MJRC Member Biographies

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Bill Shaffmaster, May 2010


Our club is blessed with members of especial talents, skills, accomplishments. The member featured in today’s biographical sketch is Bill Shaffmaster.

...Frequently where one lives shapes the person in many ways. Bill has lived in the Detroit area all his life. He grew up in the Highland Park part of the city. He attended the Highland Park High School where he met music in the form of a cornet played in the band. Later that interest was focused on taking advantage of and making opportunities to hear the great band music performances. They ranged from hearing Gene Krupa as a high school student to Benny Goodman featuring Gene Krupa to Ray Eberle in Le Havre, France. He also managed to hear Benny Goodman at the Rainbow Room in one of his last performances there. We’ve laughed about the hard seats in the Preservation Hall in New Orleans.

One of the factors that influence lives and opportunities is that of war. Bill joined the National Guard in 1936 in field artillery. (That should give some insight into his engineering aptitudes that would be developed later.) He served in the army during the whole of WWII. He was commissioned in 1940 and discharged as a captain in 1946. He initially participated in the development of the “Tank Destroyer” battalion in General Patton’s Third Army. He saw considerable combat, including being in the Battle of the Bulge along with Patton. He earned two bronze stars and a combat infantry badge. It is told on him that he was wounded in action but he would not leave his men to be treated.

After the surrender by Germany Bill was made a Military Government officer in Bavaria. In this role he was responsible for interfacing with the local Burgurmeisters (Mayors). One such assignment handed down by General Eisenhower was the development of immediate work for the Germans. Bill took the opportunity of putting the team onto the assignment of repair of a badly damaged brewery and opening its operation. To quote Bill, “I became the most popular guy in the country.”

Other activities involved acting as a liaison pilot in and around Europe. He also was involved in resettling some of the German Jewish population in Israel.

After his discharge from the army, Bill graduated from Wayne University as an Electrical Engineer. He had some post-graduate training in hotel management (his family owned several hotels in the area) but found he preferred the electronics field. He was very successful in this arena. He rose to Sales Manager Eastern Division for Automation for one of the large companies unnamed. By the time he retired from management at age seventy, he held three patents in the field. One of his patents was for the sensors that safely control elevator door openings and closings. He also was a major participant in the development of radio controls for model airplanes (a hobby interest at that time).

His interests have spanned from listening to good music to flying (his own plane for a time), skiing, sailing, digital photography, Masonic involvement, American Legion (Washington America Legion Post 88), serving as an Auxiliary officer with the Coast Guard. Today he is heavily involved with sharing and teaching computer skills at the Royal Oak Senior Center. He is committed to organizing and supporting computer clubs for the senior population.

Bill joined the MJRC some years ago. He told me Dave Brock got him interested in the club and its activities. He was fond of Ed Petz and got to know Weldon through him. Bill has been very generous in sharing his photography skills with us.

Bill resides in Royal Oak, where he and his late wife Nancy were married fifty-seven years. He lost her in 2005. They had two children, a son James, and a daughter Jane. The son was an engineer, a graduate of Oakland University. He worked for Pontiac, and sadly, died while in his thirties. The daughter, Jane, has a great job casting commercials for an advertising agency. Earlier she worked in the movie theatrical arena but has chosen to use her skills in this other related field.

Bill is a person who has taken the opportunities life has presented, and has enjoyed and has taken advantage of them. Thanks for sharing your interests with us.