episcopal girls’ school. Ms. Strom recommended Mollie for the job, so after that Mollie lived at the school. She was the faculty person living in one section of the girls’ dormitory there and she also took her turn as the faculty person at a table. There were six at the table, five girls and the faculty person. Mollie said it was very, very interesting. She had to take her turn acting as the host to serve the meals and they were assigned certain topics that had to be discussed. Each person at the table - each one of the students - had to contribute at least one thought on the subject that was assigned for the day. On certain days, they had to speak a certain language at the table. That was the way they learned French and German, and learned correct English usage as well. They were taught the English Episcopalian religion and also the English speech, not the American. Mollie found it very, very interesting. She enjoyed that work very much. Miss Peabody was preceptress (headmistress) and Mollie thought a great deal of her. Ms. Strom had a sister who sang very well and Mollie quite often would accompany her in recitals. Mollie also did quite a bit of traveling around in South Dakota and in parts of Iowa on recital tours of her own.
During the time that Mollie was teaching at All Saints’ Normal, one of her students was a young girl named Katherine Hustvedt. Kate was only a few years younger than Mollie. Several years later, on the strength of some of her original pieces that she herself had composed, Kate Hustvedt won a very lovely Victrola. And another time she got a whole year’s study in France at the Sorbonne. Eventually she taught music at Luther College in Decorah Iowa, where Mollie and her husband lived for many years. When Mollie was very ill before her death and was confined to her bed upstairs – Kate would come to the house. She would not go upstairs to see Mollie, but she would sit at the piano and for a half an hour or longer she would play some of the old classics.- a gift of music for her former teacher.
During the time that Mollie was living in Sioux Falls, her cousin Abner Helgerson introduced her to Otto Schmidt. Otto was attending Augustana College in Canton. Abner and Otto liked to go hunting together for jackrabbits. Mollie and Otto were married in Canton on June 30, 1897 (Mollie’s birthday) at the Lutheran church. For their reception they had a tent outdoors and a nice wedding dinner.
Otto was a minister and their first church was in a part of Chicago called West Pullman. The services were conducted in the upstairs hall over a store building. There was a deaf girl in that area who wanted to be confirmed and nobody had taken the time to teach her. So Mollie and Otto learned the hand language, and that girl was confirmed. Many years later Otto visited the church in West Pullman and the deaf girl gave him a plate, salt and pepper shakers and a toothpick holder that she had hand-painted to take home as a gift to Mollie.
The following items are taken from the Dakota Farmers' Leader newspaper, published in Canton, South Dakota:
12/16/1892: Miss Marie Averill and Miss Mollie Helgerson went to Sioux Falls last Tuesday morning to take part in the musicale given there that evening by Miss Strom of the Sioux Falls Conservatory of music. They returned Wednesday.
9/22/1893: O. T. Helgerson, wife, and daughters Mollie and Nettie, and son, Oscar, left for Chicago Tuesday.
1/26/1894: Miss Mollie Helgerson came down from Sioux Falls Wednesday where she is studying music. She will remain at home until after the Greig [sic] Sangforening concert on Tuesday evening next. She will assist in the musical program.
Also from 1/26/1894: Prof Indseth, Miss Mollie Helgerson, Halvor Gregurson, Miss Gunda Jacobson, Miss Palma Anderson, G. S. Hanson, Miss Hofstad and Mr. Westby are among the celebrated members of Canton's musical talent who will take leading parts in the Greig [sic] Sangforening concert next Tuesday evening in Bedford Hall. Extra seats have been secured.
2/2/1894: [Excerpt from an article titled "The Concert"] The concert given by the Grieg Sangforening last Tuesday evening in Bedford Hall, was a gratifying surprise to everyone present . . . An Instrumental by Miss Mollie Helgerson on the piano, gave that young lady a fine opportunity to display her splendid training and faultless execution. Every note was as clear as a bell and her timing was perfect. She received a well merited encore . . . A violin overture by Prof. Indseth and an accompanyment by Miss Helgerson on the piano was charming. The numbers by the society was [sic] well received and again Miss Helgerson gained fresh laurels by a piano accompaniment.
8/3/1894: [An article titled "Demorest Medal Contest" featured "six young ladies dressed in white" who competed in an elocution contest. They marched into the church for the competition accompanied to music by Miss Mollie Helgerson.]
12/14/1894: The young ladies of All Saints school gave a tea party last evening. Tea and vanilla cakes were served and some very pretty cups and saucers were sold. Instrumental music was furnished by Misses Mollie Helgerson and Mabel Alley, and Miss Harriet Charlton recited several selections. A large number of young people from the city were present and enjoyed the evening's entertainment.
12/21/1894: Miss Mollie Hergerson, assistant teacher of music in All Saints Schol at Sioux Falls, came home Tuesday to enjoy a holiday vacation with her parents in this city. Miss Helgerson is already classed among the most accomplihsed musicians in Sioux Falls, and is making rapid progress towards greater eminence in this line.
