By Elizabeth Weise and Bonnee Waldstein
If you’ve wandered through Glen Canyon or read about the neighborhood in the Glen Park News, you have been the beneficiary of Murray Schneider’s decades of work here. He helped pull invasive weeds in Glen Canyon, dug for planting and lopped ivy at regular Greenway work parties, wrote copiously for the News and spent years wrangling the volunteers who delivered the paper’s quarterly print edition.
An educator, school administrator, tireless neighborhood advocate, Glen Park News reporter and all-around booster, Schneider died of brain cancer on Sunday, March 13, at age 79.
Although he was a resident of the nearby Miraloma neighborhood, Glen Park was the focus of his generosity, and he had many friends here. Schneider was diagnosed with glioblastoma in late December. The family knew it was a terminal illness, “but he didn’t expect to lose him so quickly,” said his wife of 53 years, Marcia Schneider. He died at home together with Marcia, his sister Maxine and daughter Mollie.
In addition to his sister and his wife, he is survived by the Schneiders’ two daughters, Claire and Mollie; their sons-in-law, Patrick and James, and their two grandchildren, Graham and Audrey.
His greatest joy was to travel back east a couple of times a year to see Claire and Patrick in Washington, D.C., and to Brooklyn to visit Mollie and James and the grandchildren. In addition, the Schneiders doted on their two Persian-Himalayan cats, Autumn and Percy.
Murray Schneider was born in Brooklyn in 1943, but his family moved West shortly after, settling in the Outer Sunset where he grew up. Despite his brief New York beginning, Schneider was a true son of San Francisco. He attended Lawton Elementary, Lowell High School and then San Francisco State University for both undergraduate and graduate degrees.
He worked for decades, first as a history teacher and then as principal, at Jefferson High School in Daly City, retiring in 2007.
He was an avid swimmer – he had recently returned to his pre-pandemic, four-times-a-week routine at one of the city pools – and shared some of his memories in a story he wrote in 2019 for the News, about his early days of swimming at the Sutro Baths, starting in 1953:
“The six concrete salt-water pools and one spring-water cement tank were only a bicycle ride from my Outside Lands home at Lawton Street and 32nd Avenue.
“Once at the Baths, I’d fish 25 cents from my jeans and enter the airy building. It was an engineering feat that boasted hundreds of panes of glass and pumped in millions of gallons of seawater. I’d descend three stories to enter the locker room. Before exiting the changing room I’d grab a brass locker tag that I’d either safety pin to my trunks or wrap around my neck. I’d earlier been handed two towels and a wool bathing suit that itched and became so water-logged with ocean water that after an initial foray into the briny water I’d sink to my neck.
“I learned to swim at the Jewish Community Center on California Street and weathered Fleishhacker Pool, a public salt-water swimming pool next to the San Francisco Zoo built in 1925. It was one of the largest heated outdoor swimming pools in the world and remained open until 1971.”
Always engaged in his community, Schneider began volunteering in earnest as soon as he retired. He was a stalwart member of the Friends of Glen Canyon crew that meets monthly to clear invasive weeds out of Glen Canyon, developing a deep familiarity with seemingly every square inch of the park and stoically enduring the occasional scrape or bruise. He wrote multiple stories about the work they were doing, why it was being done and what it entailed, giving thousands of readers an intimate view of the park they wandered through.
Lisa Wayne worked for 24 years as San Francisco’s Recreation and Park Natural Areas Manager, responsible for 31 natural areas within the city including Glen Canyon.
She appreciated Schneider’s “curiosity, kindness, tenacity and integrity. He was a real mensch.” He was an incredible advocate for natural resource protection and access, she told the Glen Park News.
“He worked shoulder to shoulder with the SFRPD Natural Resources staff in Glen Canyon for many years. One of the many things I admired and appreciated about Murray was how he recognized and affirmed the value of the field staff that maintained the natural resources in Glen Canyon. He often spoke and wrote about the experience, passion and thoughtfulness that they brought to the job. His respect for the hard-working and dedicated city staff was exceptional,” she said.
