‘Buck' laid to rest
By Esther Avila,Published Dec. 7, 2006 -The Porterville Recorder
From the moment Frank “Buck” Shaffer's casket entered the sanctuary at First Baptist Church in Porterville, it was obvious that the service would not be an ordinary one. It couldn't be. It was Frank “Buck” Shaffer's funeral - and, wanting to keep it short and simple, he had planned it all months ago.
“It was just like Buck planned and we tried to do it exactly how Buck wanted,” said son Bill Shaffer. “The main point I wanted to get across, and [the] Rev. [John] Eby did just that, is that God is in charge now. Buck is no longer in charge.”
With Jim Turner playing “All the Things You Are” on piano, the 500-plus people in the sanctuary, balcony, chapel and social hall grew silent as Miguel Soto, Porterville Panther Band drum major solemnly led the way as seven other Panther Band members - in full uniform - served as pallbearers for Mr. Shaffer.
The day was to honor a man who touched with his influence and his personality, not only the people in the room or the people across Porterville, but people across the United States, said Eby.
After vocalist Doug Scarbrough singing of “Amazing Grace,” Eby read a couple of scriptures before his short sermon on Second Corinthians, Chapter 13, verse 11. - a verse, he said, commemorates Mr. Shaffer's life.
“Finally, brothers, goodbye. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you,” Eby read. “This service is to focus not on him, but the things he loved - focus on his church, focus on his God, focus on his country. More than anything else, Buck wanted the focus not on him but rather on his vision.”
Eby talked of Mr. Shaffer as a visionary - dreaming big and when learning of a need, envisioning ways to fill the need. Big dreams included the Porterville Christmas parade and the Band-A-Rama - both started by Mr. Shaffer. Eby talked of Mr. Shaffer's musical excellence and joked about Mr. Shaffer's political preference before continuing with more scriptures and prayer - thanking God for Mr. Shaffer's life, and for his vision - before reading the sermon verse again, this time changing the words.
“Finally, Lil gal - and lil fellow - goodbye,” Eby finished the verse. “That is his advice to you and to me.” And as Turner played “Stardust” on the piano, the Panther Band pallbearers led Mr. Shaffer out of the sanctuary.
Outside, the Panther Band Orange Blossoms waited for Mr. Shaffer, to salute the man they held in high respect and honor.
At Old Porterville Cemetery, the entire Porterville Panther Band waited for Mr. Shaffer, and after a cadence drum beat, played “Abide with Me.” American Legion Post 20 presented the American flag draped on Mr. Shaffer's casket to his widow, Peggy Shaffer.
And as the pallbearers laid their white band gloves on the casket, tears could be seen flowing down the faces of many in the crowd.
“I usually release a white dove but Buck was one of a kind,” said Jonell Webb as she prepared to release a special gray-colored dove. Webb, who releases doves every Band-A-Rama, said she told Mr. Shaffer that she would release more doves than ever during his funeral - two representing each year that Mr. Shaffer was loved in Porterville.
After Honor Guard members of the firing squad fired a three-volley salute, the band played “America” as the doves - 106 of them - flew overhead. The audience grew silent once more as Jim Kusserow started playing “Taps” - the silence broken only by the sound of subdued crying from people in the crowd.
After the graveside ceremony, hundreds headed to the Porterville Veterans Memorial Building. One section of the hall - a close replica of Mr. Shaffer's office - was created by Bill Shaffer. From Mr. Shaffer's glasses on his desk and other memorabilia on the wall to the tape recorder Mr. Shaffer used - the room was admired by those in attendance.
“I wanted to do something neat,” said Bill Shaffer. “Everything on the desk is verbatim. The eagle [above the desk] is placed in the exact position and the trophies date back to the 1960s - and as far as I know, it includes every plaque he has ever gotten.”
And through the evening, people stopped to laugh, reminisce and share stories about a man they say they will never forget - Porterville's own - Frank “Buck” Shaffer.
Porterville loses an icon
By Esther Avila,
Published Dec. 4, 2006 - The Porterville Recorder
Within hours of Frank “Buck” Shaffer's death, son Bill Shaffer placed a large American flag on the side of Mr. Shaffer's home. A second flag was lowered to half staff on the flag pole in front of the home.
Mr. Shaffer died Friday evening in Porterville after suffering a massive stroke on Oct. 22.
“Buck's death is a real loss to the whole town of Porterville,” said Reynold Rutledge, retired band director of Bartlett and Pioneer Middle schools and a former student of Mr. Shaffer. “I've known Buck for 53 years. I thought the world of him. He has done so much for Porterville and for the kids.”
Porterville Mayor Cameron Hamilton said he was saddened by the news of Mr. Shaffer's death.
