Christopher Michael Schmitz

christopher schmitz
Christopher M. Schmitz, age 60, of Leadville, Colorado, passed away on Thursday, November 18, 2021 at his home. A graveside service will be held at 3:00 PM on Friday, June 3, 2022 at St. Mary's Cemetery in New Hampton, IA. Online condolences for Christopher's family may be left at Memorials may be directed to the family. Christopher Michael Schmitz was born on September 4, 1961 to Ronald and Carol (Nosbisch) Schmitz in Ames, Iowa. The family moved to Rapid City, SD where Chris attended school and graduated from Stevens High School. He received his Bachelors of Science degree in geological engineering from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and later earned his Master’s degree in mineralogy from Arizona State University. Chris worked in mining in Arizona, the Congo and Colorado. Mining was his life’s work. Chris enjoyed hiking, rock collecting, photography, hunting, fishing, and reading. He also enjoyed spending time with his family every summer at his cabin near Custer, SD. Chis is survived by his mother, Carol Schmitz of New Hampton, IA; sister, Cathy Schmitz of Henderson, NV; brothers, Paul Schmitz of New Hope, MN, Tom Schmitz of Rapid City, SD and John Schmitz of Rapid City, SD. He is also survived by several nieces and nephews. Chris is preceded in death by his father Ronald in 1984.

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Memories Timeline


  1. We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ Conway-Markham Funeral Home – New Hampton

  2. Carol, So sorry for the loss of your son. This is one thing a parent should never have to hear. Prayers to you and your family.

  3. Chris was a great boss and mentor, I had worked for him for almost 4 years at Climax. I really looked up to him and admired how knowledgeable he was and how dedicated he was to Climax as a whole. I learned so much from him. In addition, I’ll remember the little things he’d do, like bringing Taco Bell (one of his favorites) in for us, which really showed how he cared. Chris will be deeply missed by myself and many in the Climax community. A Memory: When we had mine meetings outside in the mine pit, Chris would bring his binoculars to survey the surrounding area for wildlife before the meeting would start. On a few occasions he shared his binoculars with me, pointing out elk, etc. in the distance. Admittedly, most of the time I couldn’t really spot the wildlife he was pointing to very well; me having no experience hunting and not being very good and scoping those things out. I would still pretend I did and share in Chris’s excitement for it; I also didn’t want Chris knowing how lousy I was at using the binoculars. Rest in peace, Chris.

  4. Chris was a larger-than-life presence at the Climax Mine, and in addition to his extensive knowledge and mining experience, I always appreciated his humor and general good attitude.

  5. Chris was my direct supervisor and friend for over 10 years at Climax. He was one of the best people I have ever worked with. Always available and a great listener and conversationalist on everything from business to personal subjects. Any time I had any questions, comments or concerns, he would stop what he was doing and help me out, or just listen, or give advice. One of the things I remember the most is how he got my sense of humor. Every time I would walk into his office, he would throw his hands up in the air and say, “What now!?” Then he would chuckle and wave me in, stating that I knew he hadn’t given me crap yet, and that he now had it out of his system, lol. Chris is the face of Climax and will be truly missed for the rest of Climax’s run. Rest in peace my friend.

  6. Chris, You were one of the best people I have ever worked with, I will miss our monthly visits to the pit together. I always enjoyed our conversations that varied from work to just about any other topic you could think of. I will miss getting emails from you with your beautiful photos and the funny commentary to go with them. Rest in peace.

