Broad Channel Celebrates the Life and Legacy of John Schmitt


Though the Broad Channel community, and many near and far are mourning the loss of John Schmitt, the local bay man’s selfless contributions to the community has many celebrating his life and the blazing legacy he leaves behind.

John M. Schmitt also known as “Big John,” was born May 4, 1951 to Adam and Ernie (Himpler) Schmitt. He grew up in Broad Channel with his four siblings, Buster, Barbara, Richard and Billy. He graduated from Far Rockaway High School in 1969 and studied criminal justice at John Jay College. Schmitt was a renaissance man of sorts, as he had numerous occupations including draftsman, electrician, a runner on Wall Street, a mechanic, sand hog, NYPD police officer, farmer, and most notably, the third-generation owner/operator of Channel Marine boat yard in Broad Channel. He also worked at Buster’s Marina and Marina 59.

Besides his beloved bay, Schmitt also had a passion for music, especially the guitar, and played in the band, “The Flatlanders,” in Colorado. He enjoyed building things, working on boats, teaching others how things work, politics, and spending time with family and friends. He liked gardening and enjoyed the challenge of learning Russian. He was a good friend to all, great father, and loving grandfather.

For local Eric Witkowski, Schmitt was a legend. Witkowski reached out to The Rockaway Times because he felt, “John’s story needed to be told.” Witkowski said, “John was so selfless. He gave everything he had in his entire life to treating others, better than he treated himself. He loved teaching the kids about boating and Jamaica Bay. With a fork lift, he would move three containers with 20 jet skis to pick up my kids, and take them out not just to enjoy, but learn about the bay.”

Witkowski also emphasized Schmitt’s dedication to the marina, Channel Marine boat yard, which he inherited from his grandfather, and his affinity for Jamaica Bay that he loved to share with the Broad Channel community’s children. “John’s grandpa started the marina, and John ran it his whole life. He would send the kids out with a rod, a pail and a killy trap. He loved making people happy and teaching, and the obvious exposure to Jamaica Bay, which we should all be so fortunate to have at our doorstep,” Witkowski said.

There’s a sentiment that often the most memorable part of a loved one’s passing – and the most comforting for family and friends – are the stories. And judging from the love flowing in from Schmitt’s family and friends, peppered with laughs and tears, Schmitt has left behind a legacy that no one will ever forget.

Schmitt is preceded in death by his mother, Ernie Schmitt; brother-in-law, Mickey Orr; nephew, Michael Orr; and his first wife, Dorothy Wilmarth. He is survived by his son, John Schmitt Jr., and grandson, Danny; daughters, Stephanie Wood and children, Connor and Sarah; Veronica Schmitt; his father Adam (Betty) Schmitt; his siblings, Buster (Carol) Schmitt, Barbara Orr, Richard (Joanne) Schmitt, Billy (Beth Ann) Schmitt; numerous nieces and nephews; former wife, Stacie May; his closest friends, who were more like family, including Ed Wilmarth II, Ed Wilmarth III, and children, Autumn and Ed Wilmarth IV and Rosie Wilmarth.

The crematory service will be held at Hillebrand Funeral Home, 63-17 Woodhaven Blvd, Rego Park on January 24 at 9:15 a.m. Celebration of Life Service will be held at the Broad Channel VFW Post #260 located at 713 Shad Creek Road, Broad Channel, on January 24 at 11:30 a.m. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, please send donations to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

John M. Schmitt’s light and legacy will continue to shine in the community and bay that he loved and selflessly served.