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Otto Daniel Schmidt

1927 - 2018 Obituary Condolences
Otto Daniel Schmidt

Mansfield - Otto Daniel Schmidt was born November 23, 1927 in Vienna, Austria. He grew up in the small village of Ziersdorf, northeast of Vienna. In 1937, he legally immigrated with his parents and brother to Mansfield, Ohio. He attended John Simpson Junior High and then Mansfield Senior High. He played varsity football as a tailback all four years and ran the 100 dash and 880 relay on the MSH track team that won the 1945 State championship, under the coaching of track legend Harry Mehock. He also played piano for/with the MHS Choir. After graduating in 1946, he moved to Columbus and attended Ohio State University to study music, concentrating in piano.

At Ohio State, Otto started springboard diving with the Ohio State diving team. Springboard diving developed his compulsions for fitness, gymnastics, bodybuilding and nutritional health. After Ohio State he spent summers in Ohio and winters in Florida, enabling his full-time pursuit of diving, working as a springboard and platform diving instructor in Columbus and Miami Beach in winters. And with his mastery of George Gershwin and Glen Miller era piano, he spent evenings as an in-demand session pianist.

Around 1950, Otto started pursuing bodybuilding, with the goal of competing in the then "underground" sport. He worked and trained at the YMCA and the Columbus Athletic Club. During this time he perfected his own trampolining and hand-balancing, eventually learning the "one-arm handstand" and "front lever": two incredibly difficult maneuvers that very few gymnasts ever master. In 1952, he entered and won a Mr Ohio title, taking the category of "Most Muscular." Afterwards, Otto again returned to diving, joining Sam Howard's Aqua Thrills and later the Hollywood Aqua Circus - two International touring shows of stunt divers, who performed for stadium-sized crowds. His experiences in the shows pushed his diving higher and he soon started training in high platform and tower diving. He entered the 1954 World High Diving Championship in Panama, and took second place, with a tower dive from 127 feet high (four times the height of a 10 meter Olympic platform).

He left the aqua shows and again returned to Columbus in the late 1950s and started a diving school at Swimland. He coached his Swimland teams to several titles, including the Ohio State Junior Olympics and the State Championships. Soon after, he performed some notable Columbus publicity stunts: one being his one-arm handstand atop the antenna of the 555 feet tall LeVeque Tower, and another being a hand-to-hand handstand on the edge of that skyscraper's roof.

All of Otto's endeavors coalesced into an idea he had for an inspirational physical fitness assembly program: a 90 minute exhibition of gymnastics, trampoline, hand-balancing, piano-playing and story telling that promoted physical fitness, nutrition, and positive thinking. He developed his program, secured a talent agent and performed his fitness program at thousands of high schools across the MidWest and Northeastern United States throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, with some of his programs broadcast on television.

After recovering from a moderate trampoline injury near the end of 1968, and acknowledging that athletic careers do not last forever, Otto started cancelling his booked-out shows and became intrigued with photography, after his brother introduced it to him as a hobby. He fully shifted his pursuits from athletics to photography and soon graduated from the New York Institute of Photography. He returned to Mansfield and started work at the Mansfield News Journal in 1969 and honed his craft in the world of photojournalism. He won multiple Ohio Press Association awards for black & white photojournalism. Yet Otto never gave up his athletics and would occasionally perform his gymnastic assembly program in the 1970s, when local schools requested it. In the early 1970s, he left the Journal and opened his first photographic studio, along with fellow Mansfield News Journal photographer Terry Wolf, on the Mansfield Downtown Square. In 1975 he went independent and opened his own professional photography business, "Otto's Studio" on Bartley Avenue.

For the next 40 years, Otto would photograph most of Mansfield, Ohio: its commercial entities, its professionals and its residents weddings, families, celebrations and high school seniors. His thousands of clients loved his ability to uniquely capture people on film and the youthful personality he always brought with him, all derived from his rich athletic past. He also was a faithful member and contributor to Mansfield Rotary for over 25 years.

Retirement and "acting old," as he called it, were completely foreign concepts to Otto, and he continued recreational springboard diving, hand-balancing, biking, alpine skiing, and rollerblading into his late seventies and his hiking, jogging and piano playing into his eighties. He loved almost every physical activity performed outdoors. In 2004, Otto slowly scaled back his business to photographic restorations, until finally and officially retiring in 2014 at the age of 86 years. He spent his final years with his son in Colorado - a state that he greatly loved for its rugged outdoors and where he ski-vacationed in Aspen for thirty consecutive years - until his death at age 90, on June 24, 2018.

Otto is preceded in death by his father, Joseph Peter Schmidt; his mother Edna Evelyn Schmidt (Edna Evelyn Bare); and his brother Roland Joseph Schmidt. He is survived by his son, Joseph and his niece and nephew: Marion and Gordon Schmidt.

A gathering of family and friends will be held on Saturday, August 18, 2018 from 11:00 am - 1:00 pm at the Diamond Street Home of Wappner Funeral Directors, 98 S. Diamond Street, Mansfield Ohio. A memorial service will follow at 1:00 pm. The Diamond Street Home of Wappner Funeral Directors is honored to serve the Schmidt family.

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Published in the News Journal on Aug. 12, 2018
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