5/15/1896: Miss Mollie Helgerson, who is at present engaged in teaching music at Sioux Falls, will give up her Sioux Falls classes about June 15, and devote her entire time to teaching music in Canton. Miss Helgerson is an accomplished musician and has been very successful in Sioux Fall [sic], having had charge of Miss Strom's class for the past year, but it keeps her away from home and this is not agreeable to her as she loves home and all its charms. She will, however, continue to receive instructions from Mrs. Smith, nee Miss Strom.
6/5/1896: The Grieg Sangforening delighted a Canton audience last Friday night with a delightful concert. The program was a good one and each part was rendered with artistic effect. Prof. Indseth, as leader, deserves credit for his excellent management. Miss Mollie Helgerson with the piano proved to be all for which her most ardent admirers hoped. She is graceful and artistic in her work and proved, as Prof. Petzel said, to be one of the few young ladies in the northwest who are competent to play Grieg's masterpieces.
2/26/1897: [An article titled "The Grieg Concert" included the following in what was described as an "excellent program."] Misses Helgerson, Sogn and Ramberg rendered a pleasing trio . . . The trio composed of violin, cello and piano, [was] heartily appreciated. Miss Mollie Helgerson presided at the piano in a most greaceful manner.
6/25/1897: Rev. Otto Schmidt and Miss Mollie Helgerson are to be married at the home of the bride's parents in this city on June 30.
Carola, from around 1921.
CAROLA M. SCHMIDT
[by Barb Schmidt Nelson]
When Carola was born on March 19, 1903, Otto and Mollie lived in Waterford, Wisconsin, where Otto served his second parish. They lived in a very rural area; Otto had a garden and apparently raised a few animals. Carola remembered that she and her older brother Waldemar had a pet sheep that they dearly loved. She liked to tell about the time she had a broken arm, which had to be set by a doctor in nearby Milwaukee. Naturally, it was a painful experience and Carola had a very hard time holding still for the procedure. Her parents finally promised her that if she would calm down and let the doctor finish, they would buy her a doll. She did, and they did. But first they went to a photographer to have studio pictures taken of Waldemar and Carola! One photo shows a very tired-looking little girl resting her head on her brother’s shoulder, but no sign of the broken arm. Along with the new doll, Carola brought home her X-ray too!
Yes, this is the picture referrenced in the previous paragraph!
Carola graduated from Decorah High School in 1921 and from St. Olaf College in 1925. She taught high school for one year in Claremont, South Dakota, but her mother was very lonesome for her. Mollie begged Carola to come back and live at home, which she did for the next two years. In the fall of 1928, she enrolled in nurses’ training in Rochester, Minnesota. She enjoyed the training, and would reminisce about her experiences, especially while on a rotation at Gillette Hospital in Minneapolis. One of her cherished mementos was a stiffly starched white bib from her student uniform, with autographed notes from other student nurses. When she graduated she hoped to find a nursing job in Chicago, where her cousin Dorothy was nursing. But that wasn’t to be. Her mother was in poor health and Carola was expected to come home and take care of her.
Mollie died in 1933, and Otto felt that he still needed Carola’s help, both at home and at “The Home.” For the next eight years, Carola worked at the Aase Haugen Home in addition to keeping house for her father. She never received a single paycheck. Otto retired in 1944, and Carola continued to care for him until his death in 1946. When he died, she was left with no means of supporting herself, and no property except for the family home, which she inherited from her mother. In order to have some income, she divided the house into two apartments, living in one, and renting out the other. Beyond that, she earned money by baby-sitting and by working occasionally in the office of a local veterinarian, and from the sale of her handwork.
As a young woman Carola learned to knit, crochet, tat and embroider, and in the 1930’s, she taught herself the art of Norwegian Hardanger embroidery. It was the latter that brought her a bit of fame. She gave lessons and demonstrations, was interviewed for an article about her in the “Wisconsin Agriculturist,” and took orders for her handiwork. She was especially proud of the pictures taken of her, sewing at her demonstration table, when Crown Prince Harald of Norway visited Vesterheim Museum in 1960. He stopped at her table to admire her work, and he complimented her!
Everything she made – crocheted doilies, knitted lace, tatted edgings, intricate Norwegian sweaters and mittens, as well as her Hardanger creations, - all were impeccably finished and flawless! And so were her Norwegian cookies – perfect krum kaker, Berliner kransers, and rosettes! She loved to cook and to try new recipes, and she loved to garden.
And she loved to laugh! She was a wonderful story-teller – jokes, yes, - but also family stories. She lived surrounded by her family’s history, of which she was proud, - but she also enjoyed the present. She had a love of books, and she enjoyed corresponding with people she heard on the radio.