“He was an absolute icon for Porterville and put us on the map, musically speaking,” Hamilton said.
As word of Mr. Shaffer's death spread, people in the community and Mr. Shaffer's former students echoed similar sentiments about a man who changed not only Porterville, but also individuals, for the better.
“He shared his vision of what the band could be - and I was impressed,” said Jim Todd of Hawaii, Mr. Shaffer's first drum major for the Panther Band in 1954. “He chose me as his first drum major - I don't know why and I had my doubts about doing it. I was his devoted student from then on.”
“He could visualize things for you in such a way as to make you understand that it could be done, and you could do it,” Todd said. “I went on to play clarinet in the U.S. Coast Guard Band of the Pacific. Other teachers can take the credit for teaching me the mechanics of music, but it was Buck that taught me that I could stand up in front of people and have the confidence to actually perform.”
The sentiments continued.
“The town has lost a great teacher. I lost a good friend,” said Dale Anderson, Monache High School's former band director. “He was very instrumental at my being hired to start the Monache High School Band and ever since 1969, he's been a close friend and we have both respected each other so much over the years. I think that was the key to our friendship.”
Rutledge said he was impressed with Mr. Shaffer's dedication to the band.
“Besides all of his professional degrees - his bachelor's, master's and doctorate - he had a counseling credential and an administrative credential. He could have done a lot of other things that paid big money, but he didn't. He loved music and he stayed on as the Porterville Panther Band director. I think he is one of the finest band directors - the best of the best.”
Mr. Shaffer was born Aug. 6, 1921, in Adamsville, W. Va. After graduating from Shinnston High School in 1939, Mr. Shaffer attended Fairmont State College where he played in the Fairmont College Band, eventually forming his own band - Buck Shaffer's Orchestra: West Virginia's Youngest Dance Band.
Mr. Shaffer served four years in the U.S. Air Force. He was stationed at Lemoore Naval Air Base - now Lemoore Naval Air Station - in Lemoore where he played lead alto saxophone in the jazz band. He also played in the 36th Army Air Corps Band and was later ordered to Muroc Army Base. While in the service, he was dance band leader for many Air Force shows and engagements at the famed Hollywood Canteen.
Mr. Shaffer took a position as the band director at his alma mater - Shinnston High School, in 1946 before accepting a position for alto clarinet chair with the Bob Strong Band - a big professional band. Mr. Shaffer eventually returned as the Shinnston band director. He moved to Porterville in 1953 to take a position as the Porterville Panther Band director. Mr. Shaffer semi-retired in 1990 but continued as a music educator for elementary school bands.
Mr. Shaffer also founded Porterville's City of Hope Spectacular and the Buck Shaffer Band-A-Rama. In 1997, Mr. Shaffer was honored by having the theater inside the Porterville Memorial Auditorium dedicated as the Frank “Buck” Shaffer Theater and an exhibit at the Porterville Historical Museum focuses on Shaffer and his Porterville Panther Band.
Mr. Shaffer was also the founder of the Fabulous Studio Band, a Porterville band composed of high school and junior college students. The band played Big Band-era music of Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller, The Dorseys and Stan Kenton.
Under Mr. Shaffer, the Fabulous Studio Band toured for the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command, covering the western states during Easter vacation for the GIs. Mr. Shaffer's band was also sent to the Orient by the U.S. government to play a six-week tour for GIs in Japan, Okinawa, Korea and Hawaii. He toured the U.S. in 1964, covering many military bases along the way, playing at officers clubs, NCO clubs and service clubs. While in Washington, the band played at the National Press Club, for the U.S. Senate, the State Department and at Little Theater by Washington's Monument.
Their summer of 1966 Tour of the U.S. included 42 shows in the Orient for servicemen and in areas of Okinawa to bring the U.S. goodwill, as well as numerous Air Force bases and a concert at the Pentagon.
During a 1972 tour, Mr. Shaffer and his band were honored on the presidential yacht USS Sequoia. The band also played during the opening year of Disney World in Florida during the tour.
In 1970, a giant sequoia tree was named after Mr. Shaffer by the Western High Sierra Association for his work with the community's youth. The tree is located in the “Grove of Honor” at Sequoia Crest in Sequoia National Forest.
“Buck Shaffer was simply the greatest man I have ever been fortunate enough to meet. Buck had a positive influence on all stages of my life. He taught me how to make the most of every opportunity,” said Jim Kusserow, former student of Mr. Shaffer and current band director at Porterville High School. “I remember feeling so honored to have been chosen to lead the Panther Band upon his retirement, and I continued to seek his advice in all areas of my life, not just with music.”
