Farm work was a labor of love for a young William Schroeder, but it was a passion for writing and community that led to a 55-year career in the local news business in Lake County.
Known for his hard work and involvement in a variety of business and civic organizations, the Long Lake resident and co-founder and former publisher of Lakeland newspapers died Saturday at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital near Barrington. He was 82.
Visitation is 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Ringa Funeral Home, 122 S. Milwaukee Ave. in Lake Villa. Services will begin at 10 a.m. Friday at the funeral home, with burial to follow at Grant Cemetery in Ingleside.
Ill for six years, Schroeder still was thinking and talking business in his final days.
"I think he worked the day all four of his children were born," said his daughter Jill McDermott, who remains involved in the business that began in 1956 with weekly publications in Grayslake, Round Lake and Fox Lake.
"I would say it was his love of community. He came from a farming background. He was just a real hands-on, grass-roots kind of guy. He saw the newspaper as his way to mirror the community."
Lakeland grew to include a dozen or more newspapers and pioneered the practice of "zoning" news and advertising -- a trend that spread to other publications.
Schroeder helped form the Suburban Press Foundation, predecessor of the Suburban Newspapers of America and in 1980 became president of the Illinois Press Association, the largest state newspaper association in the country.
"I always see Bill as a news guy -- he exemplified a generation of family-owned newspapers," said Wayne Woltman, also a past IPA president and former publisher/owner of the Press Republican chain of papers in Kane and DuPage counties.
Schroeder grew up on a farm in Half Day near Lincolnshire and won Grand Champion at the Lake County Fair while showing a Holstein cow.
But fascination with writing led to a career in journalism that began with a four-page newspaper he distributed to grammar school classmates. He was named editor of the Libertyville High School paper and attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he joined the Daily Illini staff as a reporter with contemporaries who included syndicated columnist Bob Novak and film critic Gene Shalit, according to his daughter.
He learned more nuts and bolts of newspaper work as a sports copy editor with the Champaign-Urbana Courier before joining the Army as a staff sergeant and editing a weekly newspaper at Fort Bliss, Texas.
Coming home, he secured a position as a reporter with the Waukegan News-Sun. After three years, he persuaded his father, Marshall R. Schroeder, a banker and business manager at the Libertyville Independent Register to sell the family farm to buy what became the nucleus of Lakeland.
"He made the decision that he wanted to commit himself to local journalism," McDermott said. "They looked all over the state of Illinois -- what's the best place to have a newspaper and what can we afford?"
She recalled her father loading the four kids into a van packed with newspapers and dropping them off in various towns to hand them out.
McDermott and her siblings all were involved in some aspect of the business, although none became journalists. She is the Lake County advertising director for Shaw Media, which bought Lakeland in December 2005.
During his career, Schroeder received numerous awards including the IPA's "Best in State" newspapers honors three times.
McDermott said her father counted reporting the legendary Hebron High School basketball championship, columns supporting keeping Great Lakes Naval Station open and bringing Lake Michigan water to north and western Lake County among his proudest achievements.
Schroeder also helped locate and finance the IPA's headquarters in Springfield and organized the Illinois Press Foundation, which provides endowments and support for the newspaper industry.
He was active in several Lake County chambers of commerce and other organizations including Advocate Condell Medical Center, Fox Lake State Bank and Carmel Catholic High School.
Survivors include his wife, Nancy; four children: William (Lisa), Jill (Bill) McDermott, Karen (Jim) Miller, and Robert (Elise); eight grandchildren; and a brother, Robert (Elizabeth). He was preceded in death by his parents.
Instead of flowers, memorials can be made to the American Heart Association or the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.