A trip for longtime friends intending to pass their passion for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area on to their grandsons turned tragic when one of the grandfathers died.
Niles R. Schulz, a former Minneapolis high school football and wrestling coach, apparently drowned when his canoe tipped over, authorities said.
The incident occurred Tuesday afternoon on a bay in Sawbill Lake near the portage to Kelso Lake, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
“This was a trip to introduce our 8-year-old grandsons to the Boundary Waters,” said John Vandermyde, a close friend.
Schulz had coached Vandermyde’s two sons in both sports at Minneapolis Edison. “I introduced him to the Boundary Waters. We both had sons named Daniel, and we took our two Daniels on a canoe trip. ... We would go every year for many years. He loved it up there.”
Schulz, 75, was paddling the lake and the four others in the party were on the lakeshore nearby when they heard a splash. They saw him trying to right the tipped-over canoe, the Sheriff’s Office said, but he soon went under.
As the others tried to locate him, one person in the group paddled to Sawbill Canoe Outfitters and called 911. Searchers found Schulz’s body about 5:30 p.m. He was not wearing a life jacket, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Vandermyde said they could see Schulz in the canoe toward the back, “and that made it a little less stable. ... My son said the canoe tipped over, and we yelled, ‘Are you OK?’ ”
Hearing no reply, “we jumped in our canoes and paddled over there,” Vandermyde continued. “By the time we got over there, he was not to be found.”
‘Solitude and solace’
Jane Schulz said her husband “was somewhat of an introverted fellow. He didn’t need crowds of people around him. [The BWCA] offered him solitude and solace. He went out that last time by himself on that quiet, little bay.”
Schulz was the head wrestling and football coach from the late 1960s into the 1980s for Edison, where he also taught English for 19 years. He served on the board of the Edison Community and Sports Foundation, as does Vandermyde.
The foundation Vandermyde and Schulz helped run awarded college scholarships, and Schulz “always cherished the opportunity to interview scholarship applicants,” his wife said.
Schulz’s wrestling teams won roughly two-thirds of their matches and numerous city and Twin Cities titles under his direction. His football teams also had success, going several seasons without a losing record.
Schulz also was an executive with St. Paul-based Dolphin Development and Construction Co. He was a volunteer tutor at grandson Richard’s third-grade class.
In the last morning that Schulz and grandson Richard would have together, Vandermyde said he could hear “Niles reading a book to him in their tent. It was just so sweet.”