“Buck taught by example, and it was an example that I will always strive to meet,” Kusserow said. “I will miss Buck tremendously, but I have so many great memories that will continue to help shape and guide me throughout the rest of my career and life. I will forever be indebted to Buck Shaffer for sharing his wisdom, guidance, courage and beliefs with me; and for believing in me when I was a young music educator.”
Mr. Shaffer was preceded in death by his first wife, Candy Shaffer. He is survived by his wife, Peggy Shaffer of Porterville; two sons, Frank “Skip” Shaffer, of Galloway, N.J., and Bill Shaffer of Sherman Oaks; and one granddaughter, Lucy Shaffer of Sherman Oaks.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to The Porterville Panther Band, 465 W. Olive Ave., Porterville, CA 93257, or the Porterville Historical Museum, 257 N. D. St., Porterville, CA 93257.
Myers Funeral Services in Porterville is in charge of arrangements. Visitation will be from 2 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Myers, 248 N. E. St., Porterville. The funeral service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday at First Baptist Church, 101 N. G St., Porterville.
Buck Shaffer returns to Porterville:
By Esther Avila
Published Nov. 24, 2006 - The Porterville Recorder
Frank “Buck” Shaffer is resting comfortably at Porterville Convalescent Hospital on Morton Avenue after being relocated Wednesday night to Porterville following a 10-day stay at a rehabilitation facility in Visalia.
Shaffer, Porterville High School’s former band director and Porterville’s musical icon, suffered a massive stroke on Oct. 22. He has been hospitalized since. Though unable to speak, he was able to recognize people.
“Bill and I thought it was best for Buck to come back home to Porterville at this time,” said Skip Shaffer. “We are glad he’s back in town.”
Shaffer’s wife, Peggy Shaffer, and his sons, Skip and Bill, said they wish to thank the community for their prayers and kindness.
“He’s resting comfortably,” Bill Shaffer said. “We continue to appreciate [the community’s] prayers because this is the time we need them.”
Shaffer remains stable
By Esther Avila
Published Oct. 25, 2006 - The Porterville Recorder
The news of Frank “Buck” Shaffer's recent stroke and hospitalization has caused an emotional outpouring of support from across the nation.
Shaffer, who suffered a stroke Sunday, remains in stable condition at Sierra View District Hospital, said his wife, Peggy Shaffer.
“There's not a lot of change,” Peggy Shaffer said. “But he's holding on. He can't talk but he has had a lot of visitors. He recognizes them and he is alert, but there is still no real change.”
Many former students have been visiting, calling or writing.
“I was very sad to read the news this morning about Buck. But I smile to myself when I think of what an impact this man has made on the lives of so many young people,” said Karen Willshon, former student, now living in Studio City. “As we look back as adults on our years in Buck's band, he not only taught us good musicianship, but now to conduct ourselves like respectable ‘lil' gals and lil' fellas' in other areas of our lives. I wish him the best.”
Other students responded with similar sentiments.
Alan Litsey, professor of theater at Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Ala., said he was saddened when he learned of Shaffer's illness.
“Buck Shaffer is a hero and an inspiration to the entire community. I cannot imagine anyone who has touched more lives. He is a great man,” Litsey said. “Buck takes a keen interest in all students, and I was no exception. Buck advised me to take advantage of every positive opportunity in my path. His brief and wise words were to the point. ‘You've got to make your own Hollywood,' he said. So many young people have made their own Hollywood, inspired by Buck's tremendous leadership as a teacher, artist, and role model.”
Judith Singley Frickensmith of Monticello, Ill., read the news online and also heard it from her mother, who is a family friend of Shaffer's.
“Buck has always been a wonderful friend to me and my family and we are praying for his return to health,” Singley Frickensmith said. “Buck is such a special person, always so kind and giving of himself, and he adds so very much to everyone's lives.”
And more than 2,500 miles away from Porterville, in Shaffer's original hometown, where Shaffer was scheduled to perform a concert Saturday, people who knew him have also been responding to the news.
“People here were truly fond of the man. He was a favorite son here,” said Leigh Currey Merrifield, editor of The News and Journal newspaper in Shinnston, W. Va, and who has known Shaffer all of her life. “He had really been looking forward to coming home for months. I know many of his old friends and former band students who had planned to attend. The concert is naturally canceled but the program at the museum will go on. It will not be the same without his presence but people attending will be praying for a complete recovery. No one has ever forgotten Buck Shaffer's loyalty to his hometown. During the days when he was on tour, he'd always come by and most of the time, we were included in every tour. He never forgot where he was from. There are a lot of sad faces in town and all of the people in town are praying for him.”
It was a sentiment also expressed by Lee Martin, a former student of Shaffer's when he taught at Shinnston High School.
