William SchmalzJune 7, 1935 ~ June 20, 2017 (age 82)
William J. Schmalz (Uncle Bill to many) was born in Olathe, Colorado to immigrant parents Tony and Mollie Schmalz on June 7, 1935. He was born in the house across the road from where he was raised. He was the youngest of four children, having two brothers Bud and Don and a sister Virginia.
Bill graduated from Olathe High School in 1953 and left his farming life to attend Western State College graduating with a teaching degree in English. While at Western, Bill participated in many sports including track, wrestling and football, he also rodeo’d.
Bill was known locally as a unique character bringing laughter and fun to all that knew him. He became known nationwide when he broke Red Grange's football record 30 years to the day by scoring 7 touchdowns in 7 carries, however one was called back due to a clipping penalty so only 6 touchdowns counted but it was still a record that stood for many years. He was inducted into the Western State College Mountaineer Sports Hall of Fame in 2010 for Football: 1953-1959. Bill was part of the 1954 Football Team that won the school's first ever RMAC Championship in any sport and he and the team were Inducted into the RMAC Hall of Fame in 2003.
Many professional football teams showed interest in Bill including the young Denver Broncos. He received a letter from the famed George Halas to tryout for the Chicago Bears which he declined and instead accepted an offer to play for the Ottawa Roughriders in the Canadian Football League 1958.
After playing football Bill returned to Gunnison where he began working. He initially cowboy'd for local ranchers, after which he operated the Sleepy Hollow Resort with his brother Don and Don's wife Patsy June. While there a group of Priests came to stay at the resort and Bill took them on pack trips into the mountains. Patsy thought she should cook a nice dinner for the priests so she asked Bill to go to town and get some chickens. Bill had an old open top jeep so he took his adored young nephew Fred with him. They picked up the chickens and Bill decided to bring his horse "Lady" back out to the resort. He took the front passenger seat out of the jeep and loaded the horse; front feet in the front and back feet in the back. He put Fred on the hood holding the chickens and drove the seven miles back out to the resort. Needless to say people practically drove off the road as they passed Bill on the highway. They made it without incident and as far as Bill was concerned that was not something unusual it was just what you did when you needed to get something done.
After leaving the resort he then operated "The Alamo" a Wild West cafe and local watering hole with weekend music, dances and usually a fist fight or two. Anyone who went to college or worked in Gunnison during that time would have a story or two about their experience there. Bill had a very well trained German Shepard dog that worked perfectly as a bouncer when needed.
While in Gunnison, Bill met the love of his life, Connie. "Wild Bill” wooed Connie with his exploits and many an adventure including skiing, horseback riding and sleigh rides to name a few. A great deal of the couple's ventures occurred in Crested Butte where they were married at the Queen of all Saints Catholic Church in the spring of 1963.
With his new responsibilities Bill decided to get out of the bar business and helped build Blue Mesa Dam by high scaling on the high cliffs of the Black Canyon. This required him to hang on a rope over the edge of the Black Canyon and run a jack hammer to loosen all of the loose rock. The job in itself was bad enough but he worked nights and it was sometimes as cold as 50 degrees below zero. To make it worse the lunch that he took was usually frozen solid and they had to put them on the salamander to thaw. One night Connie got up to pack his lunch in her not awake state she had forgotten to put anything in it so all he had was 2 pieces of frozen bread. It was a good thing they were still in the honeymoon stage of their marriage.
When he’d finally had enough of working in the extreme cold he took a job as undersheriff to the highly respected George Cope, Gunnison County Sheriff. While working for the sheriff's office their first child and pride and joy was born; William Patrick "Pat". His time with the sheriff's office translated to an opportunity to open his own business as a Bail Bondsman and so they moved to Grand Junction in 1965 where he operated the business. This business itself lead to many interesting encounters.
In March of 1966 they had their second pride and joy another son; Joseph “Eric”. Around the 4th of July when it is extremely hot in Grand Junction Bill had been helping his brother-in-law Jack Ritter on a backhoe project when he came into their house and felt he was freezing to death. He laid on the floor and literally could not get up. He had to be picked up by his sister, Virginia, Connie and a neighbor and was taken to the doctor. Old Dr. Bull said "Bill I believe you have rheumatoid arthritis". After tests he was proven right and that was the beginning of Bill's 50 plus years of struggling with the pain and side effects of the disease. Bill always showed a great attitude and never complained about his pain and was an inspiration to many. For 3 years Bill could not open a car door or dress himself but eventually did start getting a little better. With the gracious aid of his sister Virginia and brother-in-law Jack Ritter opening their home they survived.
