Lola Fern Voth was born January 2, 1930 in Newton, Kansas, to Leo and Sarah (Kliewer) Voth. After a week-long stay at Sarah’s parents’ home due to a snowstorm, Leo picked up Sarah and little Lola to head out to their farm home east of Newton in the Grace Hill community where Lola spent all of her growing up years. Younger brother Arlo Lee joined the family two years later.
Lola attended elementary through 8th grades at the one-room Star School. Grace Hill Mennonite Church, where Lola was baptized, was the center of the farming community’s social structure. Growing up, Lola especially enjoyed time with cousins, trips to town and the cats & kittens on the farm. Lola attended Bethel College Academy her first two years of high school then Whitewater High School where she graduated in 1948.
After high school, Lola attended Bethel College in North Newton where she met Gerald Lee Schmidt (aka Curly and Gerry) and graduated as a social sciences major in 1952. During Lola’s senior year, Curly did voluntary service in Washington DC. From the photos, it looks like they had a lovely, fun time when Lola visited from Kansas.
In 1952, following a June wedding in the Bethel College chapel, Lola and Curly moved to Denver. Lola took a job as a secretary in the hospital where Curly was doing 1-W service as an aide. Their time in Denver instilled a lifelong love for Colorado.
After two years in Denver, Curly took a teaching job at Hays High School in Hays, Kansas, where they bonded with other young teachers and couples and forged friendships that lasted a life time. Their first child Greg was born in 1955. After two years in Hays Lola and Curly moved to Wichita where Curly worked in administration in the Wichita Public Schools.
In Wichita, Barry joined the family in 1957, and Andrea came along in 1960. Lola kept the household running, coordinated three summer moves to Colorado (and one to Los Angeles) for Curly’s graduate studies, was active at Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church and helped at the children’s school.
1967 brought big change for the family with a move to the Chicago area where Curly took a position at Northwestern University Medical School. As the kids settled into seventh, fifth and first grade in the Oak Park school system, Lola got to know new friends through the Newcomers Club, First Presbyterian Church where the family attended, and recreational tennis leagues where she and Gerry played doubles. The suburb of Oak Park provided a cozy village ambiance with the big city within 30 minutes train ride for museums and the beach on Lake Michigan, all good sites to take friends and family visiting from out-of-town.
Lola worked in the high school library during most of the years in Oak Park. The family enjoyed many weekends at Camp Friedenswald in southern Michigan and eventually began attending Lombard Mennonite Church. LMC rekindled Mennonite connections and nurtured significant relationships.
When all three kids were finished with high school, Lola and Gerry explored options for a pre-retirement move and settled on relocation to Littleton, Colorado, in 1980. Together they became business owners and operated the Stop Smoking Center. With a more flexible schedule they began extensive travels to Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, Hawaii and Alaska, Russia and many Elderhostel Learning Tours in the United States. This was in addition to many daytrips for hikes, picnics and skiing (Gerry) in Colorado.
In 1991 Gerry was diagnosed with ALS but their travels and activities continued including trips to see grandsons Kyle and Joel in Indiana. As Gerry’s health declined, Lola became his primary caregiver and helped navigate the construction of a new, handicapped accessible duplex in nearby Lakewood. Gerry passed away on October 3, 1997.
Without Gerry, Lola continued traveling, this time with friends, on her own or with tour companies. She added South America to her list and eventually completed 16 Elderhostels. She also began volunteering at the Denver Ten Thousand Villages store and thoroughly enjoyed the weekly coffee group at First Mennonite Church. She began reading voraciously and was especially fond of her book club group, primarily friends from First Mennonite.
As house maintenance became a burden, Lola moved to Kidron Bethel Village in North Newton, Kansas, to be closer to family. While living for 11 years in Independent Living, Lola enjoyed Life Enrichment at Bethel College, volunteering at the Et Cetera Shop and Shalom Mennonite Church (her new church home), joining other Shalomers for Monday coffee, trips to Indiana to help care for twin grandbabies Ben & Grace, Kauffman Museum activities, walks and babysitting granddaughter Jen who lived close by.
Following moves to Assisted Living and Health Care at Kidron, Lola passed away peacefully on September 24, 2023.
Lola was preceded in death by her parents, husband Gerald, and brother Arlo. She is survived by children Greg (Jan) Schmidt of Berne, IN; Barry (Gretchen) Schmidt of South Jordan, UT; and Andrea (Mark) Andres of rural Newton, KS; grandchildren Kyle, Joel (Jenna), Jennifer, Ben and Grace; great-grandchildren Eden and Emersyn; sister-in-law Ann Voth; brother-in-law Clinton Schmidt.
Visitation will be held at Shalom Mennonite Church on Friday, October 6, 2023, at 6:30 to 8:00pm, 800 East First, Newton, Ks.
A memorial service will be held at Shalom Mennonite Church in Newton on October 7, 2023, at 11:00 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be designated to Bethel College, 300 East 27th Street, North Newton, KS 67117.