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June 23, 2021

Turning 102, Ridgemark’s Schmidt is a classic CHiP

Roy Schmidt may be close to 102 years old, but the longest-living, retired California Highway Patrolman still has plenty of detail-packed stories to tell about his days on the local beat.
Like when the motorcycle officer chased the driver of a stolen car up the Pacheco Pass about six decades ago.
“All of the sudden, he pulled off the road and jumped out of the car,” said Schmidt, a longtime San Benito County resident who lives in the Ridgemark gated community. “I jumped over the fence, too, and took after him.”
Schmidt recalled catching the man.
“I couldn’t get him on the motorcycle to bring him in,” Schmidt said. “I put him in his car and put the handcuffs on him and drove him to Hollister in his car. I took him to the jail. Then I had to get a ride back to get my motorcycle.”
Times were much different then, as remembered by the former CHP officer who worked in the Hollister office—before it was the area precinct was combined with Gilroy’s—from 1942 to 1965 before becoming a San Benito County judge for 10 years. Schmidt rounded out his renaissance-man professional life—he worked on a ranch growing up in Bitterwater—by becoming chamber of commerce manager and then an inspector for the San Felipe Water Project.
“I’ve had a good life,” Schmidt said. “I’ve worked hard a lot of it.”
“He’s just been very successful in everything he did,” said his son, Ted Schmidt. “He had opportunities to take advancements in the CHP, but he just loved the area.”
Next week, Roy Schmidt is set to turn 102 years old and continue his stake as the oldest-living CHP officer, as confirmed by retired CHP alum Robert Scattini, a longtime friend of Schmidt’s who said the state agency has recognized him for the milestone of being the longest-living retired CHiP.
“I was all traffic control until the later years,” Schmidt said. “I become the officer to take prisoners to the jail.”
Schmidt was born in King City and his family moved to Bitterwater when he was almost 1. Schmidt, the fifth of 12 children in the family, spent much of his childhood working cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens and turkeys on a ranch where his father was foreman.
“I would take milk to the Soap Lake Cheese Factory,” he recalled. “Did you know we had a cheese factory here in Hollister?”
He graduated from Hollister’s junior college in 1933 and later worked for a bank before his father-in-law—then captain of the local CHP office—turned him on to the idea of taking the exam for the highway patrol. His wife and he had longevity in marriage, too, as they were together 61 years before her passing.
After the CHP test, Schmidt was in the 131 admitted among 1,000 or so applicants and began his career in law.
He shared some of this other harrowing tales such as the time he followed two escaped prisoners from Soledad who came over the La Gloria Grade into the Hollister area. After the prisoners averted a couple roadblocks set up along the chase, they headed toward the vaunted, windy Pacheco Pass.
“So I pulled out my gun and leaned out the car to make him think I was going to shoot him,” Schmidt said.
The escaped prisoner behind the wheel reacted.
“He hit the brakes,” Schmidt said. “I hit the bumper of his car and went into a walnut orchard—and went end over end out into the field.”
Schmidt recalled how he didn’t think he was hurt much, but then realized he had “whiplash bad” and spent a few weeks in the hospital. He said police caught the prisoners the next day walking into Los Banos.
“So that was that story,” he said.
Schmidt retired from the CHP in 1965 to take on another role in law.
“I didn’t have much time to think about it,” he said of retirement. “The next Monday I went in as a judge.”
Schmidt said the departing judge at the time suggested he pursue the elected job after she had heard him testify many times in court. He was elected to two, six-year terms, but the second one was cut short when the state passed a law requiring judges to be lawyers.
“I saw the writing on the wall that I was through with being a judge pretty quick,” he said. “Just about the same time, the manager of the chamber was retiring and I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll do his job.’”
He ran the chamber for two years—including oversight of a parade for the nation’s bicentennial—and then later went on to work as a right-of-way agent on the water project.
After all he did in his professional life—including many dangerous turns as a patrolmen—Schmidt gave a reason for lasting so long in his many endeavors and life.
“I guess God’s luck,” he said.
He said he’s generally healthy these days.
“Outside of being blind in one eye and deaf in one ear,” he said. “But I’ve got a good appetite.”

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