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Barry Schrader


I currently write a column every other Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.


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Sycamore native a prolific writer

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................June 2, 2015

Note to readers: Barry Schrader’s “DeKalb County Life” column will appear every other Tuesday.

Following on the heels of recent columns about famous newspapermen from Sycamore and Waterman, two months ago, my wife Kay reminded me about her classmate from Sycamore High Class of 1960, who ranks right up there with other notable DeKalb County writers.

Bob Hill has written 10 books over a lifetime while also producing a column for the Louisville (Kentucky) Courier-Journal for some 30 years. Now retired, he and his wife (the former Janet Bieterlen from Sycamore Class of 1961) now own and operate the Hidden Hill Nursery & Sculpture Garden in Utica, Indiana.

Talking with Hill by phone, I learned he worked on two of the same papers I did, after he graduated from Rice University in Houston, where he attended on a basketball scholarship. He also had been one of coach Pete Johnson'’s football stars. He cut his teeth on basic reporting at the Sycamore Sun-Tribune and True Republican a few years after I had parted company with those papers.

He said he got his first taste of column-writing while on the Sycamore papers “and that was it; he was hooked.

He soon moved on to the Rockford Morning Star & Register Republic for six years, from 1969 to 1975,

Sycamore natives Bob Hill, at right, and David Boies met recently at a Kentucky Authors Forum. (Provided photo)

Bob Hill shared this photo of him with a boxer named Ali, taken some 20 years ago.
before landing a plum job at the Louisville paper, known as one of the 10 best dailies in the nation.
"“They gave me a column and I got into my pickup truck and drove in ever widening circles looking for stories," he said. "It was the perfect job. If I saw a guy plowing with a mule, I’'d stop and talk with him. I once met a couple married 70 years and stayed for dinner at their home."”

His personal column, penned three or four times a week, became a popular feature for the paper and even won him the prestigious Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

While with the paper, he came across many topics that would make a good book-length story and jumped onto a few. Probably his best known title is "Double Jeopardy,"” about a man who was acquitted of murdering his wife in Louisville, then evidence later surfaced that proved he had killed her.

That one sold 80,000 copies in hardback and paper editions, plus generated widespread coverage on MSNBC and a two-part series on NPR that was broadcast nationwide. Hill added that prosecutors were able to convict him for other crimes and he did finally go to jail.

The mention of lawyers brought something to mind that Hill had experienced recently. He attended a Kentucky Authors Forum and met David Boies, who was a featured speaker. It turns out Boies also is a Sycamore product. They talked about their early days of small town life.

For those not acquainted with Boies, he is one of the nation'’s preeminent attorneys, being named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2010. He is definitely on my list of people to interview someday, maybe if he returns to Sycamore in 2016 when he told Hill they are holding a reunion to celebrate 100 years of the family'’s history.

Getting back to Hill’s achievements, he also has written “"The Louisville Slugger Story,”" as well as books containing collections of his favorite columns, “"Old Friends”" and “"Stone Walls and River Music.”" His interest in gardening resulted in two more books on that topic.

He was surprised to receive a letter last month from Sycamore High School notifying him he has been chosen to receive one of the 2015 SHS Distinguished Alumni awards. The induction ceremony coincides with his 55th class reunion back here, so he plans to attend both events.

I look forward to buying him a drink so he might be persuaded to share more of his secrets on successful column writing.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115