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Fred and Norma Jean Schmidt with their recently refurbished thorn brown 1931 Model A sport coupe, which Fred will drive in Saturday's Blossomtime Parade. The Schmidts are honorary marshals for the parade. Lila Chandler / H-P correspondent

Vintage car legacy earns Schmidts an honorary marshaldom in parade.

By LILA CHANDLER - H-P Correspondent
Published: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 1:07 PM EDT
STEVENSVILLE - As they have for more than 35 years, Fred Schmidt and his wife Norma Jean will ride in one of their antique cars in Saturday's Blossomtime Parade.

This year for the first time they have the distinction of being honorary marshals. That makes Fred's recent refurbishing of his 1931 Model A Ford sport coupe seem like perfect timing - though he completed the restoration before he got the call from the parade committee.

"I think it's a great privilege. I've always enjoyed the parade, and I think it's a well-run parade," Fred said. "I was surprised when they called and said they wanted to do this. There are probably other people who were more worthy than I. It's a great honor."

The Schmidts have lived in the Stevensville area since 1973. Fred was superintendent of Lakeshore schools from then until 1984. In 1975, Fred drove in the parade for the first time with a Model T while a friend drove his vintage Dodge. They draped a Lakeshore Rotary Club banner across one of the cars.
In 1978, Fred debuted his thorn brown 1931 Model A after several years of frame restoration. Over the years, many friends and relatives have ridden in the rumble seat.

"Some days the weather was wonderful, sometimes cold and rainy. We did it all. Every time, people gave us a good reception," Fred said.

He said that when the car stopped for slower units ahead, crowd members would approach and ask about the vehicle. They even asked to turn the crank starter and contribute water to the radiator.

The parade appearances have led to invites to retirement parties, wedding receptions and other special occasions - and the Schmidts have obliged.

"We've had many a bride in the rumble seat," Norma Jean said.

Fred has owned at least a half-dozen antique cars over the years, but the Model A is his favorite.

"When I was in high school in the mid-'40s I had a 1930 or '31 Model A sedan and courted the girls around," he said. "It was a two-door with a back seat," his first car.

"I never lost any money, but I didn't make big bucks (selling antique cars) either," Fred said.

He said he usually regrets selling an antique car. He actually did re-purchase one for the price he sold it.

"It's a fun hobby. It takes you out and around, and you meet interesting people," Norma Jean said. "He has had so much fun with his cars over the years."

Fred has beaten cancer twice and is battling non-Hodgkins lymphoma. This week, he postponed a chemotherapy treatment to have enough energy to drive in the parade. Norma Jean said, "It's a highly treatable form of cancer, and we believe he will be cured."

Click here to see them in parade.
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