Mike Schmitz, general sales manager for the La Crosse Radio Group, is being remembered for his kindness and community involvement.
Schmitz, who had health problems, died Sunday at the Sparta hospital at age 56. Dickinson Family Funeral Homes is handling funeral arrangements.
In 1992, after his years of helping to raise money for others, friends held fundraisers to pay for a kidney transplant for Schmitz.
In an interview at the time with the La Crosse Tribune, Schmitz said doctors discovered he had diabetes when he was 13. He lived in Holmen and was well-known in the area for raising funds for the Onalaska High School Band, the Holmen library, and many other charitable or community causes, the newspaper reported.
"He was certainly a man of integrity," Pat Smith, general manager of the La Crosse Radio Group, which operates five area radio stations, said Monday. "He had a quiet leadership style. He basically led by example.
"He was a joy to work with," said Smith, who often sought advice from Schmitz on how to overcome a challenge. "It's hard to believe that now I can't just walk down the hall and ask him how to solve this problem." Schmitz loved the outdoors and built his "dream home" in the Melvina area a few years ago, he said.
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"He was kind, gentle and charitable," Pat Stephens, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse director of collegiate gifts, said of Schmitz. "He was one of the most community-minded people I've ever worked with."
Stephens worked with Schmitz on such celebrations as Deke Slayton Airfest, Freedom Fest and Riverfest. They also served together on the Holmen Area Foundation board. Schmitz was very active in Oktoberfest as well.
"He was a good guy," said Larry Wehrs, owner of Wehrs Chevrolet in Bangor. Schmitz was the announcer at the La Crosse Interstate Speedway for several years when Wehrs operated it from 1970 to 1986.
"Sally and I had dinner with Mike and Naomi Friday evening, and had a wonderful time together," said Ed Sullivan of Onalaska.
Sullivan and Schmitz owned radio station WFBZ 105.5 FM in La Crosse for about three years before selling it in 2006. "He was quite a guy," Sullivan said. "I don't think he had an ugly word for anyone in the world. He was the real deal."