Former Daily Chronicle editor, columnist and lifelong newspaperman Barry Schrader, 79, died Tuesday afternoon after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
DeKalb Mayor and close friend Jerry Smith confirmed the news Tuesday, and said he was informed by one of Schrader's sons of his death around noon. He said he found it poignant that Schrader, whom he called a 'news hound' died the same day that Facebook announced it will build an $800 million data center in DeKalb, a story Schrader would have loved, Smith said.
"My good friend Barry Schrader, the news hound who loved media, would have been so darn excited about this," Smith said. "We had a great relationship and he's got a wife and two sons that he just adored. We're going to miss him as a community but we're so much richer having known him."
Funeral arrangements are pending for Schrader, who leaves behind wife, Kay Schrader and two sons among other extended family.
A Genoa native, Schrader was a 1963 Northern Illinois University graduate who's journalism degree took him all over the country, first as editor of the Byron Tribune, Stillman Valley News and Leaf River Register, all weekly newspapers. He purchased his hometown newspaper, the Genoa Republican, with his wife, Kay Schrader, and shortly after he also bought Kirkland's weekly paper, the DeKalb County Journal.
He founded the DeKalb County Press and purchased the Sycamore True Republican and the Sycamore Tribune, and then in 1966 sold his share of the county press to head to southern California to work on the San Bernadino Sun. He served later as editor of the Livermore Herald from 1967 to 1969 before heading back to his roots in DeKalb as editor of the Daily Chronicle from 1969 to 1972.
It was during this time that he competed directly with his former NIU peer, Jerry Smith.
Smith laughed to himself recalling his first encounter with Schrader at NIU.
"He was leading a demonstration on what is now Lowden Hall in 1962, and then I met him on the Northern Star," Smith said. "Barry was also the editor of an underground newspaper at northern called the Quarterback, and Leslie Holmes, after whom the Holmes Student Center is made, was president at the time and threatened to throw Barry out of school. But Barry didn't quit."
Barry's voice remained a regular feature in the Daily Chronicle long after his tenure as editor ended, as he penned a weekly column called "DeKalb County Life." His final column, titled "Be they gargoyles or grotesques atop The Castle" was published on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14 of 2020.
Schrader's passion for history, photography, writing and community service was also apparent in his work, as he collaborated on several books telling the history of DeKalb County, including Hybrid Corn & Purebred People, a collection of his favorite Daily Chronicle columns and Acres of Change, a history of DeKalb from 1963 through 2012.
He co-founded the DeKalb County Historical Society, the Livermore Heritage Guild, and was a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Oral History Association, National Society of Newspaper Columnists, American Amateur Press Association and The Fossils.
Schrader's legacy in the community spans beyond newspapers, though that was his life's passion, said Eric Olson, who served as editor of the Daily Chronicle from 2012 to 2017 and then general manager for the paper through March 2020.
"Barry was a friend who made a real mark on this community through his writing and activism," Olson said. "I felt a real kinship with him, not just because we were both newspapermen, but because he loved people, he loved DeKalb County and loved telling stories. He was admired by many who came to know him, and for good reason."
After a second career as a public information officer and science writer at Sandia National Labs in California, Schrader retired in 2006 and eventually moved back to DeKalb County with his family.
During retired life, he remained active as a member of the Rotary Club in Livermore, California for 34 years and the Sycamore Rotary Club up until his death. After he and his wife moved into Oak Crest retirement home he founded a Rotary Club there, too.
The club commemorated Schrader a few weeks ago with a tree planting ceremony in his honor.
In 2013, he was named to NIU's Northern Star Hall of Fame. And in 2017, he ran Smith's successful campaign for mayor of DeKalb.
Smith said. "During the campaign, he was very very insistent that we walk this neighborhood today, that one tomorrow, and I would just say, 'Barry let's slow this thing down.'"
"Barry was just doggedly tenacious on so many things, and one of the dearest friends anybody would ever want to have."
Editor's note: If you'd like to contribute to our ongoing coverage of Barry's legacy or share a story, email Editor Kelsey Rettke at email@example.com.