In 1941 Otto bought a new Chevrolet, and Carola continued to drive it until her death. She used it mostly for grocery shopping and errands, and it was rarely driven in the wintertime. In 1974, Carola claimed she only used about 25 gallons of gas a year. She did however drive it out to Oregon and back in the summer of 1948 to visit her brother Orval and his family.
Carola died on February 9th, 1975. The following poem was found in her Bible, and was included in her funeral folder –
Let me die working,
Still tackling plans unfinished, tasks undone,
Clear to its end, swift may my race be run,
No lagging steps, no faltering, no shirking,
Let me die working.
Let me die thinking,
Let me fare forth still with open mind
Fresh secrets to unfold, new truths to find,
My soul alert, undimmed, no question blinking,
Let me die thinking.
Let me die laughing,
No sighing o'er past sins; they are forgiven,
Spilled on this earth are all the joys of heaven,
The wine of life, the cup of mirth still quafing,
Let me die laughing.
S. Hall Young--M.S.
The final three articles come from newspapers. The first describes the wedding of Otto Schmidt to Mollie Helgerson and the other two are the death notices of Otto and Mollie Schmidt.
Otto and Mollie's wedding picture, 1897.
[From the Dakota Farmers Leader newspaper in Canton, SD, July 2, 1897 edition. The headline reads: “WEDDINGS STILL ON TAP. Three Couples Have Participated in the Greatest of All Social Acts During the Past Week.“ The first of the three weddings described is the Schmidt-Helgerson marriage.]
“Married—Otto E. Schmidt to Miss Mollie E. Helgerson, Wednesday, June 30, at 8 o’clock p.m., Rev. Tetly officiating.”
The Evangelical Lutheran church was tastily decorated in honor of the event, which occurred Wednesday night before a large congregation of admirers and friends. At the above mentioned hour the wedding party arrived at the church where the wedding ceremony was performed by Rev. P. H. Tetly of the Lutheran church. The sermon was preached by Rev. F. A. Schmidt, D. D., of Minneapolis, father of the groom. Miss Palma Anderson rendered Mendellsohn’s wedding march [sic] as the party filed down the aisle. Otto E. Schmidt was born in St. Louis, MO., and prior to his matrimonial adventure has made his home in Minneapolis with his parents, having been in attendance at the United Church Seminary at that place from which he graduated last month. He was ordained last Sunday in St. Paul. During his attendance at Augustana College [in Canton] three years ago, the LEADER had the pleasure of forming his acquaintance and we have found him a young man of sterling qualities and one who will make the life of the fair lady he has chosen as his wife one of happiness and bliss. Miss Mollie E. Helgerson was born in Lyon county, Iowa, on June 30, and uniquely celebrated the anniversary of her birth, and with her parents removed to Canton when a young girl. She has grown to womanhood among the large circle of friends who were pleased to congratulate her Wednesday night. She is a beautiful young lady, possessing a kind heart and an admirable disposition, both of which are important factors in constituting a pleasant home, and in our judgment Mr. Schmidt could never find a better specimen of true womanhood and love than Miss Helgerson. After the sermon Mr. and Mrs. Schmidt, accompanied by their relatives and a large circle of admirers and friends, repaired to the residence of the bride’s parents where congratulations and best wishes were showered upon the newly made husband and wife. Mr. Schmidt will make his home in Pullman, Ill., to which place he goes week after next, having been tendered two missionary churches at that place. Mrs. Schmidt will follow later on. The LEADER tenders its most hearty congratulations and wishes Otto Schmidt and his charming bride a life of unalloyed bliss.
[From the Decorah Public Opinion, Wednesday, August 7, 1946]
SCHMIDT FUNERAL YESTERDAY
Well Known Charity Worker Died Aug. 2
Funeral services were held here yesterday for the Rev. Otto E. Schmidt, 73, retired pastor and charity worker, who died at his home at 409 East Broadway at 6:10 a.m. Friday, August 2, following a lingering illness.
The funeral sermon was delivered yesterday at 2 p.m. at the Decorah Lutheran church by the Rev. M. A. Egge, pastor of the church. The Rev. Egge was assited by the Revs. T. A. Hoff and N. Astrup Larsen.
The Fjelstul funeral home was in charge of arrangements. C. L. Nasby, R. O. Evans, P. J. Ness, W. B. Ingvoldstad, A. F. Fritchen, O. W. Bauder, Melvin Satire, and B. B. Anundsen served as pallbearers. Burial was in the Lutheran cemetery here.
The Rev. Schmidt was born in St. Louis, Mo., July 12, 1873, son of Professor and Mrs. F. A. Schmidt, D. D.
In 1876 he moved with his parents to Madison, Wis., and from there in 1886 to Northfield, Minn., where he attended the academy department of St. Olaf college for two years. In 1888 he was confirmed.
