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Update: Jerry Schad Dies at 61; Hiking Writer Once Lived in La Mesa

Author of a dozen books, including the definitive Afoot and Afield local series, had kidney cancer.

Updated at 3:20 p.m. Thursday

Jerry Schad, the prolific hiking writer and former La Mesan, died Thursday at his home in downtown San Diego, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on its website. He was 61.

“I am beyond heartbroken,” his wife, Peg Reiter, said in an email to the Union-Tribune’s Steve Schmidt, who wrote a long profile of Schad’s battle with kidney cancer.

Schad’s Afoot & Afield in San Diego County books are considered the definitive guide to local hiking. His Reader magazine column, Roam-O-Rama, began in January 1993 and ended only last July with a piece titled End of the Trail.

Mike Jones, a former publisher of Schad's hiking books at Wilderness Press, said: “Jerry was so loved—and for many good reasons.”  Jones was publisher of his books from 1999 to 2004, he said.

Jones, who said he met Schad two or three times, recalls that a previous publisher told him that when Schad began producing the San Diego County books, he vowed that they would be the best hiking guides anyone would ever write—and would continue to be the best via updates.

“Jerry was just remarkable,” Jones said in a phone interview from his home office in Portland, OR.

Schad, who wrote his own obituary, left a request that, in lieu of flowers, donations should be sent to Friends of Balboa Park. The Union-Tribune reported that a memorial celebration will be held at 4 p.m. Oct. 9 at the El Cortez Hotel, 702 Ash St.

The family said donations in Mr. Schad’s name may be made to Friends of Balboa Park, 2125 Park Blvd., San Diego, CA 92101. The funds will be used to maintain park trails and on related efforts. The family requests that no flowers be sent.

Reader publisher Jim Holman, in an email to La Mesa Patch, said: “I miss Jerry very much. We have been running re-runs of his old columns for a few months and probably through the end of the year.”

Holman said his free weekly publication will reprint a long Steve Sorensen story about Schad next week.

Schad was a community college teacher for almost 40 years with expertise in astronomy and physics. He was the chairman of the physical sciences department at Mesa College until recently.

He also was an accomplished outdoors photographer.

“I began writing the Reader’s “Roam-O-Rama” column on January 28, 1993, with a description of a wild and lonely campsite in the Anza-Borrego Desert called Mortero Palms,” Schad said in his farewell column.

“This ‘Roam’ column, my 861st, is the last one I will write. I am not giving up authorship of the column voluntarily, but rather necessarily, due to stage 4 cancer. … Researching and writing the column has been a great gig. Nice work if you can get it, some would say.”

According to a biography on his college website, Schad wrote at least a dozen books and more than 400 magazine and newspaper articles. He has also had more than 600 of his photographs published.

His students loved him and gave him good grades on Rate My Professor.

“Schad knows his material, he wrote the book. Don't BS any answers. Your allowed to miss six classes before Nov. 3 after that he takes mandatory like attendance. Buy the book and bring it. He is a genius.”

His faculty biography said: “Schad penned the first book of substance published (in 1976) on the subject of hiking in the San Diego region, Backcountry Roads and Trails, San Diego County.”

“I write books because there are subjects that are crying out to be aired publicly,” he said.

Schad is survived by his wife; his son, Tom Schad of El Cajon; his mother, Marion Schad of Morgan Hill; and three sisters—Leslee Schad of Pennsylvania, Laurie Schad of Massachusetts and Marita Roth of Morgan Hill.

Please share your memories of Jerry Schad in the comments below, and how much you valued his columns and books.

ron lang September 22, 2011 at 06:41 PM
I have a tattered, waterlogged copy of his book that once took a plunge with me into the Cedar Falls Devils Punchbowl, his hiking guide was a constant companion on my many solo hikes throughout the County as a young man, like a treasure map, only now do I realize that the treasure was the journey itself...Safe Journey Jerry...
Jim Pulsifer September 22, 2011 at 09:49 PM
I bought Afoot and Afield in San Diego County in the mid (?) 1980's...Just a fantastic book, and I still have it! I went on dozens of his hikes. It is kind of the bible for SoCal hikers. Thank you Jerry for your great contributions! You made a big difference!
Loraine September 23, 2011 at 12:16 AM
Afoot and Afield was given to me as a gift and it has been with me on all of my hikes ever since. Thank you Jerry...you will never know how many boots have hit the trails and you were with us all the way! Hike with the Angels!!
Ruth Lepper September 23, 2011 at 08:53 PM
I once went on a hike with Jerry Schad in the Anza-Borrego Desert in search of a story as a freelance writer. It was an unforgettable experience. He did, indeed, make a difference in the lives he touched. He will be missed.
Donald Davis January 02, 2012 at 05:09 PM
I worked out in the Warner Springs area and found a couple of updates for his book and e-mailed them to him. He replied with a nice thank you note. It is the best book of San Diego hikes and we need to keep it updated.

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