Life Story / Obituary
Hardworking, diligent, and driven, Doras “Jim” Schmitz was such an inspiration. He was the sort of person who didn’t back down from any challenge, and he had an insatiable thirst for learning new things. Never one to let life get the best of him, he was strong and courageous in everything he did. Although Jim will be missed, he leaves behind a timeless legacy of his hard work, diligence and drive.
The 1920s were predominately a prosperous time in American history as innovation was helping us explore new horizons, but the 1930s were a much different story. This was a decade that was defined by the Great Depression when jobs were hard to come by and the unemployment rate soared as a result. Despite the trying times around them, George and Bernetta Schmitz were able to focus on an exciting time in their own lives as they were anticipating the birth of their new baby as the heat of the summer held the city of Monroe, Michigan, firmly in its grip in August of 1930. Their wait was over on August 19th when the baby boy they named Doras James made his arrival. He was the fourth of five children in his family as he joined his older siblings, Gerald. Marcell, and Merlin, and he became an older brother to Norbert a bit later. Their family was proud of their French heritage, which is why all of the Schmitz children were given French names.
Doras, or Jim as he was often known, didn’t have a childhood that was without struggle as his father contracted tuberculosis when Jim was four and then had to move to a sanitarium in New York. As a result, he didn’t see his father until he was in high school! As a student, Doras attended local Catholic schools and then graduated from St. Mary’s Catholic where he excelled in his studies and was known for his great attendance record. He continued his education at Western Michigan University on an academic scholarship. With his education behind him, Jim made a career at Eckrich for more than 30 years and was known for his strong work ethic and near perfect attendance.
New and exciting changes were in store for Doras when he met the young woman of his dreams. Her name was Shirley Brininger, and they met while Jim was working at a restaurant. Shirley would frequent the restaurant, to “flirt” with Jim and spend time with him on his breaks. She thought he was cute and was impressed that Jim had a new car. Apparently he thought Shirley was pretty cool also, and they began dating. Jim and Shirley were married in April of 1959. In fact, it was Shirley who began calling him “Jim” by shortening up his middle name. Jim had two daughters, Diane and Katharena. Jim was devoted to Shirley’s health, and when she suffered with rheumatoid arthritis, he retired early and took care of her. Shirley and her sister Betty searched for treatment centers all around the country and Shirley traveled to them in her pursuit of relief. Shirley’s treatment travels even took her to Mexico.
As his family and friends can attest, Jim was a lifelong learner who was on a quest to learn more all the time. He was very curious, studious, and completely enamored with facts, numbers, and patterns. Jim was an avid reader who has also been called a news junkie as he was forever keeping up on what was going on in the world around him. He was particularly fascinated with the Mackinaw Bridge and over time became a wealth of information about the Mighty Mac.
Throughout his life, Jim remained active as well. He loved fishing on Lake Michigan - and he was fearless as he went out in any kind of weather. Jim had many hobbies including woodworking and making things like picture frames, bird houses, fine furniture, Christmas ornaments, and lawn swings. He kept a huge garden and also did his own canning. Jim was so very proud of his signature drink, V3 juice, made from the fresh vegetables. He also loved to cook and made his own recipes. Among Jim’s famous dishes were his lemon bars, fudge, and candies. After Shirley’s death in 1996, he took to traveling as it was a new experience. Among Jim’s destinations were the Panama Canal, Hoover Dam, and on various cruises.
All who knew Doras “Jim” Schmitz would agree that he was an extraordinary person to know. He taught others some amazing lessons like work ethic and how to be honest and loyal while also seeing things through to the end without giving up. Jim was quiet, cool, and collected, and never one to get angry or let things get the best of him. He instilled a strong belief of self in others through the example he lived every day.
Doras James “Jim” Schmitz, of Kalamazoo, died on Wednesday, December 2, 2015. Members of his family include his two children: Diane Charron and Katharena Schmitz; 2 grandchildren: Mick (Cindy) and Tony (Nicole) Charron; and 2 great grandchildren: Eddie and Eva, many nieces and nephews and sisters-in-law Louise, Ivy and Jennie. Jim was preceded in death by his wife Shirley in 1996, his 4 brothers: Gerald, Marcel, Merlin and Norbert. A gathering of friends and family will take place at a later date. Please visit his personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can archive a memory or photo and sign his guestbook. Arrangements by Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 375-2900.