Editor’s note: The following is written by Jessi Haish LaRue, submitted as a tribute to Barry Schrader, former Daily Chronicle editor, county historian and lifelong newspaperman who died Tuesday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. If you’d like to contribute to the Daily Chronicle’s ongoing homage to Schrader’s legacy, email Editor Kelsey Rettke at email@example.com
I first met Barry when I was a reporter at the Northern Star at Northern Illinois University. Barry was an eccentric, unique character that frequented the office, even stopping by with hot news tips. He was a legend to us kids, and an important presence in a newsroom full of tomorrow’s journalists.
As I wrote an in-depth story on DeKalb’s Annie Glidden mural, my Star coworkers lovingly teased that I would be DeKalb County’s next Barry Schrader. I hoped I could have half of his integrity, heart, and nose for news.
I briefly worked for the Daily Chronicle, and Barry was a helpful source. When I quit, he immediately took me under his wing. Although I was no longer in the daily news grind, he quickly asked me to be a columnist for his online news source, DeKalb County Life. I agreed without hesitation, as I saw the opportunity to build a friendship with someone who I sincerely admired. He became my mentor, and sent encouraging emails often.
I saw him in person at almost every one of my local history presentations. He would deeply listen to my presentation, then fire off questions at me during my Q&A. Always a journalist.
Barry was the one who encouraged me to join the DeKalb County Historical Genealogical Society, because, as he put it, they could use some “young, fresh ideas.” Now I’m a board member of that fantastic group, and I owe it to Barry.
Just a few months ago, Barry called with a short, to-the-point message. He had pancreatic cancer. I needed to come over soon because he had some things to give me. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was there within a couple hours.
When I arrived, Barry took me to his office, and I couldn’t help but smile seeing his giant desk with thousands of loose sheets of paper, pens and notebooks. Always a journalist.
He started pulling books off of his shelves. “You’ll need this one, and this one,” he said, as he pulled DeKalb County history books from the shelf. “You’ll love this one,” he said as he handed me a Mike Royko book. He walked me through his house and even took framed photos and documents down off his walls. He handed them to me without a second thought. “This will be so helpful for your future presentations,” he said, as he yanked a giant DeKalb County map off the wall in a staircase.
He sent me home with four boxes of books. I drove home in tears, feeling miserable over the thought of losing Barry, as well as swelling pride, because he was sharing this huge part of his life with me. I was honored, and it was then that I swore that I’d always make him proud.
What a loss. My heart is broken, but Barry’s enthusiasm for life, and his unwavering pursuit of the story, will be my inspiration for years to come.
Source: The Daily Chronicle