Farewell to Florence Schmid

The world of family-friendly audio drama has lost one of its most talented actresses in the fall of 2019. Florence "Flo" Sch...

The world of family-friendly audio drama has lost one of its most talented actresses in the fall of 2019. Florence "Flo" Schmid graced the presence of many audio dramas for over 40 years.

She was born on December 25, 1932, and passed away on November 11, 2019, at the age of 86. Her obituary tells of her schooling and family life that likely contributed to her becoming an actor.

Florence grew up in the Roseland neighborhood, attended Chicago Christian High School, and later graduated from college with a B.A. in Communications. She returned to the Chicago area where she met and married Theophilus (Ted) Schmid III in 1957 at Bethany Reformed Church. Throughout their years together, they demonstrated a deep love for God, their family, and their local church. 
God gifted Florence with creativity. This was evident in the beautiful home that she and Ted made with their five daughters. She delighted in celebrating birthdays, holidays, and everyday meals together. Lunchtime found the girls coming home from school for grilled cheese and dramatic readings of Little House on the Prairie and other classics.

During the mid to late 1900s, Moody Bible Institute's broadcasting department produced hundreds of hours' worth of audio drama. Schmid played numerous roles in many of them. She played several characters ranging from little boys to loving mothers.

"The Listening Post" was a program heard on the radio daily on Moody Radio for over 15 years. The 15-minute show featured Florence reading both Christian and secular books for kids. Many of them can be heard on her website.

One of her earliest acting roles for Moody was in "Sailor Sam". In it, Florence played Buddy, the young cousin to Sailor Sam.

One of Moody Broadcasting's most popular shows was "The Bookshelf" (aka Adventures from the Bookshelf). This show dramatized several juvenile Christian books published by Moody Press and others. Florence acted in several stories including Treasures of the Snow, Shadow of the Spear, and many others.

Possibly her most notable roles were playing the part of Little Jim and Bill Collins' mom in the productions of the "Sugar Creek Gang" book series.

(L-R) Randy Paradise (Dragonfly), Larry Shackley (Big Jim),
Florence Schmid (Little Jim/Mrs. Collins),
Rex Brenner (Old Man Paddler)
Photo Credit: Larry Shackley

Another Moody show she acted on was "Stories of Great Christians". One of her most notable roles on it was playing famous hymn writer, Fanny Crosby.

Florence also acted outside of radio. She had an on-camera role in the film Moody! directed by Joe Musser. She played Emma Moody, the wife of D.L. Moody, who founded the Moody Bible Institute.

In the 1980s, Grace Jordan created an audio drama series based on the stories of the Bible. The series is now known as "You Are There" and was acquired by Lamplighter Ministries a few years ago. Florence played some roles in it as well, such as Jochebed and the mother of Mary.

She also narrated the audiobook for the Christian allegory Hinds' Feet on High Places.

In the late 1990s, audio dramatizations of the popular Left Behind novels started to be made by GAP Digital and Tyndale House Publishers. Florence appeared in them and in the companion series "Left Behind - The Kids". Todd Busteed, the director and producer of the show, shared some of his memories of her.

She appeared many times in the early books, including my favorite pair of scenes.  In the first, Flo is on the phone with a daughter, the cat is on her lap, and it’s a beautiful evening.  We revisit that same location towards the end of that first episode and the phone is ringing but unanswered.  It was an early benchmark that the production was going to rely on more than dialog to tell its stories.  But that was set up by the wonderfully comfortable tones that Flo brought to that role.
She also appeared numerous times in the Kids series.

The Left Behind production ran for 6 1/2 years, and during that time, there was a community of sorts that formed in our green room.  Flo had friends in the cast that had joined her during her many years of drama at Moody Broadcasting. She enjoyed meeting up with them at our sessions.  There were, of course, many young upstarts in the cast as well, folks that weren’t alive by the time Flo was already well established on the radio.

Here is a clip of the scene Todd referenced above:

One of her last acting roles was in "Good Days Remembered". Todd Busteed remembers something special about the recording of that show.

The most memorable sessions though took place in 2013.  Heirloom Audio recorded a series of dramas called Good Times Remembered.  In this reflection on “how things used to be” Flo played the Grandma across from another of my favorite actors, Don Stroup, who played Grandpa.  That combo alone is gold.  But… the premise is Grandma and Grandpa telling their grandkids about how life has changed. Flo has four daughters.  One of them is especially talented as an actor. That daughter has nine kids.  They too are talented.  And so, I filed the casting sheet with Flo, her daughter, and three of her grandkids. She loved it, and the grandkids cherished their first opportunity to record with their actual Grandma, who they knew was a big deal in radio drama.

Flo had already been diagnosed with Alzheimer's at that point but was sharp as a razor once the script was in front of her and recording started.  It was her canvas, a natural place of creativity that could not be taken away.

Our thoughts and prayers go to Flo's family as they deal with their loss. Her legacy for God and great stories will always be remembered and celebrated.

Special thanks to Todd Busteed of GAP Digital for sharing his recollections of working with Flo and for the audio clip of her from Left Behind.

Austin Peachey is a die-hard reader and audio drama fan. He's run the Adventures in Odyssey Blog for over 11 years and has produced a few audio dramas of his own. He's also worked on the 2nd edition of The Official Guide to Odyssey and can be heard on Iliad House.


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