Donald Stephen Shaffer passed away on March 29, 2022. He was 92. Services will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6, 2022, at the Eldon Christian Church with Rev. Dave Bowden, and Chaplain Doug McAntire officiating. A graveside service will immediately follow where Mr. Shaffer will be buried with full military honors in Eldon cemetery. Memorial contributions can be made to Eldon Christian Church. Friends may leave online condolences at www.cranstonfamilyfuneralhome.com.
Donald Stephen Shaffer was born on May 22, 1929, to Rose Channel and Emory Jay Shaffer in Ottumwa, IA. His childhood was marked by tragedy early on when his mother passed when he was just three and a half years old. Before his tenth birthday his father would make him a ward of the state after the death of Donald’s grandfather, Stephen Andrew Shaffer. Don was housed in many homes in the newly formed foster care system when his picture appeared on the front page of the Ottumwa Courier with other students from the Shank School who visited the newspaper’s offices on a field trip there. It was this photograph that led his older brother, Max to become aware of his younger brother’s whereabouts. Max then persuaded his aunt to take Don in in return for a monthly stipend from his military paycheck. Don would then move to Eldon, IA to live with his aunt. He would join the Eldon Christian Church and attend Eldon High School. As a teenager, he did odd jobs until graduation doing everything from driving a hearse to writing a sports column for the Eldon Forum. He would graduate from Eldon High School in 1948 and enlist in the Army. After basic training he would first deploy with the 171st Army Evac hospital unit hitching a ride on the Herkimer Maru. It was here, serving as a company clerk for this evac hospital he first worked alongside Dr. Richard Hornberger, the man who would go on to write the book, M*A*S*H. The book would go on to become a movie, and then a popular tv show that ran from 1972 to 1983. The character, Radar, was loosely based on Don at the age of 19. After two tours in Korea, Donald would continue his career opting to serve in the Army’s military intelligence division. A six -year stint in Japan gave Shaffer the opportunity to attend night school earning his bachelor’s degree from Sophia University. He would continue in service to his country serving an extended tour of duty in Vietnam working for Army Intelligence. Once stateside, He was assigned to the Army Intelligence School at Fort Hollabird in Baltimore, MD where he taught for six years. He would earn his master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and retire from the army after 23 years.
The next chapter of his life was marked by a career as a college professor of Political Science and World history at what was then called Dundalk Community College. During his 25 years there in addition to his teaching duties, he hosted a television show on the college’s television station and led students on tours around the world to places such as Russia, China, Egypt, Denmark, and the Holy lands. He would bring a group of students to his hometown in Ottumwa in 1991. He would retire from teaching that same year and return home to Ottumwa where he busied himself with volunteering in the public school system, working with various veteran’s groups, the Ottumwa historical society, as well as promoting his adopted hometown of Eldon, IA. He was also active in the Democratic Party and served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2008. He was flattered when then President Barak Obama asked to meet him while the President addressed a town hall gathering at Indian Hills Community College.
Throughout his life, whether in Iowa, Korea, Japan, or Maryland, he was an active member in the Christian Church serving as an elder at Boulevard Christian Church in Essex, MD, and at Joppatowne Christian Church in Joppatowne, MD. He was adept at preaching and led many to Christ during his years of active service to the church.
Shaffer was preceded in death by his parents, Rose Channel Shaffer, and Emory Jay Shaffer, brother Max Shaffer, and Don’s wife of 68 years, Patricia Louise Hemm Shaffer, and three of their children, Sue Elaine Shaffer, Barbara Ann Shaffer, and Lee Andrew Shaffer.
He leaves behind three children: Mark Stephen Shaffer and wife Denise, Jean Marie Shaffer Trask and her husband, Thomas, and Beth Anne Strittmatter and her husband, Michael. He had six grandchildren: Lauren Ashley Breedlove (David) of Kodak, TN, Amelia Trask Anthony (Bradley) of Yorktown, VA, Joseph Benjamin Trask (Rebekah) of Norfolk, VA, Mack Stephen Shaffer of Milwaukee, WI, Melody Kate Strittmatter of Joppatowne, MD and Justin Lee Strittmatter of Joppatowne, MD and three great grandchildren, Aubrey, Paisley, and Blake Anthony of Yorktown, VA.