BOUNTIFUL, Utah, Nov. 21, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — Chris Schmidt will always remember his late sister Annie as the one who taught him to be cool.
“She showed me how to dress. She introduced me to cool music,” Schmidt said, speaking Monday at his older sister’s funeral. “She taught me how to talk to girls, how girls think. I came to her with text messages, asking, ‘What do I say now?'”
“And she taught me, by example, how to love Christ,” he said.
Annie Schmidt, the 21-year-old daughter of The Piano Guy musician Jon Schmidt and wife Michelle, went on an impromptu hike Oct. 16 in the Columbia gorge and never returned.
Her father spearheaded the search to find Annie, and was joined by Oregon law enforcement agents, relatives, friends, members of the hiking community, and search and rescue experts, including searchers who worked with their dogs.
Besides the thousand who search on the scene, tens of thousands of people from various faiths — including the Schmidts’, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — prayed for Annie’s recovery after seeing her story on social media.
Annie’s body was found on Nov. 11, near the bottom of a cliff, hidden in dense brush. Evidence at the scene suggested she had not lingered or suffered, her family said.
“She loved the Savior,” Chris Schmidt said, speaking to funeral attendees who overflowed the chapel pews and sat in folding chairs that covered the church’s sports and stage areas. “She talked about Jesus like he was her best friend. It was kind of weird.”
He paused as the crowd of hundreds of mourners broke into gentle laughter.
“But it started a quest in me to understand, and this literally has changed everything in my life.”
Chris Schmidt returned from an England-Leeds LDS mission to attend his sister’s service. His twin brother, Jonny, returned from his mission in Ireland.
“She seriously dedicated her weekend nights to helping us have fun,” Jonny Schmidt said of his older sister. “She impacted me so deeply with her Christ-like service, I hope I can do the same.”
His mission president was the one to tell Jonny his sister was missing, he said.
“I felt she had passed,” he said. “I vented to Heavenly Father. I let it all out. I cried for an hour.”
Annie Schmidt had completed a Georgia-Macon mission for the LDS Church. John Harding, who worked with the search dog teams, said he felt a certain kinship with Annie.
“She was good at searching for those lost or in need of help,” he said, of Annie’s success on her mission.
Annie’s final “mission” was bring so many together in the search, and to increase their faith in miracles, Harding said. Many of the active searchers felt they began experiencing miracles in their own lives, he said.
“Amazing faith was in that gorge,” he said. “A mighty work of good took place. Literally thousands of lives have been changed for the good. Annie Schmidt has changed the world for good, at least for thousands of people.”
Annie Schmidt was kind to people she knew and those she didn’t, friend Ella Warnock said.
“If you were her waitress or her best friend, she appreciated things about you,” Warnock said. “We love how brave she was and how she wasn’t afraid to express herself and be herself. We love her music. She had playlists for cooking, on setting up a stage for a concert, laying in field with a flower in her hair.”
Randall K. Bennett, General Authority Seventy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke to mourners, saying he had met Annie briefly years before, then she initiated a texting friendship.
“I don’t know that I ever met anyone more enthusiastic and positive,” Bennett said. “Her life was an example of truth and joy. She was awesome. She is awesome. She’s great.”
Michelle Schmidt — mother of Annie, her sister and three brothers — confirmed her oldest daughter was committed to her twin brothers.
“She did not want them to be jerks,” Michelle Schmidt said.
When Annie was finishing high school and her twin brothers were entering sophomores, Annie wrote out a three-page manifesto, Michelle Schmidt said, laughing. The manifesto detailed how the boys could choose to seek popularity or to choose a selfless path that would draw in students on the fringes and make the experience more meaningful for all.
“She wrote, ‘You can dedicate that time to selfishness or to the service of others,'” Michelle Schmidt said, reading what her older daughter had written. “‘I promise your mark will be lasting.'”
Michelle Schmidt put down her notes, and paused a few seconds to regain her composure.
“I pray that I can become more like Annie,” Schmidt said, and she congratulated her daughter for “graduating to the other side.”