Kent firefighter leaves his legacy, love for family

Honoring a hero: Friends, family and fellow firefighters gathered to celebrate the life of Robert  W. “Bob” Schmidt who died April 21.   - Michelle Conerly, Kent Reporter
Honoring a hero: Friends, family and fellow firefighters gathered to celebrate the life of Robert W. “Bob” Schmidt who died April 21.
— image credit: Michelle Conerly, Kent Reporter

Robert "Uncle Bob" Schmidt was lucky enough to have two families – his wife, Kim, and two sons, Alex and Erik, and his fire family.

On the day he died, the Kent firefighter lay in the comfort of his own home surrounded by both families.

"He was happiest when he was with his family," said Chaplain Pat Ellis as he spoke to a crowd Tuesday at a memorial service at River of Life Church in Kent.

Schmidt, 50, died April 21 after a 10-month battle with brain cancer.

Families and more than 100 firefighters from throughout the state gathered to celebrate Schmidt's life and accomplishments.

Fire trucks lined the entrance of the parking lot of the church while a large U.S. flag was suspended in the air between sets of ladders. Inside, a portrait of Schmidt stood on one side of the stage, his gear and badges on the other, and a replica fire truck served as a podium during the service.

The everlasting bond Schmidt created with members of both families became the focus of the service.

"It's about family," said Capt. Kraig "Gus" Peiguss, a fellow C-shifter at Fire Station 71 who worked alongside Schmidt. "(And) that's what Bob represented to us."

Schmidt worked more than 20 years at the Kent Fire Department. He previously worked as a grocer, property manager in Puyallup and landscaper. But in everything he did, Schmidt put family first.

Working in the produce department of a grocery store before joining the fire service, Schmidt pulled some strings for his 19-year-old nephew, Lt. Jason Blachly, helping him get a job at the same location. Years later, when Blachly wanted to join the fire service like his Uncle Bob, Schmidt once again was there to help prepare him for interviews, advise him on procedure, and answer any questions.

"Bob had a tremendous sense of family, and was always willing and eager to help," Blachly said. "Sixteen years later, I've been with the city of Lynnwood as a direct correlation of what Bob did for (me.) It was an honor for me to call him my uncle and my brother."

Schmidt also was known for his great sense of humor, which was reflected in Peiguss' recounting of the memories he shared with him. From Schmidt's many ridiculous but true stories he told at the dinner table to Schmidt's lighthearted manner, Peiguss painted a picture of the man everyone loved dearly. As Peiguss spoke, the rest of the C-shift stood behind him, honoring their fellow brother.

Many close friends and family members spoke at the service, and three slideshows projected on the walls of the church depicted photos of Schmidt as a young man, among friends at work, and spending time with his wife and children.

Near the end of the service, the honor guard folded the flag draped across Schmidt's casket and presented it to his wife. His badges also were given to each of his sons.

Before the crowd left the church, Chaplain Lisa Ellis read an excerpt from the novel "Peter Pan" by J.M. Barrie, confirming Schmidt's child-like presence to all around him.

"You know that place between sleep and awake," Ellis read, "that place where you can still remember dreaming? That's where I will always love you. That's where I'll be waiting."

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