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Ken Schmoker

August 15, 1926 ~ November 1, 2017 (age 91)

Kenneth John Schmoker

Kenneth John Schmoker, 91, Bemidji, passed away on 11/1/17 at Sanford Medical Center.

Ken was born on August 15, 1926 to Harley and Mildred Schmoker in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and grew up on a farm that was homesteaded by his grandfather who emigrated from Switzerland.  He attended a one room country school through 8th grade.  In order to get to high school and to deliver milk from the farm, Ken and his brother drove a model A Ford to town, dropped off the cans of milk, went to school, picked up the empty milk cans after school or practice and then drove home.  His parents excused Ken and his brother from a lot of the farm work during school in order for them to participate in sports and other school functions for which they were most grateful.  Ken graduated from Fort Dodge High School in 1944. He participated in football, wrestling and track.  Ken was a Des Moines Register All State Guard and State Runner-up at the 145 pound weight class.  In his yearbooks, the Wrestling Coach said that Ken was “The spark plug of the team”, and his football coach said that he was “Really a package of dynamite.  He was the smallest man on the squad, but his speed and endurance adequately made up for his size.  He was in there on every tackle and was also a fine blocker.”

 After graduating, Ken enlisted in the Army Air Force.  Since he was not immediately called to duty, he took advantage of a scholarship from Drake University to play football and lettered in the sport that fall.  Their team went to a Thanksgiving Bowl Game against Wichita.

Ken entered the AAF February 1945 and trained in St. Louis.  He watched the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Browns play every week because the tickets were free to those in the service. In Feb 1946 he went across the Atlantic Ocean on the U.S.S. George Washington.  As the ship sailed through the English Channel the waves were so high that the propeller came out of the water and the boat almost sank.  He served overseas in the European Theatre till his discharge.

 After his discharge from the AAF, Ken attended Fort Dodge Junior College where he was the co-captain of the Football Team.  During that year, Ken and a friend organized a YMCA wrestling team.  They wrestled in AAU meets, State YMCA meets and some duals.  He later transferred to Colorado State University (now University of Northern Colorado) in Greeley on a full athletic scholarship.  At Colorado State, Ken majored in Industrial Arts and minored in Physical Education and Social Studies.  In wrestling he won three consecutive Rocky Mountain Conference Championship Titles, participated in two NCAA Division 1 Championships and the National AAU Tournament.  In his senior year he earned All-American honors.   He lettered three years in Football.

Ken started his teaching and coaching career at Trinidad High School in Colorado.  He coached football, basketball and tennis there.  He then moved on to Pueblo Centennial High School for the next four years.  He taught Industrial Arts and coached wrestling and tennis, and assisted with the football program.  His Wresting Team won the Colorado State Championship in 1954.   Ken was the President of the Colorado Coaches & Officials Association and Member of the National High School Wrestling Rules Committee.

It was in Pueblo that he met his wife Maedel.  They were married in 1953.  Ken and Maedel returned to the Midwest and accepted teaching jobs at Burlington High School, Iowa.  Before the fall school year began though, they visited Bemidji, MN and decided that they wanted to settle there.  They bought a lot on Lake Bemidji and at the end of the school year they moved to Bemidji, pitched a tent on their lot and started building their home.   Ken taught and coached at Laporte High School for one year before accepting a position at Bemidji High School.

At BHS, Ken taught Industrial Arts and guided the wrestling team from 1958-1976.  His teams won 10 District Championship Titles, nine Region 8 crowns and two NW Conference Championships.  He served as assistant football coach, ran the summer baseball program for several years and helped with other sports as needed.  Ken was a long-time advocate for wrestling and the people who participate in the sport.  As a coach, he was known as a taskmaster who molded young people to stand on their own two feet and strive to become the best possible individuals they could.  Many of his wrestlers gave him full credit for pointing them in the right direction in their lives.   He organized and directed many wrestling tournaments, including District and Regional Tournaments.  Ken enjoyed visiting with his former wrestlers at the 2015 BHS All School Reunion.

 Ken was an initial inductee into the BHS Lumberjack Hall of Fame in 1996.  He was inducted into the MN State Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame in 2002, the BHS Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003, and the National Wresting Hall of Fame in 2009.

His interests included building and woodworking.  Ken could build and fix almost anything.  He took pride in the work he did and was not satisfied until the end product was up to his standards.

He is survived by his wife Maedel, son David, daughter Mary Ann (Rod Anttila), and grandson Kenneth.

He was preceded in death by his parents and his brother Gerald who was killed in WWII.

Per Ken’s request, no services will be held.  Interment will be at Greenwood Cemetery in Bemidji.  Memorials may be made to a charity of your choice.  Special thanks to the doctors, nurses and staff at Sanford for his care.

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