  7. Chris, You will be dearly missed. You were a friend and a mentor – more than just a boss. You were a leader. The kind of leader who didn’t have to be the loudest voice in a room to carry tremendous respect. The kind of leader who other leaders would turn to when things weren’t going well. The kind of leader who would come to work on weekends or holidays because he cared for his work and had a passion for his work and just wanted to make sure that everything was running smoothly. The kind of leader who was one of a very few employees who helped un-bury Climax Mine from record amounts of snowfall when others couldn’t and wouldn’t come due to avalanche hazards. The kind of leader who usually had the most experience in any given room and would patiently steer the rest of the room in the correct direction when things were headed in a bad direction. And mostly, you were just plainly the most intelligent leader in any room. You were a friend, Chris. You cared for all of us and took us under your wing in your own unique way. Thank you for teaching us to be truly technical engineers first and foremost. Thank you also for teaching us that there are different kinds of leadership. Thank you for steering us and molding us into functional members of a larger team. Thank you for teaching us the valuable balance between humility and assertion. Thank you for all of your time spent with us in our offices, your office, or at your house. Getting to know you has truly been an honor. You will be missed so much by so many for so many different reasons, which I believe is a reflection of a life well-lived. -A Colleague I have too many good memories to share them all, but my favorite times with Chris were when we would talk about his interests and hobbies outside of work. Chris was a true collector. He collected rocks, guns and land with a passion unmatched by many other collectors. We would often talk about whatever his latest land acquisition was and he was always so proud. He looked for, and found, beauty in many out of the way and forgotten places. And he loved sharing that beauty with others around him through his love of photography. I will certainly miss the pictures of sunsets, cabins, and all of the MANY different types of wildlife that he would encounter, and the times that we shared with him telling me about his adventures in South Dakota, Guffey, or right in Leadville. Carol, I am so sorry for your loss, but want you to know what an amazing son you raised. Thank you for sharing him with us, he was loved and cared for by all.

  8. I had the pleasure of working with Chris and supporting him and his team for the last seven and a half years at Climax. Chris was always someone that people looked to for his knowledge of anything and everything Climax. One of the biggest things that stood out about Chris was that he was a constant at Climax – He was always available for a question from anyone and everyone, always on-site and hard at work, always extremely knowledgeable on any subject that he was talking about, always had a great sense of humor – just constant, dedicated, and consistent in everything. Over the years, I didn’t get to learn much about Chris’s other hobbies other than hunting and photography, but we had plenty of talks about those. I’m going to miss those talks – me giving him a hard time that its not fair that he draws every year he’s eligible to hunt Climax, talking with him about hunting in Africa, him sharing photos of big deer he photographed…. and me asking where he took the picture, asking who else he showed the picture to, asking who else he told where the deer was at (lol). Climax won’t be the same without you, Chris. You will be missed by all.

  9. I want to offer my sincerest condolences to Chris’ family. I worked with Chris at the Climax Mine and he was always willing to help and mentor.

  10. I worked with Chris for 5 years at the Climax Mine. He was one of the first friends I made at Climax when I transferred and made me feel welcome. He always had great ideas and took the most beautiful wildlife photos. He was also a good steward for the environmental. We will miss you Chris.

  11. Rest in peace, Chris – and my deepest condolences to your family. Chris was my first boss after graduating from school and I worked in his department for 4 years at the Climax mine. He was an exceptional engineer and geologist, and it was a privilege to learn from him and soak up some of his knowledge of the mining industry. Chris was always available for a friendly chat, and we had many that I treasure. He took the time to share his pictures of nature, whether it be wildlife photos or hunting excursions. He would drive us out to his favorite spots around the property for spotting elk or watching the sun rise or set. I appreciated the enthusiasm that he had for nature and his willingness to share it with anyone that was interested – I remember taking my wife to a beautiful waterfall that we never would have found without Chris’s suggestion. His sense of humor was unique and never failed to brighten the room. He taught me many lessons – sometimes it’s better to get to the point; if you’re stuck on a problem, go outside; a good joke (told at the right moment) buys a lot of good will; and calling out on the mine radio for a “busted drive shaft” was a much more dignified (and less embarrassing) way of asking for your truck to be pulled out of the snow. Chris will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.