The same year he entered Capital university, Columbus, O., which he attended three years. In 1891 he entered Augustana college, Canton, S. D., from which he was graduated with the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1894.
In the fall of 1894 he entered the theological seminary of the United Lutheran church, St. Paul, and he was graduated from this institution in 1897. That year he accepted a call to Nazareth and Messiah congregations in Chicago.
Ordained in 1897.
He was ordained June 20, 1897, and was married to Miss Mollie Helgerson, Canton, S. D., June 30, 1897. In 1901 he accepted a call from Muskego congregation near Waterford, Wis., and participated in having the old Muskego church moved to the campus of the theological seminary of the United Lutheran church in St. Paul.
In 1907 he accepted a call from the Decorah Lutheran church. During his pastorate in Decorah, he became the guiding spirit in the erection of the Aase Haugen home, and in 1915 resigned as pastor of the Decorah Lutheran church to devote his whole attention to the management of the home.
The Rev. Schmidt continued this management until July 23, 1944, when the Rev. Torger Thompson of Beloit, Ia., was installed as superintendent of the home.
Because of His Zeal.
It is in large measure because of the Rev. Schmidt’s zeal and unselfish devotion to service that the Aase Haugen home is the splendid home it is, in excellent financial condition, and furnishing a merciful haven for many old people who without its facilities would not fare so well. The home is now in its 31st year.
The Rev. Schmidt is survived by two sons and one daughter: the Revs. Orval A. Schmidt, of Portland, Ore.; Otto E. Schmidt, of St. Paul; and Miss Carola M. Schmidt, at home.
The pastor was preceded in death by his wife, who died in 1933, and by two children, one of whom, Waldemar F., died in 1918, and another died in infancy.
Survivors also include five grandchildren and five brothers and sisters: Mrs. Bretha M. Lee, Professor E. W. Schmidt, and Dr. Pau; G. Schmidt, all of Northfield; Dr. Karl H. Schmidt, Minneapolis; and Mrs. Clara S. Johnson, St. Paul.
[From the Decorah Public Opinion, October, 1933]
Funeral of Mrs. Otto E. Schmidt Largely Attended
Last Thursday, October 5, the funeral of Mrs. Otto E. Schmidt took place in the Decorah Lutheran cemetery, attended by a large number of people.
Brief memorial services were held at 11 o’clock in the family home on East Broadway where members of the family—many of them from out of town—and close friends gathered. Dr. O. M. Norlie, who had known the deceased since childhood and school days, spoke words of comfort based on Genesis 23:2. Then the remains were brought to the church of the Decorah Lutheran congregation to lie in state from 12 o’clock until 2. During this time Adolph Lee, Lars Nesheim, Oscar Amundsen and Ed. Ostenson formed a guard of honor about the casket, while the mourners passed by.
In the meantime the ladies of the Volunteer Society had arranged a dinner in the church parlors for members of the Schmidt family, relatives from afar, and friends.
At 2 o’clock the public funeral services began at the church where Rev. O. Glesne, of whose congregation the deceased was a member, spoke, taking Revelations 14:13 as his text . He dwelt on the genuine piety and devoutness of Mrs. Schmidt, bringing out many instances as a tribute to her character.
A quartette consisting of Mrs. Geo. W. Johnson, W. B. Ingvoldstead, Mrs. McCall and Ashley Ellickson sang and then Rev. T. A. Hoff, a member of the board of directors of the Aase Haugen Old People’s Home, offered a few remarks. Dr. O. J. H. Preus brought a greeting of farewell from the Luther College faculty and student body, and a similar message from the St. Olaf College faculty and students, Northfield, Minn., was conveyed by Dean J. Jorgen Thompson of that institution. In behalf of the family Professor Paul Schmidt of Northfield expressed thanks and appreciation to all who had shown sympathy during the hours of sorrow.
Interment took place at the beautiful Lutheran cemetery. Rev. Otto E. Schmidt himself read the commitment ritual.
Nearly all of the ministers of the Decorah Lutheran circuit were present, and among them the following were pall bearers: Revs. Gunsten, Heltne, Tolo, Jordahl, Norlie and Kvammen. Transportation had been provided for the residents of the Aase Haugen Home, and many of them made use of this opportunity to be present, and by their presence testify to the affection which they bore the deceased.
A large number of telegrams and other messages of condolence arrived during the day, and a number of “memorial wreaths” in the form of donations to the Aase Haugen Home and other institutions of the Norwegian Lutheran church were received, representing a total of about $400. Numerous flowers and wreaths covered the casket.
The fact that Mrs. Schmidt was exceedingly beloved in the community was testified to by the large number of her friends who wound their way around the casket in the church, and also by the very large audience filling the auditorium of the church. She will be missed for a long, long time to come by her friends and neighbors. Blessed be her memory!
[Written by] T. A. H. [Rev. T. A. Hoff]