Rev. Dr. John Schmidtke
September 23rd, 1962–May 12, 2022
John Schmidtke was a creative leader in urban ministry, but more than that, he was a pastor who served a congregation and the community for more than 30 years. His legacy in the Hyde Park Community will be more than just the neighborhood housing development of which he was a driving force. He showed mercy to countless lives, people who might have been forgotten by others, but not Christ and His servant John. The comfort for all those who mourn is the same message that Pastor Schmidtke proclaimed week after week– Christ, and Him crucified, and risen again.
– Rev. Dr. Lee Hagan
President, Missouri District
John Richard Schmidtke was the first child of Robert and Marilyn Schmidtke, born September 23rd, 1962, at Sheboygan Memorial Hospital in Sheboygan, WI. He was baptized in October 1962 and confirmed in May 1976 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Sheboygan.
He started playing the trumpet when he was 5 years old, joining the Sheboygan Youth Band at 10 years old, as the youngest member of the band. It is no surprise that he went into ministry as he began “playing church” when he was 5 years old from a “play” pulpit, with a stole given to him by his now late Grandma “K” (Koehlinger).
Pastor Schmidtke enjoyed playing basketball and being in the band, specifically the jazz band. By way of a basketball injury, rather than joining a touring jazz band, he attended a camp at the Eastman School of Music (Rochester, NY) the summer before he graduated high school at Sheboygan High South in 1980.
At this camp, Pastor Schmidtke met his wife, Sharon Schmidtke. Their love story began with a simple postcard, followed by a love letter. Christmas of 1980 was the first of many Schmidtke holidays for the two. They were married on June 25, 1983.
Pastor Schmidtke graduated Lawrence University (Appleton, WI) in spring 1983, double majoring in theology and music. He entered Concordia Seminary (St. Louis, MO) that same fall. As a field worker for Zion Lutheran Church, he fell in love with the city of St. Louis. His vicarage was at Christ Lutheran Church in Peoria, IL, where he would accept his first call after graduating as a Master of Divinity in spring 1987.
July 1987, Pastor Schmidtke and Sharon celebrated the birth of their first son, Daniel. February 1989, their second son, Michael, was born.
Later that spring, Pastor Schmidtke accepted a call to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Louis. Thrilled to be back in the city, he knew he had a job to do at Bethlehem. He initiated his ministry of spreading God’s Word using programs that engaged children and their families in Bethlehem’s Hyde Park community, such as “Wednesday program” (which later evolved into the present-day BBO or Bethlehem Bible Outreach), basketball, and choirs for children and adults. As Bethlehem and its ministries grew, Pastor Schmidtke became embedded into the north St. Louis community. He was often seen picking up or dropping off children and families in the church van, coaching or refereeing basketball, visiting with congregants, and sometimes letting people know “we missed you” at church or Bible study.
November 1991, Pastor Schmidtke and Sharon welcomed their youngest son, Nathaniel (Nat), into their family.
Pastor Schmidtke’s fierce love of music was a driver of Bethlehem’s ministry. He wrote songs for 3 Bethlehem Lutheran Church Choir albums. In addition to being sung on Sundays, these songs were part of several choir tours of the midwest and east coast. The choir was often featured in local events and when visiting collaborating sister churches. He also wrote plays, Biblical musicals, and skits for church outreach programs like Vacation Bible School and Taking Jesus to the Streets.
Under the direction of Pastor Schmidtke's open and welcoming spirit, the Schmidtke household often includes “additional family members”. Some are young adults in need of a place to stay and a fresh start. Others do not reside in the house, but are there regularly as friends of the family. This, along with 3 growing boys, developed John’s love for cooking and doing so in large quantities, which in turn led to invitations from Sharon for others to help “clean out the fridge”.
In 2001, Pastor Schmidtke and Sharon began fostering a teenager that had grown up at Bethlehem, Tequila Pruitt, who became a permanent addition to the Schmidtke family.
Sports were a huge part of Pastor Schmidtke's life, both from ministerial and personal standpoints. In ministry, John was instrumental in the development and maintenance of Lutheran church league basketball in St. Louis and beyond. He initiated basketball ministries at Bethlehem for children from 3rd grade through high school, often coaching, refereeing, organizing, or sitting at the scorer’s table. Pastor Schmidtke was a long-time basketball referee for the Missouri State High School Activities Association. He also coached basketball teams for his 3 boys, and many of their teammates became “additional family members.” After his coaching days for them, Pastor Schmidtke was their biggest fan, and was often seen attending basketball and football games at Lutheran High School North or wearing apparel from Valparaiso, North Carolina State, Murray State, or Concordia-St. Paul.
Pastor Schmidtke was not only present in the north St. Louis community, but sought to build the community through addressing needs for improved housing and education. This began with work on local church members’ homes and development of a few individual properties. In October 2004, ground broke on Phase 1 of the housing development, Better Living Communities. Better Living Communities would eventually build over 100 homes in Hyde Park, opening up opportunities to minister to new families in the area. Pastor Schmidtke helped initiate charter schools housed in the Bethlehem school building, along with the Bethlehem After School (BAS) ministry. Later, he also initiated efforts to bring Christ to the Jennings and Ferguson areas of St. Louis through the Ephratha Activity Center (EAC) after-school ministry. The “Greater Things” campaign that started EAC (along with subsequent funding initiatives) also brought an associate pastor, Rev. Gerard Bolling. In 2013, Pastor Schmidtke was recognized for his ministry efforts by Concordia University-St. Paul with an honorary doctorate.
With help from the addition of Pastor Bolling, Pastor Schmidtke was able to finish a project he’d been working on to compile a series of essays to educate others on the realities, struggles, and successes of his inner-city ministry experience. In 2019, Pastor Schmidtke published “A Place Not Forgotten”.
Schmidtke was known for his joyful and infectious spirit. He cherished his wife, Sharon, and loved to travel with her. He loved to laugh and readily engaged in silly banter with his brothers and sons. He loved family gatherings with his parents at Crystal Lake and Elkhart Lake in Wisconsin. With the introduction of virtual Bible studies, he loved being able to study God’s Word with his father, sons, and nephews. He loved traveling to see his nieces, nephews, and grandchildren for baptisms, games, graduations, Halloween, or just because he hadn’t seen them in a while.
Rev. Dr. John Schmidtke leaves to cherish his memory: his wife, Sharon; his sons, Daniel (Amber), Michael (Genese), and Nathaniel (Paola) Schmidtke; his daughter, Tequila Pruitt; grandchildren Jesus, Jose, Taylar, Joseph, Asher, Marilyn, and grandson to come; his parents, Robert and Marilyn Schmidtke; his brothers, James (Jennifer), David (Renette), and Thomas (Jenifer) Schmidtke; his nieces and nephews, Helen, Galen, Joshua, Maxwell, Jonah, Julia, Isaiah, Jacob, and Mason; and his cousins; and each of the lives that he touched over the years.
Thursday, May 19 5-8pm
Bethlehem Lutheran Church
2153 Salisbury St. St Louis, MO 63107
Friday, May 20 1pm
Faith Lutheran Church Oakville
6101 Telegraph Rd. St. Louis, MO 63129
LCMS Clergy members are invited to vest and process/recess with the color of the day as your most colorful and expressive stole. Commissioned ministers of the LCMS are invited to process and recess as well. Clergy/Ministers, please arrive 30 minutes beforehand (12:30pm).
The family is requesting donations to Bethlehem Lutheran Church in lieu of flowers.