on July 5, 2013 - 10:38 PM
Sept. 7, 1989 – July 3, 2013
James A. Schmitt, who was featured in a public service announcement video for the Hunter’s Hope Foundation playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on the piano, died Wednesday in Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. He was 23.
Born in Sisters Hospital, the lifelong Amherst resident was 8 years old when he was diagnosed with adrenoleukodystrophy, a rare brain disorder that was dramatized in the 1992 film “Lorenzo’s Oil.”
He could not walk or talk since the age of 9.
“But he had the greatest laugh in the whole world, and he had the best smile,” said Sheila Schmitt, his mother.
James attended Maplemere Elementary School , Aspire Center for Learning in Cheektowaga, and the People Inc. Lancaster Dayhab Center in Depew
James began playing the piano when he was 5 years old and his family videotaped his performances. After he was diagnosed with the disease, a video of one of his performances – from when he was 5 years old – was used for the public service announcement in 2008.
Jimmy also made the all-star team for the Mel Ott Little League. According to his family, he loved his pool, watching movies, attending outings with his family and members of his dayhab center. He also watched the Buffalo Bills and became friends with one of his idols, former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly.
For years his parents called his dark, brown eyes “chocolate chips.”
His eyes as well as valves from his heart will be donated to others in need of a transplant.
“I’m so proud of him,” his mother said. “He accomplished so much.”
In addition to his mother, he is survived by his father, Michael; a brother, Steve; maternal grandfather, Edward Moran; and paternal grandmother, Jeannette Schmitt.
A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Grace Baptist Church, 2525 Eggert Road, Town of Tonawanda.