Mom and Dad of the Year honored after home hit with two tornadoes


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Made of more than simple brick and mortar, communities are built upon local leadership, active volunteerism, and in general, people who genuinely care for not themselves but the place they call home and the people who define it.

Following a yearly tradition, the University of Iowa Family Weekend, Saturday through Nov. 11 this year, chooses two special parents who go above and beyond to improve the conditions and livelihood of their community and its people, to recognize as the Mom and Dad of the Year.

The annual Mom and Dad of the Year selection is conducted by UI honor societies Mortar Board and Omicron Delta Kappa, with generous support from the UI Parents Association, the University Bookstore, and the Athletics Department.

This year’s recipients, Rich and Patti Schmitz of Waterloo have experienced devastation and tragedy firsthand. Both were nominated by their daughter, UI student Anna Schmitz. Within the past 10 years, their home was struck by a tornado, in 2002 and 2007 respectively, and each time, community members, friends and family rushed to their side, offering what they could.

During the recovery efforts, Anna Schmitz said, her mother kept her stabilizing attitude and kept the family together while dealing through the wreckage. Continuing to volunteer weekly at the local homeless shelter, Patti Schmitz was instrumental in helping immigrants find work and get back on their feet, on top of working at John Deere, all at a time when their family’s life remained unanswered. 

Both parents believed that after looking at the tornado wreckage each time, they gained a renewed sense and purpose. Despite being recent retirees from John Deere Works in Waterloo, both Rich and Patti Schmitz devote much of their free time giving back to the less fortunate. They now attribute much of their giving back to the community to knowing the immense feeling of loss.

“After the tornado we had, 150-200 people showed up at our doors to help out, twice,” Rich Schmitz said. “Whenever possible I like to give back.”

He said they’ve volunteered in their community for more than 40 years.

“You just do it every year, making a difference in one student’s life at a time,” he said.

In nominating her parents, Anna Schmitz said, “I just did because they’ve done a lot for me and my siblings, the neighborhood, and the community.”

Both Rich and Patti Schmitz said the only fitting word to describe the nomination and the award honor is surprised.

“Anna gave us a heads-up that she put in an application [to be nominated for the award],” Patti Schmitz said. “Of course I feel undeserving, and we’ve been active in the community with Meals on Wheels, Habitat for Humanity, I guess I don’t know what to say.  We are quite honored.”

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