Reuben Emmert Schmalz
Reuben Emmert Schmalz, age 86 of rural Lester Prairie, died Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2005 at his home.
Reuben was born July 4, 1918 in Winsted Township, McLeod County, the son of William and Emma (Meyer) Schmalz. He was baptized July 18, 1918 by Pastor Walter Baumhoefner at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Lester Prairie, and confirmed into the faith at the same church April 9, 1933 by Pastor J.A. Schert.
Reuben was proud to be an American at an early age. When he found out that he and President Coolidge shared fourth of July birthdays, he sent a greeting card to the President. To Reuben’s delight, President Coolidge replied with “Happy 8th Birthday” wishes to him, dated July 1, 1926.
Reuben attended school in Winsted Township and completed the eighth grade. He farmed alongside his father until he was called to active military duty June 17, 1941.
After serving his country stateside for four years as a supply sergeant training tank destroyer operators, Reuben was commissioned abroad June 1, 1945, traveling and serving in Australia, India, Burma, and China. He went over 32,000 miles in six months, making him one of the most traveled G.I.’s from McLeod County at that time.
Reuben was honorably discharged from his World War II service Jan. 21, 1946. On Oct. 6, 1946 he was appointed as a member of the McLeod County Draft Board and served for three years at the onset of the Korean War.
Reuben married Lavilla Schoenke of New Germany June 14, 1947. Rev. John W. Meyer officiated the celebration at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in New Germany. Their union was blessed with six children. Reuben and Lavilla enjoyed farming together at the Schmalz homestead in Lester Prairie.
For three years, Reuben attended evening agricultural classes in the late 1940s. He was honored in 1948 as one of the best Dekalb corn producers in the area. In 1953, he was awarded the grand champion prize, first place, in the white category at the Egg Institute. He was honored by the University of Minnesota in 1963, for being one of nine top swine producers in the state.
In between family and farming responsibilities, Reuben faithfully served his Lord as congregation president, elder, and trustee, and chaired the building committee after a 1965 tornado destroyed St. Peter’s church and school. He was a lifetime member of the Lutheran Laymen’s League and served as chairman of the circuit.
Reuben served as a board member of the co-operative elevator in Lester Prairie for 12 years, and noted chairman the later half of his term. He also served as a bank director of Farmer’s State Bank for 15 years, and was a director of the MN Valley Breeder’s Association Board. The University of Minnesota chose Reuben and Lavilla to travel to Europe, Asia, and Russia on a goodwill ambassador agricultural tour for three weeks in 1968.
Reuben continued to serve his country as a member of the American Legion Post 453 for 58 years, and served as an adjutant chaplain and post commander.
His greatest accomplishment of his life was to lead and guide his children as it says in Deuteronomy 11:18-22: “To hold God’s word in his heart, to claim God’s truth as a sign to teach them to his children as he sat, as he walked, as he lied down, and as he lived his life to the fullest.”
Reuben is preceded in death by his parents; a son, Jerry, who died Jan. 1, 1972 at the age of 18; brothers Andrew Schmalz and Alfred Schmalz; and sister Rose Zena Siewert.
He is survived by his wife, Lavilla, of Lester Prairie; children Jacalyn Engelhardt (husband Bill) of Plymouth, Nathan Schmalz (wife Jacqueline) of Lester Prairie, Beverly Gilligan (husband Gene) of Anoka, Mary Jo Mehrl (husband Rev. Klaus Mehrl) of Shorewood, Ill.; and Lisa Jilek (husband Jerry) of Minnetrista; and grandchildren: Garrett Engelhardt, Kaylan Engelhardt, Melanie Eckstein (husband Josh), Phillip Schmalz, Megan Schmalz, Jeremy Williams, Krista Mehrl, Brandon Jilek, and Anika Jilek.
Reuben is further survived by sisters-in-law Irene Schmalz of Lester Prairie and Mary Krekelberg of LeSeuer; and brother-in-law Franklin Schoenke of New Germany; as well as many nieces, nephews, relatives, and friends.
Funeral services were Saturday, Feb. 12 at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Lester Prairie with the Rev. Gerald Schwanke officiating. The organist was Mary Mielke. Soloist Franklin Schoenke sang “Amazing Grace.” The congregational hymns were “Lift High The Cross,” “Rock Of Ages,” and “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Interment was in the church cemetery.
Visitation took place Friday evening at the Paul-McBride Funeral Chapel in Lester Prairie.
Serving as casket bearers were Reuben’s grandchildren: Garrett Engelhardt, Melanie and Josh Eckstein, Phillip Schmalz, Megan Schmalz, and Jeremy Williams. Honorary casket bearers were also his grandchildren: Kaylan Engelhardt, Krista Mehrl, Brandon Jilek, and Anika Jilek.
The Paul-McBride Funeral Chapel in Lester Prairie handled the arrangements.