A special Mozart mass with a Hallelujah chorus was celebrated in heaven today in gratitude for the life of F Hector “Ted” Schmidt. “Hector “ as he was mockingly known by his five sons turned 100 today.
Born on January 15, 1909 to Sarah “Sadie” Downs and Fred Schmidt of 460 Palmerston Blvd, Ted was the eldest of 3 boys, Ted, Goldie and Jack. Goldie succumbed to scarlet fever in 1915 while the other two grew up as great friends to each other.
Hector’s wisest move was his marriage to Eileen Harrison, the belle of OCE as she was known, in 1935.They produced five sons who like their father went to St. Peter’s elementary school and St. Michael’s College school.
Hector spent 50 years on Bay St as a trader. On his retirement on Dec. 16, 1982 he was presented with a silver tray for his “loyal service.” On this last day on the floor, surrounded by grandchildren, he was asked to sum up his feelings about his illustrious career, he opined, “Nice to be rid of the pimps and whores.”
This bon mot, fairly typical of Hector, aptly summed up his unique take on life, often described as “ahead of his time,” “philosophical” “starkly realistic approaching cynicism”. One wag labeled his worldview “sardonic”.
A university drop out, Hector was an autodidact, widely read and a man with little artifice and less patience for poseurs, ponces, “frauds flacks and phonies”. He exhibited particular scorn for “obsequious prelates” and “professional Catholics”. His greatest gift which he happily bequeathed to his five sons was his capacity for bull shit detection. In this area he was described as “non pareil”(without equal).
Along with his extraordinary wife, Eileen, he presided over legendary Sunday meals where wit and bonhomie were the main servings. Friends and relatives were often present at these magical meals which resembled in turn intellectual free-for-alls, shouting matches, outrageous jokes and uncontrollable laughter, ripostes, put downs peppered with vulgarisms and lively conversation. In general these evenings were a combination verbal bath and feast. Calling them moments of grace would not be stretching the truth—if one truly understood what incarnation was.
Christmas was always his favourite time. No Yule would pass without a reading of Jonathan Swift’s, On Lawyers:
It is a maxim among these lawyers that whatever has been done before, may legally be done again: and therefore they take special care to record all the decisions formerly made against common justice, and the general reason of mankind. These, under the name of precedents, they produce as authorities to justify the most iniquitous opinions; and the judges never fail of directing accordingly.
In pleading, they studiously avoid entering into the merits of the cause; but are loud, violent, and tedious, in dwelling upon all circumstances which are not to the purpose. For instance, in the case already mentioned; they never desire to know what claim or title my adversary has to my cow; but whether the said cow were red or black; her horns long or short; whether the field I graze her in be round or square; whether she was milked at home or abroad; what diseases she is subject to, and the like; after which they consult precedents, adjourn the cause from time to time, and in ten, twenty, or thirty years, come to an issue.
It is likewise to be observed, that this society has a peculiar cant and jargon of their own, that no other mortal can understand, and wherein all their laws are written, which they take special care to multiply; whereby they have wholly confounded the very essence of truth and falsehood, of right and wrong; so that it will take thirty years to decide, whether the field left me by my ancestors for six generations belongs to me, or to a stranger three hundred miles off.”
Only on regaining his breath would he then with the barest encouragement recite his annual hilarious imitation of James C. Cardinal McGuigan’s boiler plate sermon on the birth of Jesus. Holding his nose to approximate the prelate’s high nasal voice, he would begin “2000 years ago in a little stable near Bethlehem…” Then it would be his sons turn to shriek with great delight.
One memorable evening with wives, friends and needling offspring in attendance, and with a silly party head adorning his florid dome, he wondered aloud why anybody would pay for entertainment when all this family-generated mayhem came for free.
Another time he simply looked around the table and coming as close as he could to expressing his bountiful love for his critical offspring, he laid out a quote from the Book Of Samuel, “And he gathered unto himself all the malcontents and discontents and repaired to the cave at Adullam.” 1 Sam 22:1
Was he King Saul, the patriarch fearing a royal usurpation by another David a pretender to the throne? Did he see us his children as “malcontents and discontents”? Or as is most probable, was he in fact proffering a benediction on his well-educated sons, all busy tilting at societal windmills?
On his 50th wedding anniversary in 1985, a year before his death, he reveled at being surrounded by his large family and grandchildren. He roared with laughter when his eldest son revealed to all Hector’s favourite poem, a two-liner by Irving Layton.
“Give all your days to the study of the Talmud.
By night practice shooting from the hip.”
Hector’s 100th birthday is being celebrated by his children, wives and any grandchilden who can make it.