Art passed away peacefully on Saturday, June 29. He was 93 years old. Art was born in Kaukauna, WI on April 2, 1926, to Albert and Margaret Schmidt who taught him early on the importance of having faith in God. Art was the first of eight children including two brothers, Ray (Carol, deceased; Laverne) and William, deceased (Barbara), and five sisters including Helen (Ignatius, deceased) Lenz, Ellie (Marvin) Hietpas, Mary Ann (Frank, deceased) Austin, Margaret (Edward) Mentzer, and Florence (Michael) McKenna. Art was a WWII veteran, where he proudly served as head of a motor pool stateside before the end of the war.
In 1951, Art and his brother, Ray, bought a fuel oil route in Kimberly, Wisconsin, and founded Schmidt Brothers Oil Company. Working with their father Albert—and later their brother, Bill, who joined the company in 1961—they renamed the growing company to U.S. Oil Co., Inc. The company became an important participant in the marketing of refined oil products in Wisconsin and the Midwest, as well as a major distributor of tires, auto parts, and motor and machining oils. During the 1970s, Art served as president of the Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers Association, which led to his testifying before Congress about the impact of oil shortages on independent marketers. He was also engaged at the national level in the American Petroleum Institute.
Art will be remembered as an exceptional entrepreneur, having grown U.S. Oil into what is known today as U.S. Venture—one of the largest, privately-held companies in Wisconsin. Art retired as president of U.S. Oil in 1989 and remained chairman of the board until 1998. Today U.S. Venture remains family owned. It employs 2225 people in 22 states and does business in 45 states.
Art leaves behind a legacy of generosity and caring for those less fortunate. His charitable works were varied and extensive. In the mid-1980s Art supported his brother Bill’s passion to found and grow a charitable golf outing. What is now called the U.S. Venture Open is an annual charitable outing that has grown into one of the largest one-day fundraising events in the country. Since its inception the U.S. Venture Open has raised over $42 million for central Wisconsin charities.
Those who knew and loved Art will always cherish the memory of his loving spirit, his good humor, his eagerness to help others, and above all his abiding love for his large family. Alongside his beloved wife Gladys he enjoyed doing anything with his children and grandchildren. Well into his 80’s Art was an avid and excellent tennis player and an avid (and not so excellent) golfer. He loved to play cards. He loved to laugh, and he did it a lot.
Art’s Christian faith was always at the center of his life, and few have lived as fully the Commandment that tells us to love our neighbor. He treated everyone—friend or stranger—with an open and loving heart. And he never saw a problem that he didn’t try to solve. Despite his many accomplishments Art remained steadfastly humble, and always attributed his successes to abundant blessings from God. Every night of his life—until his body would no longer cooperate—Art physically got down on his knees and prayed. He will be sorely missed, but Art’s children and grandchildren will treasure Art’s memory as a towering role model of unselfish love.
Art is survived by his loving wife of 71 years, Gladys Hermsen, and nine children: Thomas (Mary), Mary Kay (William) Kessenich, Barbara (Robert) Steinbrunn, James (Valerie), John (Julie), Tim (Jill), Margaret (William) Kelley, Carol (Neil) Kelley, Ann (James) Anholzer, as well as 35 grandchildren and 25 great grandchildren. Art was preceded in death by his parents, his mother and father-in law Delia and Jack Hermsen, and his brother Bill. He was also the beloved brother-in-law of Glady’s siblings Reg (Nancy, deceased) Hermsen, Joan (Larry, deceased) Milhaupt, Audrey (Bill, deceased) Pire, Lois, deceased (Tom) Knutson, Ginny (Rudy, deceased) Hermus, Lori (Tom, deceased) Staniak, Don (Diane) Hermsen, and Roger (Pat) Hermsen.
The love, support, kindness and care of the Touchmark staff in Appleton and the Heartland Hospice team will live on in his family's hearts.
There will be a visitation on Sunday, July 7, 2019 at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 1617 W. Pine St., Appleton, WI, from 3:30-6:30 pm followed by a prayer service. There also will be visitation on July 8 from 9:30-10:45 am followed by the Mass of Christian Burial at 11:00 am. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Kenya Works (www.kenyaworks.org), Vicodec (www.usventure.com/giving-back/vicodec/), Riverview Gardens (www.riverviewgardens.org) or Hope Clinic & Care Center (www.hopeclinic.care).