Hank Schmitt Retires From River Region United Way

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -- Monday marked the end of a long run for the River Region United Way's most well-known figure, Hank Schmitt.

Schmitt retired after 18 years of public service with the organization as his health diminishes.

He was planning to retire after 20 years, "August 5th is when the doctors - I was laying in the hospital bed - said OK. We're calling in Hospice. We can't do anything else," he told us in an interview in October.

Doctors diagnosed congestive heart failure in August and told him he had about six months to live. He's served the needs of many hundreds of people, and now it's his turn to receive help from others.

He was often the face the United Way agencies here at WSFA 12 News whenever there was a hurricane or severe weather. While he was helping people then he's now learning how to help himself.

He must use a breathing machine four times a day, and estimates he takes about 20 pills everyday. He also carries oxygen with him 24-7. And, he's had to - stop - doing a few things even though he says he's waited too late. "Probably last year I had to face the fact that I've had a life long romance with food. Obviously, food's not bad but back in the day when I could eat three or four cheeseburgers at a sitting - that ain't good for anybody," says Schmitt.

He weighs more than 300 pounds and those years of excessive eating, smoking and drinking have all taken their toll maybe costing him his life.

"A lot of people, and I suspect some of the people listening to this are smoking and eating too much maybe drinking too much. They say, oh well, I'll stop tomorrow. Stop today! Don't wait until tomorrow because you may find yourself flat on your back looking at an emergency room ceiling."

Even in death Mr. Schmitt is thinking of ways to help others. He says he plans to donate his body to science.