Northern Star alumni remember colleague as ‘the epitome of community journalism’

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Photo courtesy of Jerry Smith

Ahyen Labanan, News Editor

An NIU and Northern Star alumnus, Barry Schrader spent his entire life practicing what he loved: journalism. He will be remembered by the DeKalb community for his involvement, love of news and storytelling. 

Schrader, 79, died Tuesday after battling pancreatic cancer. He is survived by his wife, Kay, and two sons. A memorial service will be at 10 a.m. July 10 at Sycamore United Methodist Church, 160 Johnson Ave.

Schrader graduated from NIU with a journalism degree in 1963. He worked at the Northern Star in the early ‘60s. He would later serve as president of the Northern Star Alumni Board and be inducted into the NIU Northern Star Hall of Fame in 2013. 

“He’s the epitome of community journalism,” said Mike Korcek, a friend of Schrader and Northern Star alumnus. 

Korcek, who is seven years younger than Schrader, first heard of Schrader through his positive reputation at the Star. Schrader was always good to the younger journalists and encouraged them to get into journalism, Korcek said. 

Korcek emphasized how Schrader understood DeKalb County better than anyone. 

“Looking back on it, Barry is the definition of newshound,” said Lonny Cain, Schrader’s friend and former colleague. “He’s the definition of what community, local journalists should be.” 

Whenever a siren was heard at the Star, someone in the newsroom would go “there goes Barry,” Cain said fondly. 

Cain published a column last April in The Times about Schrader. 

Cain explained how Schrader constantly sought stories to write and how he always had a camera in his hand. 

“The guy was a bundle of curiosity,” Cain said. 

Notably, Schrader was involved in telling stories of the history of DeKalb. 

Schrader co-founded the DeKalb County Historical Society and the Livermore (California) Heritage Guild. He participated in a project titled the “Acres of Change,” documenting county history. 

When Schrader graduated from NIU, he began working at the Byron Tribune in Byron, Illinois. Later, he would work at publications such as the Stillman Valley News and Leaf River Register, which are also in Illinois. 

He moved to California in the mid 1960s and began working at the San Bernardino Sun. He also became an editor at the Livermore Herald. 

Upon returning to DeKalb, he worked as editor of the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. He returned to California again to work as an editor at the Valley Times and Livermore Herald. 

Schrader retired in 2006 after working at Sandia National Labs as a public information officer and science writer. He returned again to DeKalb. 

From 2007 to 2015, Schrader wrote columns about DeKalb County for the Daily Chronicle. Schrader’s last column “Be they gargoyles or grotesques atop The Castle?” was published on Valentine’s Day. 

After retirement, Schrader remained passionate about journalism. 

In a conversation with Cain, Schrader said he felt sad about newspapers experiencing staff cuts. Schrader said this was a tragedy, because newspapers are important to a community. 

Cain also said how, in this conversation, Schrader spoke about his cancer as if it were an article. 

City of DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith said Schrader “was always interested in what was happening in his community, world, his campus, his environment.” 

Smith is a longtime friend of Schrader, and they met when Smith began attending NIU in 1962. Both worked at the Northern Star together. At one point in their careers, Smith and Schrader were competing editors. 

Schrader served as Smith’s director of communications when Smith ran for mayor in 2017.

Smith said how Schrader followed city government closely and advocated for social justice and mental health. 

Schrader was part of the Valley Mental Health Advisory Committee in Alameda County in California. He also led a campaign to keep the Center for Behavioral Health at Kishwaukee Hospital. 

“The tenacity [Schrader] had was unbelievable,” Smith said. 

Schrader and Smith were part of a Monday morning coffee group for the past few years, where they would have discussions. 

Schrader would always bring newspapers and photos to talk about, Smith said. 

Smith last spoke with Schrader a week ago. 

“I said ‘Barry, I love you,’” Smith recalled. “He said, ‘I love you, too.’” 

Smith will deliver a eulogy this week for Schrader. 

“Barry Schrader,” Korcek said. “He’s got legacy written all over him.”