Clay Eals
Dietrich Schmitz and mother Vicki Schmitz stand next to the new plaque following the first-day ceremony at Schmitz Park Elementary School.

Dietrich Schmitz welcomes 600 students on first day of school


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By Clay Eals

As part of a tradition reaching back 51 years, Dietrich Schmitz, descendant of the West Seattle pioneer Schmitz family, welcomed 600 students and their parents on opening day Sept. 4, 2013, at Schmitz Park Elementary School in West Seattle.

Introduced by Gerrit Kischner, school principal, Dietrich covered several ways in which life was different when his great-grandparents Ferdinand and Emma Schmitz arrived 120 years ago in West Seattle, but the reference that got the attention and laughter of the students and their parents was, "There weren't even iPods or iPads." He charged the students with changing and improving the future.

Unveiled at the opening ceremony was a new plaque, attached to the school's flagpole. The text of the plaque is as follows:

September 4, 2013

In honor of Alan F. Schmitz, a new flag is presented to Schmitz Park School by the Schmitz family.

Alan F. Schmitz (1934 - 2012) attended the opening day/flag raising ceremony at Schmitz Park School for over 30 years, representing the Schmitz Family who donated the land for this school.

This tradition began in 1962 when the school building opened. At that first opening day ceremony, Alan's father, Dietrich G. Schmitz (1890-1970) participated for the Schmitz family and for many years thereafter.

Today, Alan's son Dietrich Schmitz continues this wonderful and historic tradition, providing a link between West Seattle's rich history and today's children at Schmitz Park School.

This plaque is given by the descendants of Ferdinand and Emma Schmitz to Schmitz Park Elementary School.

Gerrit Kischner, Principal
Jose Banda, Superintendent

Among those also attending the opening ceremony were Dietrich's mother, Vicki Schmitz, and her husband, former Port of Seattle commissioner Jack Block.

Here is a transcript of Dietrich's speech:

"Well, hello, everyone and welcome to the first day of school this year. Glad we have such a lovely day to do it on and I am so glad to see all of you. This is actually one of the best days of the year for me because I get to see all of your bright, shiny faces and see how you've grown and hear about your learning that's happened.

"You know, when my family first came here to West Seattle 120 years ago, West Seattle was quite a different place. Did you know that their house didn't have any electricity? There was no running water? And actually to get to West Seattle, there wasn't even a bridge yet. The best way to get here was via boat.

"So things have changed quite a bit over that time and even since back when the school was opened there weren't even iPods or iPads. (A student: "No computers?") Nope. No home computers. There were only really giant ones that you couldn't put in your pocket.

"So you can see how the world has changed quite a bit even since this school opened and in the coming 50 years the world's going to change quite a bit, too and the reason it's going to change and improve is because of all of you guys, and all of the studies you're going to be doing and the things that you're interested in, and the things that you going to decide to create and make in the world. So you guys, being here, are going to be a part of how the world's going to change like it has in the past, and how now we have things like iPads.

"So you guys, stay interested, find things that you love and study them, and enjoy your school this year, and do really well. OK? Good job. "

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