His writings for the News began in 2008 with a story about the late-night baking shift at Canyon Market and ended 14 years later with a story about the first concert given at the Sunnyside Conservatory after COVID rules on gathering indoors were eased. Murray told the paper’s editors he’d always wanted to be “a newsman” and was ready to launch his career. He frequently quoted to his editors, most of them professional journalists, the rules he had learned from his high school journalism teacher.
He also organized the paper carriers for the quarterly Glen Park News, making sure the paper edition was picked up from the printer and distributed to an ever-shifting group of delivery people until the paper ceased printing and moved entirely online in 2021.
He carried a pen and a tiny notebook everywhere he went, in case there was something noteworthy he should remember. A friend, Michael Waldstein, recalls that in their periodic meetups at Higher Grounds, Schneider would take notes as they discussed American and European history or their favorite spy novels.
Long-time Glen Park News Editor-In-Chief Rachel Gordon had this to say about his work:
“Murray had an incredible curiosity and a passion for storytelling. He came to journalism late in life, but it was clear that being a reporter was in his blood. He could find a story in anything – from the person behind the ‘Glen Park Strong’ signs during the pandemic to volunteers removing non-native plants at the Canyon to the heartbreak at Station 26 in Diamond Heights after two firefighters died fighting a flash fire. He helped give our community a voice.”
Gail Bensinger, who served as deputy editor at the News, worked with him on many stories:
“Murray was a mainstay of the Glen Park News reporting staff for years, keeping tabs on improvements to parks and open spaces throughout the neighborhood and profiling interesting residents doing all manner of things. I was his editor for much of that time, and we used to have friendly disagreements over the length of his stories. He was a delight to work with.”
The Schneiders were good friends of Michael Rice, who served as the president of the Glen Park Association for many years. They met often for lunch, discussing the neighborhood and reminiscing about their time as paperboys. The Rices moved to Portland, Ore., a few years ago, but stayed in touch.
“Jane and I last saw Murray and Marcia when we visited San Francisco in May 2021. We met them at Cheese Boutique to pick up sandwiches, then walked to a picnic table above Silver Tree in the canyon. We barely felt the drizzly weather as we talked Glen Park, San Francisco politics, grandchildren, trails in the canyon, and dealing with COVID,” Rice said. “The afternoon was capped with our walk to the new Ohlone Way mural, where we encountered Rachel Gordon. Murray was part of our perfect Glen Park day: fog, meeting neighbors, good talk, and a tasty picnic.”
Schneider always took the time to stop and chat, catch up and hear the news, leading to many stories about long-time residents with fascinating stories.
There must have been times in his life when he was short with people, but it’s impossible to imagine. Schneider was always upbeat, positive and thoughtful when discussing everything from baseball to climate change to Covid-19.
“Murray was a true-blue friend who never had a bad word to say, only good words,” said Bonnee Waldstein, a volunteer colleague at the News. “He was so dedicated to recording all aspects of life in Glen Park for the neighbors – now they will be for posterity.”
In his frequent perambulations (exactly the kind of word Murray loved) he kept up to date with local store owners.
“Murray was always interested, from our start 15 years ago, in the goings-on at the store, both internal and how it interfaces externally with the community,” said Richard Tarlov, who co-owns Canyon Market with his wife Janet. “Murray was all about the ‘local,’ the immediate neighborhood, which he loved dearly, and wrote about with curiosity and kindness. We’ll miss him.”
Schneider had multiple articles brewing when he died. His eagerness to tell them was infectious. His calls to his editors often began, “Do you have just a minute? I’ve really got a great story we should tell.”
His wisdom about schools and children, thoughtfulness about writing, graciousness and honest interest in the people around him made knowing him an honor and a privilege. His absence will be deeply felt.
Services will be held on Thursday morning, March 17 at 10 am. in the Martin Meyer Sanctuary at Temple Emanu-El, at Sacramento and Lake Streets, followed by a private burial.
For those unable to attend the memorial service in person, it will also be live-streamed. The link is here: