Reunion, dedication honor grad
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Religion. Family. Friends.
Classmates gathering for their 35th reunion as graduates of Thomas More Prep and Marian high schools in Hays said Steve Schmeidler lived his life with those three priorities, and in that order.
Schmeidler died in the summer of 2011, and although he missed his first class reunion in years, Schmeidler still was there in spirit as lots of people recalled their fallen classmate with fond memories.
"You have a lot of friends as you go through life," said Terry Karlin, a 1977 graduate of TMP along with Schmeidler. "But you might only have one or two deep-down-at-heart friends. Steve was that kind of guy. Always had a smile on his face, could get anyone to laughing. And wasn't afraid to stick up for his religion."
Karlin said he didn't really know Schmeidler all that well growing up but they became good friends after graduation.
"I don't remember how, but somehow we got to hanging out, and became really good friends," Karlin said.
On Friday, the TMP and Marian classes of 1977 -- the schools didn't consolidate into one until 1980 -- celebrated with eating, drinking and get-togethers. The next day, they honored Schmeidler by attending a Mass for deceased alumni of the local Catholic high school, then helping dedicate a statue in his honor in front of the main building on campus.
Schmeidler's wife, Bev, and three daughters who all graduated from TMP, used their husband's and father's memorial money for the statue of St. Thomas More, after whom the school was renamed in 1970 from St. Joseph Military Academy.
Steve's parents, Ken and Betty Schmeidler, also are graduates of TMP's predecessors, St. Joseph Military and Girls Catholic High, and his two sisters also are alums.
Bev Schmeidler said her husband looked forward to celebrations, including class reunions, like no other. He even threw a big party in Denver a few years ago when he and his classmates gathered to celebrate their milestone birthday.
Schmeidler, who raised his family in his hometown, died in a vehicle accident June 19, 2011, while coming home from the lake after a day of celebration on Father's Day.
His family wanted to have something tangible in his memory displayed at the school and contacted TMP's alumni association, which suggested the St. Thomas More statue.
After her husband died, Bev Schmeidler said "there was no question as to where he would have wanted his memorial fund to go."
Some of Schmeidler's classmates had mixed emotions about this particular reunion.
"It was hard for me to come to this one," said Kathy (Lang) Groeken, a good friend and cousin of Schmeidler's growing up who now lives in Chicago. "But I sure wanted to be here for this."
Despite the emotional reunion, a smile spread across Groeken's face.
"Steve always brought everybody up," Groeken said. "He had a contagious smile."
Bev Schmeidler said she was sure her husband was smiling down on his family and friends this weekend.
"I know he is with us today and truly honored by this beautiful tribute," Bev Schmeidler said.
"Not that you would need something like this to remember him," Karlin said, adding once you met Steve Schmeidler you never would forget him. "But this is a great tribute to Steve."