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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tornado victim Harold Schmidt, 77, dies

BY AMANDA O'TOOLE
The Wichita Eagle

The tornado that hit Greensburg on May 4 tore away Sarah and Harold Schmidt's home, exposing them and the basement where they sought refuge to the killer storm.

When it was over, Harold Schmidt, 77, lay in his basement, pinned beneath his pickup truck, which was blown into their home.

There was no way out, and Sarah Schmidt could only call for help.

Twelve unknown people answered her cries for help: Together they lifted the pickup off her husband's battered body.

He was taken away in an ambulance, leaving Sarah Schmidt to wonder about her husband until 5 o'clock the next morning.

Harold Schmidt had been in Pratt Regional Medical Center since that night and had gone through five surgeries. He died Monday morning after his family held a vigil through the night.

He is the 12th death attributed to the tornadoes that struck the Greensburg area May 4; another person was killed in the storm that hit May 5.

Harold Schmidt had lived in Greensburg his whole life and retired from farming about 15 years ago.

One of the last times Willie Schmidt spoke to his father, the two talked about the "hard times" during the Great Depression.

"He always talked about how everybody was equal. Nobody had more than the other," Willie Schmidt said. "That's where the community is right now, ironically enough."

In the 1970s, he said, Harold Schmidt almost gave up his farm after hail had wiped out his crops for four or five years.

"He felt like he was going to lose the farm," Willie Schmidt said. "He had started the paper work, and he couldn't sleep that night -- he couldn't do it. He woke up the next morning and told my mother that he changed his mind and stopped all the procedures."

Stories like this one, he said, is an example of how Harold Schmidt taught the family's four children the value of hard work.

Willie Schmidt said members of the family each had moments alone with his father before he was taken off life support.

"We were told he wouldn't make it through the night," he said. "He was tough as nails. He surprised everyone even through the end."

A viewing has been scheduled from 4 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Larrison Mortuary in Pratt; the funeral service is 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Haviland Friends Church. Memorials are pending.

Harold Schmidt is survived by his wife, Sarah, four children, 12 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.

Reach Amanda O'Toole at 316-268-6357 or aotoole@wichitaeagle.com.

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