They eventually moved to Palisade to be near their dear friends Spike and Shirley Sanders both Gunnison natives. They have remained close friends and become part of the family. It was in Palisade, CO in 1968 that their third pride and joy and first daughter Cassandra Jean "Casey" was born. From Palisade they bought a home on Orchard Mesa and Bill began a 4 year career in teaching and coaching. From this time Bill and Connie made some of their dearest lifelong friends from the teaching community.
In June of 1971 the family welcomed pride and joy number four; Jonathon Richard. They were quickly outgrowing their two bedroom home and Bill’s sister and family had recently bought a farm on the Colorado River that needed a farmer and someone to take care of the Heifers. It seemed to be a good fit although after just having a baby, Connie was not up for the move. On a Saturday morning all of their teacher friends and their spouses showed up with trucks and trailers and packed them up, moved them, had everything put away including pictures hung on the walls of their new home by noon. Karen Levad cooked fried chicken for all. It was unbelievable and Bill and Connie express their gratitude toward more wonderful friends.
The farm was known as the "Frog Farm" because there was a lake on it that was full of frogs and catfish. There wasn’t a weekend that went by that there wasn’t someone visiting the farm as everyone had fun horseback riding, swimming, floating the river, fishing, frog gigging, water skiing, duck and goose hunting. In the spring of 1972 the heifers started having calves except they had been bred to a bull that produced too big of calves for a first year heifer. That is when the family’s dear and lifelong friendship with Dr. John Harris and family began. Connie put the newest baby, Jon in a backpack and walked the 200 acres every day to check the heifers. She would call Dr. Harris if it was time to come deliver and Dr. Roy Grady helped.
Although Bill loved teaching and coaching after 4 years and 4 children it became harder to survive on a teacher’s salary so Bill went to work for Daren Cypher's Hertz auto dealership and sold cars where more wonderful new friendships developed. Bill purchased the upholstery shop located next Hertz and after a couple of years, he sold it to pursue a career in real estate. Bill and Connie then purchased a home on the Redlands. Along with the new residence the family was blessed with the 5th and final child, a daughter, Michelle Lea. As the family was finished moving and having children Bill tried his hand at cattle ranching for a season and the following year he went back to something familiar spending 10 years owning and managing the Cameo Corral Restaurant.
Bill retired to his garden which was rarely rivaled in production. He entertained many guests who would marvel at his bounty, much of which he gave away. He was fortunate to have wonderful friends always helping him prep and tend his garden. Bill was an avid and accomplished sportsman and he enjoyed activities with his friends and family. He usually had a pretty good bird dog or working Border collie around and also had an affinity for horses. He owned and trained a variety of horses in a variety of disciplines, from bull dogging, to polo, to race horses and ranch horses. Bill was a devout Catholic and accompanied his cousin Charlie Fedler on trips to acquire food for the soup kitchen. He would plow the church/school parking lot, and help with the altar boy camp-outs.
Bill is survived by his wife of 54 years, Connie, sons Pat (Julie), Eric (Nikki), Jon (Jessi), daughters Casey (Kelly) Barry, Michelle (Luke) Tucker, sister Virginia (Jack deceased) Ritter, sisters-in-laws Patsy (Don deceased), Barbara (Bud deceased) and Kathy O’Hara, Grandchildren; Simon, Mallory (Joshua) Haney, Mackenzie, Madison, Alison, Hadley, Hyatt, Grayson Barry, Emma and Mena Tucker also great-grandchildren; Kylar and Mattis Haney. His nephews Fred, Shane, Rod, Mike, Jess and Jim Ritter, Albert Isordia, his Nieces (Sherrie deceased), Vicky Briggs, Jackie Dodart, Jeannine Smith, his Aunt Joyce and oh so many cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents and brothers.
Bill’s family would like to offer a very special thank you to so many friends and extended family that have helped Bill be able to do so many things and that spent so much time with him. He loved you all very much. Thank you to all of the doctors, nurses, caregivers and hospice that have taken care of Bill over the years. You made his life so much easier.
A celebration of his life will be held on Monday July 3, 2017 at 2:00 P.M. at the Redlands Community Center, 2463 Broadway, Grand Junction, CO 81507.
In memory of Bill and in lieu of flowers please bring love and a smile to those around you, plant a garden and share your harvest or donate to a charity of your choice or hospice. Thank you.