Jeffrey Allen Schmahl, 58, former television reporter, founder of Nebraska football’s famed “Tunnelwalk,” and author of the inspirational blog The Last Train, passed away in the early morning hours of Tuesday, July 14, at his home in West New York, NJ, following a 15-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
Among the survivors is Jeff’s sister, Judi (Bill) Carter, of Falls City, now-retired 35-year educator with FC Public Schools.
A Celebration of Jeff’s Life will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8 inside Memorial Stadium, West Stadium – Club Level 3.
“Here we’ll be celebrating Jeff’s life, accomplishments and sending love up his way. Anyone who knew him, loved him, was inspired or impacted by him is more than welcome to join us on this day of remembrance,” his family posted on The Last Train website late Monday.
“For those unable to join us on this special day, we will be posting a fund to donate in his memory for any person who feels like giving. Please do this instead of sending flowers.”
Jeff was born on Aug. 22, 1956 in Albert Lea, MN, the son of Allen and Iris (Vicki) Schmahl. The family moved from Minnesota to Grand Island when Jeff was in grade school and Al Schmahl began a long and distinguished career at the Grand Island Independent. Jeff graduated from Grand Island Senior High in 1974 and from the University of Nebraska in 1978 with a degree in broadcast journalism, following in his father’s shoes. While at UNL, Jeff was a four-year letterman on the Husker tennis team. He was married to Maria Ramirez on Dec. 19, 1981, in Lincoln. Schmahl worked as a television sportscaster for 14 years at KOLN/KGIN in Lincoln. He started working for the UNL Athletic Dept. in 1993, taking a leadership role in the creation of HuskerVision and became known as the founder of the Huskers’ famed “Tunnel Walk.” In 2003, Jeff followed former Nebraska AD Bill Byrne south to Texas A&M to become Senior Associate Athletic Director for the Aggies, in charge of External Operations.
After retiring in 2013, he and his wife moved to New York City to join as co-owners of Schmackary’s, a cookie company their son started near Times Square.
He learned on April 16, 2014 that he had pancreatic cancer and that it had spread to his liver. Weeks later, on May 6, the son of a newspaper man and marvelous award-winning communicator with a legion of friends started The Last Train, prosing to friends, family and fans on life and death and enriching all that occurs in the meantime.
“I hope my words encourage you to make the most of the train ride you are on right now,” he wrote in that first entry. “That’s really what is important to make the most of your life right now and to have a positive impact on the people in your life right now.”
“The Last Train is an analogy for my journey in life with a diagnosis of terminal cancer. I also like the analogy that life itself is like a series of train rides. As we grow older, our lives change, we get off one train and move to another.”
Schmahl’s last entry came just more than a year after his first, on May 14, 2015 (his son, Zach, wrote an update on July 8, a video tribute created by one of his former students was posted on July 10 and news of his passing was shared by his family that morning).
“It’s been almost 14 months since my diagnosis and I am truly thankful not just for the time I’ve been given but especially for the quality of life I’ve been able to experience,” Schmahl wrote.
Survivors include his wife, Maria, and son, Zachary, of New York; his mother, Iris, of Grand Island; sisters, Jill (Steve) Adler, of Oklahoma City, and Judi (Bill) Carter, of Falls City; mother-in-law, Nilda Ramirez, of Wichita, KS; brothers-in-law, Humberto (Toni) Ramirez, of Kansas City, MO, and Jesus Ramirez, of Ft. Lauderdale, FL. He is also survived by many beloved nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his father.
Condolences should be direct to: Schmahl Family, 630 9th Ave., Suite 311, New York, NY 10036.