The Flagstaff teacher and outdoors enthusiast known as "the Father of the Arizona Trail" died Sunday at age 59, following a battle with cancer.

Dale Shewalter lobbied various state and public lands agencies in the 1980s to form an 817-mile trail running the length of Arizona, from Mexico to Utah.

Following hikes along the Mogollon Rim and across the length of the state, he once quit work for a year and put perhaps 60,000 miles on his car in the 1980s to lobby landholding state and federal agencies for their approval, a friend remembered.

"Ideas are good, but this guy made it happen," said Dave Hicks, of the Arizona Trail Association.

The trail for which Shewalter helped break ground is now about 37 miles away from completion.

"For me, it goes way back," Shewalter once told Northern Arizona's Mountain Living Magazine. "It goes back to childhood, dreaming of getting from here to there in a non-motorized way, such as hiking or horseback. It's a chance to enjoy that sense of freedom and independence."

A plaque in Buffalo Park, where he was married and fought the construction of a roadway, marks some of Shewalter's work.

Born and raised in Geneva, Ill., Shewalter enlisted in the Marine Corps and served in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969, before becoming a geologist and moving to Tucson, according to his family.

He hiked in southern and central Arizona, then taught elementary school in Flagstaff for nearly 30 years.

Shewalter enjoyed horseback riding in retirement, and life at his small Timberline ranch.

Shewalter is survived by son Zane Shewalter, stepdaughter Allison Hartman, wife Madeleine Shewalter, and other friends and relatives.

Funeral arrangements are pending and the family is drafting an obituary for publication in the Arizona Daily Sun.

Seth Muller, editor of Northern Arizona's Mountain Living Magazine, contributed to this story.

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