Local business owner was active in community
DANSVILLE — The community is in mourning over the loss of one of its brightest stars.
Edgar Schmidt, 56, of Wayland passed away after a battle with cancer at Strong Memorial Hospital on Oct. 12.
For many, he was known as Mr. Movie Man, Mr. Candy Man, or even Mr. Popcorn Man. He had a strong passion for the community. He was the proud manager of Star Theater for over 25 years. His father, Charles, bought the famous local theater in 1994. Edgar had a lot of hopes and dreams of making the theater the bright center of the community.
Lois Furioso, Edgar’s younger sister, will take over the family legacy at Star Theater. She, her husband, Dave, and Edgar’s long-time partner, Jennifer Howe, will be in charge of the theater from now on. It is important to them to carry on what Edgar dreamed of for the 100th Anniversary of the local theater in 2021.
Edgar had an incredible life for over five decades, and although it wasn’t nearly long enough, his legacy will carry on in the hearts of all who knew and loved him.
Edgar graduated Wayland Central School in 1981, and after a summer backpacking through Europe he joined the Marine Corps on Sept. 23, 1981.
“Edgar loved to travel all of his life. He had traveled to just about every continent. He wanted to travel through Europe after graduating from high school. He was a foreign exchange student in Norway his junior year,” Furioso said. “He went back to visit his host family and spent a lot of time exploring Europe in the summer. After that he wanted to serve his country, so he joined the Marine Corps. He was a scribe for his unit. He made friends everywhere he went. He was very proud to serve. He was always into the civil clubs and doing things for others.”
One story about his time in the Marine Corps involves a payphone in the middle of nowhere.
“He came across this broken payphone one day. He called me long distance and didn’t have to pay for the call. It was awesome since we were able to have an actual conversation. Normally in the 1980s you were lucky if you could talk for a couple of minutes on a payphone. I loved that he could have that real conversation with me. It was hilarious since he told me he had to go, there was only a matter of time before the others caught on. We always stayed in touch through letters when he was away,” Furioso said.
Furioso said that Edgar liked to talk about the footprint we would all leave behind, and how he wanted his footprint to be about making an impact on others.
“Everything he did in his life was about the kind of footprint he wanted to leave behind. No matter if it was the service, community, or the theater. He always said that what we leave behind matters,” she said.
Edgar wanted to make it to the 100th anniversary of his beloved theater, Furioso said. It is heartbreaking to everyone in the family that this did not happen.
“We met with dad at the theater today (Tuesday) to talk about what to do. Jen said we needed to do what we could to continue Edgar's work. It had been the first time I walked back into it since my brother died. I thought that I would be really sad, but it all just felt like home. Everything in the theater felt like Edgar to me. It had his director chair with his name on it. The popcorn made special his secret way,” she said. “It will take three of us to do what my brother did all by himself. Not a lot of people know how much my brother did behind the scenes. He had to talk to studios and book a lot of films with the agents.”
The local theater’s very existence was kept alive thanks to the determination and passion of Edgar.
“I remember when our dad bought the theater, it had been dark for eight years. Edgar talked about how the theater was the center of the town. It had been dark for too long, and it was important to keep the theater going. The theater had been the town's identity for a long time. Edgar made a choice that the star needed to always stay lit,” Furioso said.
The Star Theater is more than just a small-town theater. It is a unique place for the community to go whenever they needed a special function, donation, wedding, children’s event, benefit, or anything that would help out the community.
“Edgar wanted the theater to go beyond the doors. He was always willing to make a donation to any cause going on in the town. He opened his doors for live music during festivals. He has held weddings there. He heard the food pantry was short on supplies, so he opened up for a food donation at the theater. My brother made a huge impact on this community,” Furioso said.
The impact went further than the community boundaries. It went to Naples, Alfred, Wayland, Nunda, and beyond. Edgar had the classic Rocky Horror Picture Show every October for the college students.
Jennifer Howe became “His Jennifer” and the two of them did everything together as a team. Furioso said that it made her heart sing to see the two of them together. They had hopes and dreams of the long future ahead. That is why it is import to her and the family to keep the theater alive. Star Theater is a local gem that needs to keep shining.
Another important part of Edgar’s life was the Dansville Rotary Club. He was in the club for many years. He served as the president from 2017 to 2018.
“There was not another person alive in this family that had as strong an impact on the kids as Edgar. He was great about letting them work in the theater. He taught them all of the tough lessons. He told them what was important. He delivered all of these messages in a heartwarming way,” Furioso said. “So many people knew my brother, and all have such wonderful memories of him. Since he passed, I have bumped into a lot of people who share their memories of Edgar. Edgar and I were always very close growing up. He was and always will be my hero.”
Edgar wanted to be a community leader throughout his lifetime. He wanted others to lead by his example, so that they could leave kind footprints behind as well. Every single day was an adventure for him.
The family wishes that anyone with great memories be willing to share them at his memorial.
Edgar’s family and friends may visit the Star Theatre, 144 Main St., Dansville on Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. Military honors will take place at 1 p.m. prior to visitation. Edgar’s funeral service will be at 4 p.m. at Star Theatre. Contributions in memory of Edgar R. Schmidt may be made to the Cancer Comfort Bag Project, PO Box 284, Dansville, NY 14437.