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Bright Sun, Blue Skies Grace Flagpole Dedication Ceremony
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Linda (Schmidt) Gentry and Randy Schmidt, at left, children of the late Marvin Schmidt, pose with Larry Grossi and his son Harrison, at right, following the dedication ceremony for the plaque and flagpole at the 1455 First Street site of the former Escalon Lumber and Hardware, a shop their dad Marvin operated for some seven decades in the community. Marg Jackson/The Times

It is a tower of a flagpole for a “tower of a man.”

That was the thought of Escalon resident Randy Schmidt, as he and several other Schmidt family members gathered with a crowd of community residents to see the dedication of a plaque and flagpole at the former Escalon Lumber and Hardware site.

Put up by Larry Grossi, who now owns the property and renovated the building into a four-suite business complex dubbed The Merchant Yard, the flag towers some 50 feet above the ground, with the stone-faced base including a plaque dedicated to the late Marvin Schmidt. He owned and operated the lumber yard for some seven decades prior to retirement.

At the Saturday afternoon dedication ceremony on April 22, Escalon Historical Society President Dave Russell welcomed the crowd and provided a bit of history regarding Marvin Schmidt and the lumber yard, where he started on a “trial basis” and ended up eventually buying the business and serving the community for more than 70 years.

“His roots went really deep in this town,” Russell said of Schmidt.

Grossi also offered some thoughts about why he wanted to honor Schmidt with the flagpole dedication.

“I’ve lived in Escalon all my life, we’ve known the Schmidt’s forever, I’ve always come in to the lumber yard and was always intrigued with Marvin’s collection of cars,” Grossi said of the classic car enthusiast. “We had a connection; I like cars, my son (Harrison) likes cars, I know Randy likes cars, Marvin loved cars and there was just a certain connection there, you could come in and talk to him.”

The story behind the flagpole, he added, stems from when they were redoing the lumber yard, converting it into the four separate spaces now occupied by local businesses.

“There used to be a galvanized post right at the front door that I believe they used to hang the Christmas decorations on, back in the day; this one had the Visa and Mastercard signs still on it and it was a little bit bent,” Grossi explained.

He asked Schmidt if he could remove it and the longtime business owner said yes, but asked if he could take it home and use it for a flagpole. Grossi said that idea didn’t really fly with him, sine the pole was bent and, in his estimation, not suitable for displaying a flag.

“Over the years, we’ve built numerous flagpoles for different veterans and friends,” added Grossi.

He and his son soon started to work on building one for Schmidt.

“We were able to get a flagpole built and put up at his house so, when he did finally retire, it was something that he was able to look out his window of his living room and look up at the flagpole,” Grossi said.

He also wanted to bring that patriotic feeling back to the lumber yard site, in honor and remembrance of Schmidt and all he did for the community in his more than 70 years in business, prompting the dedication. Schmidt was in his 90s when he retired.

“A lot of things we’ve lost in Escalon over the years … this is a building that we, as a family, wanted to save,” Grossi summarized. “His roots are deep here.”

Son Randy reminisced about his father’s love of cars and his belief in the goodness of people, always willing to offer help when needed and sharing his love of classic cars with everyone.

After the brief dedication ceremony, Schmidt family members posed for photos with the Grossi family and a reception was hosted at the nearby Escalon Historical Society Museum. Attendees adjourned there to spend a little more time reminiscing, sharing their memories of Marvin Schmidt and his many contributions to the community.

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The American flag flies high above the parking lot at The Merchant Yard – formerly Escalon Lumber and Hardware – at 1455 First Street in Escalon, with a dedication ceremony in honor of the late Marvin Schmidt hosted there on Saturday, April 22. Marg Jackson/The Times