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Eugene I. Schmidt, retired teacher, longtime military pilot <br> Aug. 31, 1920 -- Dec. 18, 2006

Eugene I. "Levy" Schmidt of West Seneca, a retired teacher and a longtime military pilot, died Dec. 18 in Sisters Hospital. He was 86.

Born in Buffalo, he graduated in 1938 from Amherst High School, where he was nicknamed "Levy" after the comic strip character "Big Leviticus."

He attended the Manlius School near Syracuse, then went on to play football at Syracuse University on a full scholarship. His studies were interrupted by World War II, where he served as a Navy pilot.

Returning to Syracuse, he completed his bachelor's degree, then earned a master's degree in physical education.

He was an All-American in football at Syracuse and played center for the North in the 1947 Blue-Gray Game. He also was inducted into the Syracuse University Hall of Fame. After college, he was drafted by the Detroit Lions but declined the opportunity to play professional football, pursuing a career in teaching instead.

His teaching career started at Genesee Junior College, where he was an anatomy instructor. He then taught for more than 30 years in the business department in the West Seneca Central Schools.

While teaching, he enjoyed coaching football, leading the school dance band and being the business department Head. He also was a committee member for preparation of the New York State Typing Regents. He earned the title of Teacher of the Year in 1983 from the Business Educators Association of Western New York.

His military career spanned 40 years. After serving as a Navy pilot during World War II, he flew in the Navy Reserve and piloted helicopters in the Army National Guard. He told of receiving orders to look for downed planes in the Bermuda Triangle. In August 1980, he received a two-year extension to continue flying as a utility helicopter pilot with the Army National Guard, making him the oldest military helicopter pilot in the country from 1980 to 1982.

He was an avid golfer, winning the Orchard Park Country Club Championship six times, the last time at age 69. It was not uncommon for him to play 18 holes at OPCC and then play another round at the Crag Burn Club, where he also was a member. In May, after 50 years, he attained life membership status at OPCC.

He enjoyed being a former member of the Slope Committee, which determines the slope rating of area golf courses.

Mr. Schmidt was an excellent cook and enjoyed playing and listening to music, particularly from the big-band era. A natural musician, he could read music but also could play by ear. For a school variety show in the 1960s, with a sound-on-sound tape recorder onstage, he played piano, trombone, then the drums, adding each instrument to the previous recording to give the sound of a one-man band.

He was a longtime member of Ebenezer United Church of Christ in West Seneca.

Surviving are his wife of 60 years, the former Margaret Dear; four daughters, Karen Snyder, Marlene Lombardo, Gretchen Hitchcock and Jeannine Gambrel; a brother, Richard; and a sister, Marie Schmidt-Olmsted.


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