“When I first heard, it felt as if I had the wind knocked out of me. We are all pulling for him. We were all torn up when we heard the news. We are very concerned,” said Martin, 70. “We have a community band and we meet every Tuesday night. We plan on having a moment of silence and prayer for Buck tonight. And if prayers and thoughts are heard, than he should be just fine.”
Martin went on to reminisce about Shaffer. He became Shaffer's student at age 11 and especially remembers parading down Huntington, W. Va., at 1 or 2 in the morning - just because Buck decided to do something different and fun, Martin said.
“In those days, the high school band did not have enough musicians, so if you were good enough, Buck would pull you into the band. I was in sixth-grade when I started marching with the high-school band. I was in the band for seven years, six of them under Buck,” Martin said. “I've always held Buck Shaffer in the highest esteem of friends I have in this world. And I can't tell you how much fun we had when Buck moved in to Shinnston. He was the most innovative person ever to get in front of the band. If you looked up the word ‘Class' in the dictionary, you would see a picture of Buck Shaffer. He is a fine, fine individual. It knocked the wind out of everyone when we heard about his stroke and we have him on prayer chains and prayer lists up and down the town.”
Maxine Wesser, volunteer and board member of the Bice Ferguson Memorial Museum in Shinnston, said the town was really anticipating his arrival.
“He was our most famous band director. We're all distressed. We were really looking forward to his visit, which is always a highlight for us. He has always been a home town boy and everybody loves him,” Wesser said. “We had been building up for weeks and every week there was a story in the paper about him. He sent us lots of memorabilia for the museum. And we're going on ahead with everything else that was scheduled for Saturday. It's what Buck would have wanted.”
Frank ‘Buck' Shaffer admitted into hospital
By Esther Avila
Published Oct. 24, 2006 - The Porterville Recorder
Porterville musical icon Frank “Buck” Shaffer was in fair condition Monday night after being admitted to Sierra View District Hospital Sunday, said Shaffer's son, Bill Shaffer, 48.
“He's had a stroke. An [aneurysm] broke and there was a little bleeding, but they are watching him right now. His doctors have been in and there is reason for concern but they are observing him,” Bill Shaffer said. “He can't talk but he does recognize people.”
Bill Shaffer said the community has been great, with many former students and band directors visiting his father.
“Dale Anderson, Justin Adams and I went to see him about 1 p.m. [Monday]. It was hard. He can't talk and his hand was clutched but I put my hand on his and gave him some encouraging words. His eyes lit up and it looked to me like he could understand. He wanted to speak and it [appeared to be] frustrating for him,” said an emotional Jim Kusserow, Porterville Panther Band director and close personal friend. “We need to pray. The whole town needs to pray. It's all in God's hands. I still believe he has a lot to do and I don't believe it is his time. I can't predict what will happen, but I do know that I will be there every single day to see him.”
Kusserow succeeded Shaffer as the Porterville Panther Band director in 1990.
He has known Shaffer since he was 9 and was invited to play with the Fabulous Studio Band on one of their shows.
“I tried to talk to my band today. It took me 10 minutes for a single word to come out. I could not talk,” Kusserow said. “I told my band that everything I learned about life, I learned from Buck Shaffer. That's a fact.”
For Adams, Monache High School Band director, the visit with Shaffer was also emotional.
“Buck is one of the patriots of Porterville. We had more than half a century of him being one of Porterville's icons. I have known him on a personal level for 10 years,” Adams said. “The time we spent with him today was surreal. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”
The hospitalization comes just five days before Shaffer was scheduled to travel to his hometown of Shinnston, W.V. to play a concert and have a section of the local museum opened in his honor during a special “Buck Shaffer Day” celebration Saturday.
A special U.S. Postal Service commemorative “Buck Shaffer Day” cancellation stamp is also planned for Saturday.
In an Oct. 17 interview, Shaffer said he was donating an old Edison recorder and an RCA Victor to the new Shinnston Museum.
“Both of those were given to me by people in my hometown and I felt they ought to be in that museum,” Shaffer said.
Shaffer said he was planning on playing his saxophone at the concert.
“I'm playing all by myself and am planning on playing excerpts of songs that we have played with the [Shinnston High School] band when I was there and then move on to play music from when I was in the [U.S.] Air Force and play some popular big-band tunes,” Shaffer said. “The climax of the concert will be a tribute to the servicemen and people who have died for our country.”
Shaffer also said he planned on playing “Taps,” “God Bless America” and a few patriotic songs before ending his solo concert with “Amazing Grace.”
“At the end of the concert, I have asked a former student [Grandal Hall] of mine to join me in one final number. I had him from 1947 to 1953 and he has gone on to do great things in music,” Shaffer said. “He's like Jimmy Kusserow. He's played with the big bands, and has had a very successful band. We will play ‘Over the Rainbow.' That will be my final climax.”