Ronald Schafer dies at 53; California state parks superintendent in Los Angeles

Ronald P. Schafer, who as superintendent of the


state parks' Angeles District pushed to develop urban parks in the core of

Los Angeles

, has died. He was 53.


Ronald P. Schafer obituary: The obituary in the Sept. 20 LATExtra section of Ronald P. Schafer, who was superintendent of the state parks' Angeles District, said he was credited with strengthening the state parks' relationship with the National Park Service in the Santa Monica National Recreation area and the Santa Monica Conservancy. The article should have said the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, whose board he had chaired since 2008. —

Schafer had finished competing in a Malibu triathlon Sept. 12 and was eating with friends when he had

a stroke

. He died Wednesday at

Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center

, said his brother, Randy.

In a statement, Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks, said Schafer did everything in life with "tremendous passion" and left behind "a legacy of park protection."

Since 2002, he had overseen the Angeles District, which encompasses 18 park units in the Los Angeles area.

In that role, and throughout his career, Schafer had emphasized building partnerships that helped establish new state parks in urban areas. The new parks included two downtown –

along the Los Angeles River and

north of



He also is credited with strengthening the state parks' relationship with the National Park Service in the

Santa Monica

Mountains National Recreation Area and the

. Schaefer had chaired the conservancy's board since 2008.

Joseph T. Edmiston, executive director of the conservancy, called Schafer "a rock of integrity" whose "indomitable spirit and absolute commitment to public parkland made him a standout as a colleague and friend."

Ronald Paul Schafer was born Aug. 30, 1957, in Akron,


, and grew up in

Newport Beach

and Los Gatos, Calif.

He was a mischievous child who learned to swim in two hours when he was about 4, recalled his mother, Pat Farrell.

At the

University of Texas

at Austin, Schaefer swam competitively and completed his bachelor's degree in biology at San Jose State.

He joined the state park system as a seasonal lifeguard when he was 18 and returned in 1984 as a permanent peace officer and lifeguard at Huntington and Bolsa Chica state beaches.

As he rose through the ranks, Schafer oversaw the state park lifeguard program, served as superintendent of

Chino Hills

and Lake


operations in

Riverside County

and was district superintendent in the Bay Area.

Fellow state park employees considered Schafer a mentor, "a team builder" and "inspiration to many," said

Tony Perez

, deputy director for park operations.

Schafer, who was divorced, had been living in the ranger residence at Malibu Creek State Park and recently had moved to

Costa Mesa


In addition to his mother and brother, Schafer is survived by twin sons, Jason and Thomas; a daughter, Sarah; a half sister, Jennifer DeAnda; and two stepbrothers, Timothy and Sean Farrell.