his Life

A Eulogy for Bampa - by Kelsey Rose Blain

Delivered at the Funeral Mass of Paul Schmitt 
June 16, 2020

On behalf of my grandma and family, thank you for being here today as we celebrate the amazing life of Paul Edward Schmitt.

Everyone knows Paul Schmitt the football referee, the husband, father, brother, mentor and friend, but today I am going to talk to you about Paul Schmitt, the grandpa… or to some of us Bampa. A name that originated from combining Paul and Grandpa.

It was Christmas day and wrapping paper was all over the floor from presents being opened. But everyone’s eyes were focused on the three 12 year old boys standing in front of their grandpa. Despite the Santa Claus hat and the jolly ole Saint Nick voice, the commanding presence of this tall man had their undivided attention. The main event was about to begin and the audience of family members and friends eagerly waited to see who would pass the test.

What was the test you ask? No, it wasn’t a quiz about the signals for illegal procedure, off sides, or personal foul. Instead it was questions about a book that was mandatory reading for all the grandsons of Paul Edward Schmitt… What book was that? How to be a Gentlemen. A book that truly describes our Grandpa.

Here are five characteristics of a gentleman.

#1 – A Gentleman is FAIR. As a referee grandpa was always fair. Whether on or off the football field, Grandpa kept his nine siblings, six children, and 13 grandchildren in line. Growing up, I remember the grandsons getting in trouble (some were more devious than others). Grandpa would quickly turn on his referee voice and they would straighten up real quick. No one wanted to get in trouble with grandpa.  

In true referee style grandpa passed away in the comfort of his home with a house full of people but not one person was in the room when he died – we figured it was to not show favoritism. He was truly fair until the end. 

# 2 – A Gentleman is CONFIDENT. Standing a tall and confident 6 foot 3 inches, grandpa had a commanding presence that when he entered the room everyone would notice. He was a man of few words, but when he spoke he had everyone’s undivided attention. His confidence wasn’t arrogant but a comforting presence. Even at the end of his life, grandpa’s commanding presence broadly casts this sense of comfort to all those circling him with love. 

#3 – A Gentlemen is RESPECTFUL. Grandpa always treated everyone with respect. Regardless of their age, sex, education or skin color, he judged a person by their character alone. In the early 1970’s one of the first Black Referees officiated a high school football game. Grandpa played an instrumental role in making this happen. He went into the Black community to recruit and train black officials. He said he saw that the game was changing and something needed to be done. He was a man of vision and he respected the game enough to challenge the norm at the time. Later, Grandpa mentored the first collegiate female official. A young woman whom he described as “sharp and fearless,” nothing about her gender.

#4 – A Gentlemen is LOVING. Grandpa had two great loves… FOOTBALL and GRANDMA. My sister and I were fortunate to have been able to travel on one of grandpa’s last football trips. It was truly amazing to see the amount of dedication Grandpa had when it came to being prepared for a game. He wasn’t just prepared, he was overly prepared in his element.

On the day of the game, the referees and grandpa were scheduled to meet down in the lobby. Grandma informed Erin and me that she had to go down with him and send him off. Sealed with a kiss and quick good luck, the ritual with over 50 years of practice had been perfected.

If you have ever been fortunate enough to watch a football game with my grandparents, you will know that grandma is the true referee in the family. Whenever a penalty flag is throw, grandpa will look over at grandma who will say the penalty. Grandpa sitting back with no words will knock in affirmation. She is never wrong.  

#5 – A Gentlemen is FAITHFUL. Grandpa was truly faithful to God, his wife, family, and friends. Whenever we would ask grandpa to tell us a story, he would tell us how he met grandma. While everyone thinks it was when he and Bill Lange drove by her and her friends, Paul Schmitt claims it was a week earlier at a team club. He said he saw this Dearing girl with the peroxide stripe in her hair dancing around and I said damn - I have to meet her. 

As grandma would say it all began in 1958 and you (all of us grandchildren) are the history.

There are 13 grandchildren and none of us are pro football players. However, grandpa’s commitment to supporting us, whether it be in music, dance, acting, cooking, rugby, education or the military was at the same level of dedication and preparation that he attacked a football game.

Grandpa said “Getting old is like playing football… you keep playing through the pain.” Well Grandpa – the clock has run out and you have scored the winning touchdown. Enjoy the victory, like the true gentleman you are.

Football Officiating - Dad's passion

Dad spent most Fall weekends officiating football, first with the Catholic Schools Athletic Association and then at the high school and college levels. In 1976, Paul founded the Southern Independent Collegiate Officiating Association (SICOA) to work with the large independent colleges of the day including the University of Miami, the University of Louisville, Florida State, Virginia Tech, and the University of South Carolina.

Paul was on the field for some of the biggest games in college football history. When Boston College traveled to Miami on November 23, 1984, Paul was the referee. With six seconds remaining in that game, Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie spun out of the pocket and launched a 64-yard Hail Mary pass to upset the defending national champions. Known as the Miracle in Miami, that game was a defining moment in Paul’s 52-year career as a college football official. Paul would later be featured in the CBS Sports documentary "Hail Flutie"

Paul was also the referee in the 1987 Orange Bowl when he ordered the suspended Oklahoma linebacker, Brian Bosworth, off the field.

Paul once said there was no place he would rather be on a Saturday in autumn than on the field or in the replay booth for a college football game.

But Paul’s real legacy is in the opportunity he provided to dozens of high school, college, and NFL officials. He mentored the first female college official who now officiates in the NFL. Another of his recruits became the NFL’s first Hispanic referee, and is now the NFL’s head of officials. 

In 2007, Paul founded You Make the Call, a truck brokering business. He was a devoted member of the Flaget Alumni Association and the Sportsmen’s Supper Club, and a member of Toastmasters International. He worked for Louisville’s annual Pegasus Parade for 20 years, serving as its chairman in 1984. A dedicated sports fan his entire life, Paul, along with Barbara, was a longtime booster of Bellarmine and University of Louisville athletics.

Paul was pre-deceased by his parents Karl and Helen Schmitt, and his brother, Mike Schmitt. He is survived by his wife, Barbara (née Dearing) and their children, Kathy Schmitt (Finbar Kinsella), Karla Blain (Jeff), Lieutenant Colonel John Schmitt (Sandra Da Silva), Dominic Schmitt (Emilie Deutsch), Gina Priddy (Chuck), and Clare Schmitt; grandchildren Erin, Kelsey, Isaiah, Jacob, Brendan, Gretchen, Zoë, Bruna, Collette, Hannah, Ronan, Shane, and Delia; siblings Hilda Carr, Ruth Hendrickson, Becky Williams (Neil), Suzy Stone, Nick Schmitt (Molly), Karl Schmitt Jr. (Melinda), Nancy Wimberg (Tom), and Anne Schmitt; brothers-in-law Greg Dearing (Connie), and Bill Dearing (Caroline); sister-in-law Zella Dearing Fraze; an aunt, Pat; and 29 nieces and nephews.  

A lover of fudgsicles and the famous Dairy Kastle Brown Derby, Paul was adored and admired by many for his calm and compassion, his generosity and affection, and his unparalleled smoked pork shoulder. He loved nothing more than making a huge waffle breakfast on weekend mornings, or spending Sunday afternoons grilling and talking by the pool with his large family. His home was a hub of energy and activity with children, grandchildren, friends, and relatives coming and going. Husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, mentor, and friend – we will love you forever.