Raised to serve others

George was raised in Linden, New Jersey, at a time when service to the country was highly respected. As were nearly all the adult males on his block, his parents were World War II veterans – his father Neil fought as an infantry soldier in Europe and his mother Mary served in the Army Nurse Corps on Okinawa, Japan. George said his interest in justice and democracy began when he was young, listening to the stories of his family about poverty during the Great Depression and battles against Nazism and imperialism.

George followed the example and teaching of his parents, Neil Schmidt and Mary Schmidt, both WW II veterans. Picture shows George receiving Eagle Scout award at age 13.His mother Mary, who after the war continued to work part time as a nurse, and his father Neil, who worked in the post office, taught George and his younger brother Tommy and younger sisters Joan and Terry to value hard work, education and fairness. Throughout his life, George honored his parents and these values.

“My parents placed education and understanding in front of material things and insisted that their children share those same values,” George wrote in a letter to me (in 2007). “The ideas that a human society should be governed by commercial and financial greed was almost incomprehensible to them, and I think that was based on what they had seen firsthand in their own lives and during the war they helped win.”

George always honored his parents, Mary and Neil, who died in 1985 and 1995. Without them, he honored my parents – Em and Jean Griffin. He respected intellectual and creative gifts, strong values and virtuous lives. He also honored them simply because that’s the right thing to do, to honor your parents.George always honored his parents, and as a side note, without them (as they died in the 80s and 90s), he honored my parents. He respected intellectual and creative gifts, strong values and virtuous lives. He also honored them simply because that’s the right thing to do, to honor your parents.

Like his father, George was gifted with intellectual curiosity and abilities. He was his kindergarten’s valedictorian. His voracious reading and prolific writing began as a child. He excelled academically. He also embraced scouting, rising to Eagle Scout as a 13-year-old.

George at 13.“Among the neighborhood kids and school and boy scouts, George was always the very creative leader,” his brother Thomas Lanigan Schmidt wrote. “George, me and a small group of other kids used to go on all-day-long hikes from Linden to the Staten Island zoo. Amazing, that he had such a strong sense of leadership qualities at such a young age (12ish), to walk from Linden across the Goethals Bridge and then all the way across Staten Island to the zoo.”

The brothers served as alter boys at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Linden. Tommy told me they knew how to pray in Latin back then. George helped the family financially, as did his siblings. He worked a daily paper route for the Newark Star Ledger from age 12 until he left home for college. Every day, except Sunday, George prepared the papers and biked his route. On Sundays, because the edition was too big for his usual one or two trips on his bike, his father drove him.


Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

4 + 4 =