WAYSIDE, Wis. — Wayne Louis Schmidt, 89, recently of Wayside, Wis., and formerly of Buckley, died peacefully on the morning of Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, at Wayside Parkview Estates.
A funeral service will be at 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, at the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, 8378 County Road W, Wayside, Wis., with burial to follow in the church cemetery. Visitation for friends and family will be from noon to 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, at the church. Funeral arrangements are being handled by the Nickel Funeral Home in Morrison, Wis.
Mr. Schmidt was born May 11, 1930, in the Town of Lawrence, Wis., to Erma (Scheibe) and H. Harris Schmidt of Wrightstown, Wis., where he lived and attended school, graduating from Wrightstown High School in 1948 and working for his father’s various businesses. On Feb. 3, 1951, he married Elaine Natzke of Wayside, Wis., whom he had met while at the Natzkes’ farm installing DeLaval milking equipment for his father’s dealership. In October of that year, he joined the U.S. Air Force, serving for four years as staff sergeant, first at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, and then at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul.
Upon being discharged, he returned with his growing family to Wrightstown, Wis., where he owned and operated a television and appliance business. In 1957, he moved his family and his business to Illinois, settling in Buckley, where he would remain until he and Elaine retired to Wayside, Wis., in the autumn of 2019.
Living in Buckley, he and his wife were active and involved members of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, where, in earlier years, he served on the board of elders. In 1967, he was one of the Central Illinois District’s delegates to the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s national convention in New York City, returning as an observer in 1969 when the then-biennial convention was held in Denver, Colo.
In 1959, he joined the staff of the Coördinated Science Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, one of a handful of technicians working under Donald Bitzer.
While there, his team built the circuitry and equipment to run Dr. Bitzer’s pioneering computer system PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations), which changed the world with such developments and innovations as computer forums, message boards, email, chat rooms, emoticons, instant messaging, remote screen sharing and multi-player video games, including the earliest versions of Dungeons & Dragons. (PLATO would be immortalized as the computer HAL in Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”)
Among the projects during his years under Dr. Bitzer was helping to build, in 1964, prototypes of the world’s first plasma screen, an orange-on-black monochrome version ubiquitous in early computers, later incorporated into the full-color plasma screen introduced by Fujitsu in 1992. When he left the U of I, he had been working on the earliest builds of a display that would respond to human touch.
In the early 1970s, he decided on a major career change when he realized a childhood dream of becoming a “cowboy” — joining the Teamsters and driving cross-country for Schneider of Green Bay, Wis., for the next 17 years, delivering truckloads of almost any product imaginable to destinations throughout the U.S. It was a proud moment in his life when he was inducted into Schneider’s Million Mile Club.
Surviving are his loving wife of nearly 69 years, Elaine, of Wayside Parkview Estates; his children, Clyde Schmidt of Missouri, Lynne Schmidt-Barlow of Ballwin, Mo., Lisa (Patrick) Rock of Dwight, Clynt Schmidt of Maple, Wis., LuAnn (Charles) O’Connor of Hot Springs, Ark., and Lori (Kevin) Fetters of Buckley; eight grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; his brothers Gene (Jean) Schmidt of Greenleaf, Wis., and Lee (Sharon Puttmann) of Madison, Wis.; his sister, Karen (Keith) Montanye of Pflugerville, Texas; and his sister-in-law, Ruth Schmidt of Appleton, Wis.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his brother Ralph; and his son-in-law, Rick Rascher.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to a worthy cause of the donor’s choice.