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Always one who followed the different path after graduation

By Staff | Sep 25, 2010

I have not been back to any of my high school class reunions.

If there have, indeed, actually been any. I have my doubts.

Graduating in a class of 550 in Denver, Colo., and moving to Minnesota the very next day tends to put the kibosh on returning for a reunion.

Recently, however, I broke my personal record of having not attended a class reunion. But, this one did not involve my fellow high school classmates.

Instead, it was the reunion of the Bethany Lutheran College (Mankato) Class of 1970.

More than 30 percent (roughly 30 of the 90 class members) were in attendance. Included were my fellow Faribault County residents, Jim (Olaf) Haaland, of Frost, and his bride Judi (Honsey) Haaland (a member of the BLC Class of 1971, actually).

Having not been to any other reunion, I don’t have many ways to judge this one, but my guess is, it was pretty similar to every other one.

Especially when a bunch of recent, or soon-to-be, 60-year-olds gather.

The main topics were; “When are you going to retire?” and “How many grandchildren do you have?”

It was surprising that some of the class members looked very similar as to how they looked 40 years ago. Others, however, had changed dramatically.

Not always for the good.

Some didn’t look 60. (I count myself in that category, but it could be wishful thinking.) Others looked their age – or even much older.

Most of us had turned out alright. We have gotten jobs, raised some kids, been active, traveled a mite.

You know, the usual stuff of life. Nothing too exciting, considering the Class of 1970 was actually pretty rowdy, and is widely known to have broken a lot of the archaic rules of the college.

It was the years of Nixon, Vietnam and war protests. It was a time of not obeying the establishment and its rules, and that translated into college rules as well.

In fact, the college dean at BLC at the time has been known to call 1968-1972 the “Dark Years” at Bethany.

Somehow, though, we as a class became pretty, well, normal.

Well, almost all of us.

There is always one who has followed a different path on this road of life.

In this case it was Michael Schmidt, a classmate from Gibbon.

He started out on the normal route; got married, ran a business in Minneapolis, owned a home.

But, 21 years ago, he got divorced, got out of his business and made a lifestyle change.

After seeing an ad in the Star-Tribune, Schmidt went to England where he took a 10-week class on how to become an English butler.

After graduating from that academy, he landed a job – which he still has – as the butler for a lady from Florida.

A lady, who at the time, was 57 years old and worth more than $350 million. Some of the money may have come from her grandfather and pirating in the Caribbean, but no one knows for sure.

Besides her several homes in Florida, she also owns homes in New York City, Sun Valley, Idaho, and in Europe.

They travel a lot. Schmidt has been to every continent and nearly every ‘civilized’ country in the world.

He has been with her when she has attended functions involving heads-of-state and other famous people.

So many of them, in fact, that he has almost lost track of them all. Or he doesn’t wish to name-drop.

Schmidt says his years of working for the lady has now evolved into something similar to an old marriage. He is still the servant and she is still the boss, but now he can voice his opinions on things, and the two discuss (or even argue) about many issues.

And, of course, he has been well compensated for his work.

Schmidt now owns his own homes in Naples, New York, and Sun Valley.

Is he thinking about retiring sometime soon?

Heavens no, he replies.

“I would be crazy to give up this lifestyle and quit living in multi-million dollar mansions and driving awesome cars, just to retire,” he says. “Besides, this is just way too much fun.”

Not exactly your average life of a small town Minnesota boy. More like “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”

Or, at least a butler to the rich and famous.