Kind, caring, and a leader. These were some of the words at a recent tribute used to describe the Rev. Albert R. Schmidt, the former pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Miami Springs.
The beloved minister, who passed away in 2013, was the subject of a dedication ceremony outside the church on Sunday, April 13, when the City of Miami Springs designated a portion of Curtiss Parkway as “Pastor Schmidt Way.”
The ceremony was attended by nearly 100 people, who included parishioners from Grace Lutheran and other churches, friends, family, and city dignitaries.
“We give thanks for Albert Schmidt, for what he meant and continues to mean through the memory of his spirit, his zest, and his love,” said Rev. David Imhoff, the current pastor of Grace Lutheran, as he prefaced the commemoration with prayer.
He later added, in demonstrating Schmidt’s approach and drawing a few chuckles, “How gentle a spirit, how kind a person, how resolute a person. He wouldn’t argue with you about any issues, but he would give you a chance to figure out how you were probably wrong, and how he was probably right.”
Mayor Zavier Garcia was at hand to deliver the official proclamation. Many in attendance were moved to quiet tears and gentle laughter as it was read.
“Whereas, after graduating from Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, Reverend Dr. Albert Schmidt founded Grace Lutheran Church in Miami Springs in 1951; and whereas, Grace Lutheran grew rapidly under Reverend Schmidt’s leadership, with membership expanding from just eight families to over 650 members in five years … and whereas, he probably married over 10 percent of the citizens of Miami Springs, baptized thousands, and confirmed many …”
Yet these were but a few of Rev. Schmidt’s contributions. By all accounts, Schmidt was a force for love and change.
The Baltimore native moved to Miami Springs in 1949 and made the city his permanent home, leaving an indelible mark on the lives of those he touched.
“When he came here, he started knocking on doors and would hold their first meetings at what is now the library, at that time the rec center,” Pastor Imhoff said in a private interview. “They built this building and started their worship at the stained glass window in 1949. At one point, the church had 1,500 members during the airline industry days. Rev. Schmidt had interns who would later become ordained. Ten people became pastors as a result of his ministry. He was a probation officer for youth while a pastor. This was unusual. He fought racial segregation by having his kids go to integrated schools.
“He was a member of the Rotary Club, and loved golf and the Miami Dolphins. Along with other Lutheran churches and keeping in line with the longstanding Lutheran tradition of social service, Grace Lutheran purchased the nursing home and assisted-living facility Fair Havens Center, with Pastor Schmidt at the helm. They ran it for about 10 years and sold it about 10 years ago. He was a well-known person in the community, and spoke out on many issues.”
After many heartfelt remarks from dignitaries and family, the unveiling took place, revealing the new sign that now graces Curtiss Parkway. It designates the small stretch of road from the 100 to 300 block in front of the church as “Pastor Schmidt Way.”
“Our family really appreciates this,” a moved Mark Schmidt, a son of Rev. Schmidt, said as he addressed the audience. “This is a heartfelt thank you very much.”
A reception followed the ceremony in the parish hall, but before entering, another unveiling was in store. While the street dedication was held on behalf of the City of Miami Springs, the church itself dedicated the entire building to Rev. Schmidt, naming it the “Pastor Schmidt Administration Building.”
Both entrances to the building were outfitted with signs, and even these were a testament to Rev. Schmidt’s reach, of how he had a way of bringing people together. The signs, made by Don Boggs, were donated by the Carnicella family of Blessed Trinity Catholic Church in neighboring Virginia Gardens.
Matthew Schmidt, another son in attendance, said, “This is extremely special. He was all about the community, as well as the church.”
The newly installed signs just may help Rev. Schmidt’s legacy live on. As president of the congregation, Tamara Thomas, stated, “If there is one word that can describe Pastor Schmidt, it is ‘caring.’ He taught us to care for others. When you drive on and see his name, ask yourself: How can I care for others?”