  12. To Carol and the Schmitz family, I am very sorry for your loss. Chris impacted many people and he will be missed. If I could describe Chris in one sentence it would be “Probably the smartest person I have ever met.” Chris was an intelligent, dedicated, loyal, professional who was not afraid to make jokes and laugh at any time. Chris was confident, concise, stubborn, and solution oriented. He had a genius and creative outside of the box thinking that he impressed on all of us. We will attempt to carry on his passion, dedication, expertise, and humor while knowing that no one will ever be able to fill his big shoes. Chris was never shaken. When faced with a problem he was never worried, he knew we would find a solution even if it took several years to solve the problem. I remember a very specific time when I was urgently trying to communicate a problem to Chris and he very calmly and bluntly took me under his wing and told me that we would figure it out in the future. Chris was generous and invited me to fish the river on his land and graze sheep. He enjoyed having all his engineers over to his house for stew and biscuits that he cooked over the fire pit. He loved sharing hunting stories and pictures of all kinds of wildlife. He was proud of his photos and loved sharing them. This year he won our company wildlife photo contest – below is an excerpt from the article. (June 22, 2021) After a year hiatus due to the pandemic, the company’s wildlife photo contest was back in action this year with almost 300 entries from employees around the world. This year’s winning photos of an American Marten in Colorado and a Eurasian Spoonbill in Spain didn’t happen on a whim – they took patience, advance planning and a little luck. Chris Schmitz, Chief Mine Engineer-Climax, almost missed his winning entry – the elusive and shy American Marten. He saw the small, relative of a weasel rush into the forest and grabbed his camera to follow. He hoped he would find the right tree, but he was not optimistic. “You rarely see them, even though they live in pine trees at higher elevations,” he said. “But, I’ve been trying to have my cameras more easily available, so I grabbed my camera with the telephoto lens and hoped for the best.” American Marten, or Pine Marten, near Climax mine in Colorado • How Schmitz got the shot: “I think this was a younger pine marten trying to figure things out, so it was not as good at hiding. I’ve seen glimpses of them before, but you normally don’t see them. I thought it might be long gone by the time I got my camera, but then I saw a squirrel fall out of a tree and looked up, and there it was, 15 feet up in the tree. I was glad I had my telephoto lens!” • His photography tip: “It’s not my original tip, but it’s a really good one: f/8 and be there. It means set your camera’s f-stop at f/8, a good focal point for depth of field for general photography in good lighting conditions, and keep your camera on hand so you’re always ready to take lots of pictures.” • About the species: The American Marten (Martes americana) is a predatory mammal in the weasel family and closely related to fishers, ermines and mink. They are characterized by long, slender bodies with chestnut-brown fur and a distinctive buff-yellow throat. The American Marten lives in mature coniferous, alpine and boreal forests from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest across Canada to Northern New England. These habitats provide the hollow tree crevices or ground burrows that martens use for resting and denning. This opportunistic species will feed on a wide range of prey such as small mammals and birds. Their diet also includes carrion, seasonal fruit, seeds and nuts.

  13. To the Schmitz family, I worked with Chris for nearly ten years. Being new to the mining industry I quickly learned that Chris was the person who was the most knowledgeable, respected and had the answers to any questions you might have about mining. It was interesting how fast he settled in to living in Colorado and he enjoyed the best things that Colorado has to offer. Chris was always gracious to answer questions and be interrupted even on his busiest days. I shared with Chris that my parents were born in the Black Hills in Deadwood and we discussed Homestake Mine, the railroad, I even shared a photo of my Dad when he was a little boy standing in front of Mt. Rushmore when only two presidents were completed, Chris found the photograph really great and thanked me for showing him. Climax will miss Chris’s knowledge, leadership, and mentoring and the Schmitz family lost a special family member.

  14. Chris – your love of nature and your contribution to the mining industry are remembered strongly by many. My deepest condolences to the family.

  15. I met Chris shortly after I began working in the mining industry, I believe 1995 or 1996. Chris was always great to share a thought or a process that could be useful. I remember the first time I met him he was working with a new technology that fascinated me and he remained patient in answering the many questions I had around the technology and its use. This was the beginning of a wonderful collaborative relationship. Through the years I had opportunity to get advice or a fresh take on work related topics we shared. I did not work at the same mine as Chris, though with the same company, until I came to the Climax mine in Colorado in 2018. At Climax it was my honor and privilege to work directly with Chris. Chris was a ‘go-to’ individual for me almost on a daily basis to discuss mine plans, opportunities, challenges and potential solutions. Chris, and his team, pulled our collective Climax rear-ends out of the fire many times through clever and out of the box thinking. I always enjoyed just shooting the breeze with Chris as well; he had so many experiences, beautiful nature or wildlife photos, and stories to tell which he did with humor. Chris was the most responsive person I think I have ever met; I trusted him completely. I miss him and thank him for all he contributed to my life and to our Climax Mine community. My most sincere and deepest condolences to the Schmitz family. Vicki Seppala, General Manager, Climax Mine

  16. Our most sincere condolences to the Schmitz family on your loss. Chris was a highly valued member of the Climax team and is greatly missed.

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