MURFREESBORO — At age 65, Jim Schroeder looked death in the face, so to speak.
But the Rutherford County Chapter of Tennessee Trails Association hiking group helped save his life.
“In 1993, I had a heart attack,” says Schroeder, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday.
Although he had surgery to correct a blockage that brought on the heart attack, Schroeder knew he’d need to change his lifestyle.
Weak and out of shape, it took Schroeder more than a year to recover from his heart attack. But his health crisis was a wake-up call for him to take better care of himself.
During his recovery, Schroeder eventually retired from his job as an engineer with Pillsbury in Murfreesboro. He and his wife, Joan, both Milwaukee natives, remained in Middle Tennessee because they liked the area so much.
Soon he began eating healthier and his wife, a breast cancer survivor, encouraged him to find some sort of physical activity to rebuild the strength of his heart.
“My wife happened to spot an ad in The Daily News Journal about a local hiking chapter,” Schroeder says. “I went to a meeting (of Tennessee Trails) and I’ve been hooked ever since.”
The Tennessee Trails Association’s monthly meeting in Rutherford County is at 7 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at the Wilderness Station in Barfield Crescent Park, 697 Veterans Parkway.
At first, he simply went on scheduled hikes with the group. Every month hikes are scheduled across the state. But members also do a lot of community service, including trail-building projects.
As an engineer by trade, Schroeder was able to utilize his skills to help design and build hundreds of trails throughout the state of Tennessee.
“A big project was the building of the Cumberland Trail, which is a hiking trail that runs from Chattanooga to the Cumberland Gap National Park (near the Kentucky/Tennessee/Virginia borders), which is close to 300 miles,” Schroeder explains. “I did some preliminary scouting in some areas, did some trail design and actually built some of the trail. The wilderness trails ... I built about 90 percent of those.”