|Leah Schad, 2002|
A few days ago, Linda Schad, a friend of mine from high school days who knows my absolute favorite thing to write about is Florida and Florida history, messaged me with a link about her mother, Leah Schad. The comment that accompanied the message was “Your family built historic places in the county and my Mom worked at saving it.” Well, my family only built one house in Delray Beach (the Historic Hartman House), but the legacy of Leah Schad is one that will, hopefully, impact the entire South Florida area.
Ms. Schad worked on the Board of Directors of the South Florida Water Management District; was Chairman of the Florida Audubon Society and on the National Board for the Audubon Society. Known locally as the “grande dame of environmentalism,” she devoted her life to the preservation and conservation of our unique and fragile South Florida ecosystem.
The link Linda sent me led to a palmbeachpost.com article about an event held on November 22, 2014 in which a plaque in the memory of Ms. Schad was unveiled at the Nature Center at Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach. Why a plaque? Well, because in addition to being involved in the previously mentioned organizations, Ms. Schad was also an original member of the Okeeheelee Park Citizens Advisory Committee, and was a huge part of the development and design of the Nature Center that now sits snuggled near the northern boundary of Okeeheelee Park on Forest Hill Boulevard. It was her hands and heart that helped develop a wonderful Nature Center to truly highlight the beauty of our South Florida environment and to educate future generations about why its all so important.
The loss of Leah Schad in February of 2008 was heart wrenching for her family, but it was also a loss for Palm Beach County and South Florida. As someone who writes about little things in the history of Palm Beach County to try to bring a Florida that no longer exists alive to my readers, I hope you have the opportunity to tour the Nature Center and see what Leah Schad worked so hard to do—keep a part of our “old” Florida alive and educate future generations to respect our fragile environment before it, too, becomes something wistfully written about by people like me.
Okeeheelee Park is located at 7715 Forest Hill Blvd., West Palm Beach, FL 33413 (one mile west of Jog Road). The Nature Center can be reached at (561) 233-1400. Hours change seasonally, so check their website through Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation (CLICK HERE).