Granddaughter pens tribute to Shaffer

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 16, 2015

By Steffanie French

On May 31, 1943, my dad, Frank Shaffer, became a father to twin sons, Andrew and Albert Shaffer. My father signed my brother, Al, and I up illegally into the National Guard at the age of fifteen, due to knowing the recruiter personally, allowing us to enlist. While in the National Guard at the age of sixteen, I met the love of my life. We dated for a year and a half before marrying at age eighteen. To better our future, I decided to go full time into the Air Force.

Still being newlyweds at three months, I was deployed to Japan, where families were not allowed due to war. Shortly after deploying and settling in, I was overcome with joy when finding out my wife was nearly two months pregnant. After two and a half years of being stationed in Japan, I returned back home to the United States, where I met my eighteen month old daughter for the first time. Shortly after returning to the United States, my wife conceived my second child, being born six weeks premature and weighing two pounds. My new born baby girl stayed in the hospital for a month and a half before coming home. I was stationed in Austin, Texas for a few years, then transferred to Omaha, Nebraska, where my third daughter was born. Returning back to Texas after a couple of years, I encountered one of the most tragic moments of my life. While at work, I received an alarming phone call. Causing my heart to race and tears to fall, I was devastated to hear that my three and a half year old daughter had third degree burns on eighty percent of her body, due to a stove fire. I immediately left work to join my wife at the Trauma Center at Fort Sam Houston Air Force Base, just outside of San Antonio,

Texas. The dedication from the doctors, nurses, and staff was not enough to heal the deep wounds that covered my daughters body. After a week of long, sleepless nights at the hospital, my wife and I lost our third child, which caused traumatic stress in the family for several years. Later, the Air Force stationed my family and I to San Vito, Italy, where my two daughters talked my wife into conceiving another child. Shortly after the convincement, my wife was pregnant with our fourth child. Without the privilege of having a maternity doctor on base, my wife was transferred to Germany three weeks prior to her delivery date. On August 15, 1974, I received the news of the birth of my first and only son.

After serving six more years in the Air Force, I retired as a Staff Sergeant of twenty-one years. In September of 1980, my family and I made Alabama our home town. This was a life changing experience for me because with me previously being government owned by the military, I was blind to the civilian life. At first, I was uncertain about which career path to take, but after searching for several months, I was offered a job as a communications officer at the Andalusia Police Department. After a couple of years of dispatching, I attended the police academy and shortly graduated head of my class, becoming a certified police officer. Working several months on the streets of Andalusia as a patrolman, the passion of my heart was still in communications, so I transferred back as a dispatcher. With my career progressing, I became Sergeant over communications, where I met many great people of the community.

On my way home from running errands with my son and son-in-law on December 18, 1988, The unexpected happened. Coming up highway 29 North of Andalusia, I noticed an oncoming vehicle on my side of the road. I tried everything in my power to refrain from a collision, but it seemed as if she followed my every move. As the vehicle got closer and closer, I realized it was a lose-lose situation, so I chose to turn my vehicle in the position of the impact, risking my life to save my son and son-in-law. During the collision, my son-in-law was thrown from the vehicle receiving minor injuries, and my son was thrown to the front of the vehicle, hitting the gear stick with his jaw, breaking it in three separate places. As I lay in the back floorboard, I asked my son,

“Are you okay?”, and he replied, “Yes, daddy.” After knowing that, I was showered with peace, and my time on earth stood still.

Born to Andrew Shaffer’s youngest daughter, who took over her dad’s position at the Andalusia Police Department ten days after his death and is still currently employed there, I have heard many stories about my grandfather’s life and even though I never got the opportunity to meet him, I feel like I have known him my entire life. He was known to his grandchildren as “YaYa” and was a big inspiration to my family, and through his many charitable acts, he is also still greatly remembered throughout our community. I am privileged to be the granddaughter of such an amazing grandfather, whom I consider to be my hero.


Steffanie French never met her grandfather. She wrote this as an assignment for an English class in 2012. Her mother, Gina French, requested that it be reprinted this week, the anniversary of his death.