Originally published on Sept. 24, 2021By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A western Minnesota community is supporting a local pastor and his young family after life took a tragic turn. WCCO went to Willmar where an outpouring of love is helping a father heal.

On a corner lot in Willmar a poignant reminder of how quickly life can change, from celebrating new life to saying goodbye too soon.

“Eighteen days, man. Eighteen days,” Jeff Schmitz said.

Jeff and Summer Schmitz were married four years, had a now 2-year-old, Finley, and were excited to welcome twins later this fall.

Jeff Schmitz is a pastor at Blomkest Baptist Church.

“I was helping out with two weddings the weekend everything changed for us. I told her please don’t have the kids this early. Any other time is fine,” he recalled.

But on the weekend of Aug. 15, Summer Schmitz drove herself to the hospital with discomfort, five weeks before her due date.

“Before she was actually labeled in labor an oncologist came in her room and told her she most likely had leukemia,” Jeff Schmitz said.

Summer Schmitz started chemo two days after a C-section. Tests showed it was working.

“We were so confident she was coming home she put Griffin in the car seat two days before she had a stroke,” Jeff said.

Summer Schmitz suffered a brain hemorrhage at the hospital. She died Sept. 2 at the age of 36.

“I found myself on Thursday, when we had to say goodbye, constantly apologizing to my wife because there was nothing I could do,” he said.

Jeff Schmitz has been humbled by the outpouring of support from his community.

His wife had just graduated with her degree in social work and as a local pastor. Jeff Schmitz also dedicated his life to others.

“I know this is impossible on my own. But there’s a lot of people around me making it bearable,” he said.

He is starting over now as a single dad, but still far from alone.

“One of the harder things is knowing what kind of awesome person my kids are missing out on,” he said.

The family’s funeral expenses were covered within 24 hours after so many donations. Her friends have organized different babysitting shifts around-the-clock to help Jeff Schmitz settle in with the kids.

To help the family, click here.

Liz Collin