Hiking Writer Jerry Schad Dies of Cancer at 61

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

Jerry Schad, a prolific hiking writer who detailed hundreds of treks throughout San Diego County, 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 San Diego 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.

Francie Sanders, a good friend of Schad’s, told Patch that a memorial is planned. She said Schad left a request that, in lieu of flowers, donations should be sent to Friends of Balboa Park.

San Diego Reader publisher Jim Holman, in an email to 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 college 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.

arlawless September 22, 2011 at 08:23 PM
My thoughts go out to Peg and to Jerry's family. I'm so sorry for your loss.
Nicole Rockstead September 22, 2011 at 09:53 PM
Thank you for writing the definitive guide to San Diego's trails. It never leaves my car and I credit your book for giving me the foundation to have a little local outdoor adventure while making many wonderful memories with my family. Farewell and happy trails Jerry.


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