Father Ronald Schmelzer, 73, a retired priest of the Diocese of St. Cloud, died July 14 in Kentucky.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated July 20 at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Lexington, Kentucky, with Franciscan Bishop John Stowe of Lexington presiding. Burial followed at Calvary Cemetery there.
Father Schmelzer had served most recently as a spiritual director in the Diocese of Lexington and assisted at the federal prison and camp in Lexington as well as in parishes around the diocese, frequently at St. Luke in Nicholasville, Kentucky.
“He was well-loved by the clergy, bishops and parishioners in Lexington,” said Father Peter Kirchner, pastor of St. John Nepomuk in Reno Township and Our Lady of the Runestone in Kensington, who concelebrated at the funeral Mass. “It’s hard to lose him. He was very honest and open and usually had a smile on his face. He was never afraid — he always had to be active. He loved to travel and liked to motorcycle.”
Priests from the St. Cloud Diocese who also concelebrated the funeral Mass were Father Robert Rolfes, representing the diocese, and Father Albert Holmes. Deacon Vernon Schmitz of the diocese vested for the Mass.
Before he was ordained to the priesthood at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud on June 1, 2002, by St. Cloud Bishop Emeritus John Kinney, Father Schmelzer worked in higher education for 30 years. He served in many roles, including professor of education, licensed psychologist, department chair, associate dean of academic affairs, and assistant director of university counseling. He worked and taught at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, University of South Carolina in Columbia and Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond.
Father Schmelzer served as parochial vicar or pastor of 12 parishes in the St. Cloud Diocese in Wadena, Verndale, Blue Grass, Menahga, Bluffton, St. Anthony, St. Francis, Motley, Staples, Elbow Lake, Herman and Tintah.
“He had a great love for the priesthood and adventure,” Father Kirchner recalled. “He taught, preached and practiced what the church teaches. I loved him dearly. He was very bright yet he was not pretentious — he was an open book. He worked hard for what he got and wasn’t into one-upsmanship.”
Father Schmelzer was born Feb. 26, 1944, in Minneapolis to the late Ronald and Doris Ann (Wellman) Schmelzer. He was a veteran of the U.S. Navy (AMS2), serving on the icebreaker USS Edisto, and worked as a contract priest/chaplain for the U.S. Army Garrison in Kaiserslautern, Germany.
A long-time hiker and camper, he walked the Camino de Santiago through France and Spain four times. He was a strong believer in lifelong learning, in keeping active and in the overwhelming importance of developing and maintaining a relationship with Jesus Christ, according to his obituary in the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Two children, Erika Schmelzer Webb (Brad) and Stephen Schmelzer (Andrea), and six grandchildren survive Father Schmelzer.