George Bernard Shaffer – Colonel, United States Army

Courtesy of the United States Military Academy:


George Bernard Shaffer, NO. 17466
Died 5 September 1985 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, aged 57 years
Interment: Arlington National Cemetery

George Bernard Shaffer – soldier, professional, competitor, athlete, student, leader, friend, husband, father, gentleman, gentle man – in short, a man of “character.”

There are few things in the totality of a person's life more significant or revealing than “character” – ­character in the sense of integrity, courage, morality, principle, sense of humor, diligence, perseverance, hunger to learn, and the ability to love and to be loved. George Shaffer epitomized all these traits and set a lofty example for others. We loved him, we liked him, we respected him, we remember him, and we miss him very much.

One of four brothers, George knew firsthand the mills and farms of western Pennsylvania. He entered the Naval Aviation V-5 program at Princeton University, then won a competitive appointment to the Academy. While at West Point, his interests and successes were broad and varied. West Point is where he developed loyal friends, honed professional skills, increased his love of learning, learned how to play golf, and perhaps most important – met Bev Carlson.

His military service as an officer in the Army Corps of Engineers spanned over 20 years. During that time, he commanded engineer troop units from platoon to battalion, served three tours of duty in Korea (the Korean War, advisor to the ROK Army, and commander of the famous 44th Engineers, better known as the “Broken Heart Battalion”). He was most proud of civil service projects such as the construction of the bridge over the Han River in Korea and support for the Boy Scouts of America in Arkansas. He also served in Germany, the Louisville District, Chief of Engineers Office, and the Army school system through Command and General Staff College.

George retired from the Army with many decorations and citations, an outstanding professional reputation, and a lovely family on 6 August 1970, with the rank of colonel. After retirement, he added computer programming and electronic repair to his repertoire. Through a correspondence course, he built his own TV set – and it worked!

His love affair with beautiful, lively, intelligent, devoted Bev – a perfect Army wife — lasted until 27 February 1980, when Bev died after a courageous and difficult fight with cancer. A devoted couple, they fought Bev's last battle together. Born to the marriage were Sue and Scott. Bev and George are also survived by Sue's husband, Steven Rosenfeld, Scott's wife Karen, and five grandchildren – Sue's Beverly, Jennifer, and Samantha, and Scott's Lindsay and Kelsey.

After retirement, George continued in the construction field which he learned so well during high school, the Academy, and, of course, in the Corps of Engineers. His master's degree in civil engineering from Texas A & M added to this impressive background. His construction accomplishments still stand today as a monument to this skilled professional engineer. These include the Beargrass Creek Pumping Plant in Louisville, Kentucky; a mammoth tank and artillery shop at Fort Knox, Kentucky; the Half-and-Half and Babicz Bridges near the Demilitarized Zone in
Korea; family housing in Korea; and civilian housing he built in northern Virginia after his retirement from the Army.

Following the anguish of and difficult struggle with Bev's illness and death, George moved from Virginia to Fort Lauderdale to pick up the pieces and start a new life. Close Army friends (mostly classmates) in the area enjoyed his companionship during the all-too-short time in Fort Lauderdale. During these days of new challenge, rebuilding his life, and recovering from the devastating loss of his beloved Bev, George was fortunate to meet Ruby Wagner. Their dedication to one another
never diminished Bev's memory in any way. The manner in which the entire family and close friends welcomed and loved Ruby while remembering Bev is a keen measure of George's character and Ruby's as well.

While in Fort Lauderdale, George was a member of the well-known Inverrary Country Club, home of the Jackie Gleason Golf Tournament. George made his mark there also as an active, admired member of the Inverrary Men's Golf Association and winner of more than his share of local tournaments. After his death, the Association named an annual tournament in his honor. The Jackie Gleason tournament is no longer played at Inverrary, but the George Bernard Shaffer Memorial Tournament is.

George also was stricken with cancer early in 1985, and the illness progressed all too rapidly in spite of his monumental courage and fight. Throughout this agonizing period, he managed to maintain his keen, quiet, droll sense of humor. I remember all too well asking him a few days before he died as he lay in a hospital bed in terrible pain, “How do you feel?” The grimace of pain on his face was momentarily replaced by his characteristic smirk and the twinkle of mischief in his eyes as he replied, “I'd have to feel lots better to feel lousy!” George's valiant struggle ended on 5   September 1985, with Sue, Scott, Ruby, other family, and several devoted classmates on hand.

An ancient philosophy book poses the question, “Who is rich?” and then offers answers such as:

He who has a good name.
He who helps his fellow man.
He who has a good woman.
He who is content with his lot.

Our dear friend, George Bernard Shaffer, was indeed the richest of men.

– E. C. West, his friend

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