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Shevlin man donates seventh gallon of blood

The first time Larry Schmidt donated blood, he was forced to do it.

But now, he does it willingly - and often.

Schmidt, 59, of Shevlin recently eclipsed the seven-gallon mark for blood donations with the Mississippi Headwaters Blood Bank.

Once every two months, Schmidt goes to North Country Regional Hospital, checks in, and donates a pint of blood.

"For 10 years now, I've gone pretty much every eight weeks," he said.

Occasionally, whenever there's a new person checking him in, Schmidt offers this advice for locating his folder: "Just grab the biggest file," he says.

Schmidt, who tops the list of donors with the Mississippi Headwaters Bank in total donations, did not set out to break records. In fact, he seldom calls the blood bank to check in or to get an update as to how much blood he's given.

"I just kind of keep track by the calendar," he said. He knows he donates a pint of blood every visit and since eight pints equal one gallon, he figures that he donates about one gallon every year and a quarter or so.

"I don't really keep track," he said.

Schmidt grew up in Wabasha, Minn., and joined the U.S. Army in 1968 (he served two years in Vietnam). Once enlisted in the Army, he says that he didn't have much of a choice about donating.

"They made me do it," he said.

Once out of the military, he went to vocational school, where he learned to be an electrical line worker, in Rosemount, Minn., and donated blood a few times there through the local Red Cross.

After completing his schooling, Schmidt worked in Grand Rapids for a year before moving to the Bemidji area in 1978.

About 10 years ago, he began donating blood on a regular basis through the Mississippi Headwaters Blood Bank.

What has kept him going all these years?

"They have pretty good treats over there at the hospital," he joked.

His wife, Janice, used to try to give blood, Schmidt said, but they had trouble locating her vein. "They told her not to worry about it, that I give enough for both of us," he said.

Schmidt enjoys his visits to the hospital, he said, and is on a first-name basis with many of the employees, especially those who actually take his blood from him.

"The girls are a lot of fun," Schmidt said. "I call them vampires."

Schmidt has pins representing his fifth, sixth and now seventh gallon of blood donations. He knew that he was close to hitting seven when he found out that the next visit would be his seventh gallon.

The next time he went, they gave him a pin, he said.

While he's a frequent donator, Schmidt said he still gets asked the same health-related questions beforehand, just like everyone else who wishes to make a blood donation.

"When I first started, they didn't ask those questions," Schmidt said. "Now there's a quite lengthy list."

Once, in 2004, he had to say that he had been out of the country, since he and Janice had gone overseas to visit their son, Jacob, who was serving in Germany with the military.

He was still able to donate.

Schmidt has been employed as a lineman with Beltrami Electric since 1978 - this is his 30th year with the company. He and Janice have two sons. Jacob now lives in Bemidji, and a younger son, Benjamin, lives in the Twin Cities.