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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, June 17, 2010
Bob Shedd was valued as a neighbor, honored for his community service
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
NEW SCOTLAND A man who always tried to do what was right, Robert Clarence Shedd served his country in World War II and his community for his entire life.
He died at the Veterans Hospital in Albany on June 12, 2010 after a long illness. He was 88.
He loved to walk in the woods and, in 1996, when he was in his seventies, he completed the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine; he had walked the trail in pieces when he had the time.
“He would wash his face and comb his hair every morning even when he was on a two-week hike in the middle of nowhere,” said his son, Jerome Shedd, who accompanied him on some of his hikes.
“He was like that the last three days of his life in the hospice unit,” his son went on. “He wanted to be bathed and shaved; it was the right thing to do like going to church.”
Mr. Shedd attended services at the United Methodist Church in Voorheesville every Sunday. He kept a Bible by his chair at home and read it every morning. “If you’re going to do it right, you study it on your own,” said his son, explaining Mr. Shedd’s philosophy.
Mr. Shedd was honored in his later years with many awards. In 2002, he was named New Scotland’s Citizen of the Year and, in 2007, he was given a Capital District Senior Lifetime Achievement Award.
“My father has received many awards,” said his daughter, Diane Wozniak, at that time. “A lot of it is because he’s a very good, honest, thoughtful person.”
“He’s someone we value as a neighbor and a member of the community,” said Ed Clark, who was New Scotland’s supervisor in 2007. “He is an all-around great person.”
A carpenter by trade, Mr. Shedd was also a guitarist, a photographer, a model railroader, a skilled canoeist, and an avid birder. He was a frequent contributor to The Altamont Enterprise. (See related editorial.) And, he was active in the community, serving as a scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 73, and volunteering in a variety of ways at the United Methodist Church, the Heldeberg Workshop, and the Voorheesville Ambulance.
He was born in Rutland, Vt. on Aug. 29, 1921 to Clarence and Madlyn (Harriott) Shedd. He was the oldest of five children. His mother, from Staten Island, had married a Vermont dairy farmer when she was 19; she became a farmwife.
Mr. Shedd enjoyed the outdoors since his boyhood, said his son. He was an honors graduate of West Rutland High School, where he was named the class poet. He wrote the graduation farewell, six stanzas of rhymed verse, for his school yearbook. A devotee of Robert Service, Mr. Shedd continued to write poetry throughout his life, his son said, sometimes following the style of Service’s ballad, “The Shooting of Dan McGrew.”
Mr. Shedd once told The Enterprise that he had been brought up on Navel lore; his father had been an ensign during World War I, crossing the Atlantic 14 times. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he said, he and his two brothers wanted to go where the action was. All three enlisted together in the United States Marine Corps: Robert Shedd was 20, Donald was 19, and Paul was 18. The three brothers left their worried parents and two sisters for basic training at Parris Island in South Carolina and then were assigned to the same combat unit, fighting in the South Pacific.
Mr. Shedd, a sharpshooter, saw action on Guadalcanal, Peleliu, and New Britain, where he was wounded. Both of his brothers were wounded, too. But all three made it home alive.
“He talked very little about the war until he retired in the mid-eighties,” said his son. “He thought it was the right thing to do.”
When Mr. Shedd showed The Enterprise his scrapbook, he said, “I hope people remember the date, Aug. 7, 1942,” referring to the day that Allied forces landed on Guadalcanal, launching their first major offensive against the Japanese. “Folks remember V-E Day when the war ended in Europe, but forget that the war was still going on with Japan.”
Mr. Shedd and his two brothers were in the same platoon on the same landing boat at Guadalcanal, the first amphibious offensive by the United States during the war. In 2006, Mr. Shedd described that arrival during a Veterans’ Day ceremony. “We sailed into the bay and it was like a sheet of glass; it was so quiet,” said Mr. Shedd. “The first night on Guadalcanal, there was a big moon and you can picture a bunch of scared kids out in the jungle and the weird shadows you get on a moonlit night.”
Mr. Shedd and his fellow Marines felt deserted when Admiral Frank Fletcher took his carriers away. “I think the fact that we were abandoned was the most difficult thing,” he said. “If we saw a ship, it was Japanese. If a plane came over, it was Japanese. If a submarine came up, it was Japanese.”
After fierce battle, the Japanese eventually retreated, he said. “When we left Guadalcanal, we were just worn out from months of living with no shelter,” said Mr. Shedd, who first got sick with malaria on Guadalcanal and suffered nine bouts with it during his life. “If it rained, we got wet. I still appreciate dry socks,” he quipped.
After the war, Mr. Shedd corresponded with his buddies and would send along copies of letters he received, from one to another. This led him to found The Scuttlebutt, a newsletter devoted to stories by members of his Marine Corps unit from all eras. He was the editor and publisher of The Scuttlebutt for 25 years.
“Quite a romance”
Mr. Shedd returned home to Vermont after being discharged on Sept. 27, 1945. He took a train and, soon after, went to a Halloween dance in Wallingford, Vt., near Rutland. Mary Lou West was there in her Cadet Nurse Corps uniform and Mr. Shedd’s father urged him to dance with her. He did.
“They were married the next June 21, and I was born the following May,” said Jerome Shedd. “He knew he had it right. They were both drop-dead gorgeous, movie-star gorgeous.”
The Shedds affection lasted all 64 years of their marriage. “Mom was a professionally trained child-care technician who had worked as a nanny,” said Jerome Shedd. “She took her job seriously, working full-time at home.”
He went on, “Theirs was quite a romance,” and described a typical scene with Mr. Shedd returning home in his coveralls in the evening, lunchbox in hand, and asking his wife, at the stove, “What are you building?’”
“Then he’d give her a big, sloppy Hollywood kiss,” said Jerome Shedd. “They did that all their lives.”
The young couple had moved to the Albany area for Mr. Shedd to find work. They bought a building lot on Koonz Road in Voorheesville and built a home there, mostly with their own hands, where they raised their son and daughter and lived the rest of their lives.
Mr. Shedd took pride in his work as a carpenter and thought it was important to do the job well, said his son, but he didn’t let his work define him; he had many other interests. He worked on Albany’s South Mall and was joined by his son for summer jobs and by his daughter, in the construction office.
“You could ride all around Albany and he’d point out the work he’d done,” said his son.
During his long retirement, Mr. Shedd and his wife traveled extensively throughout the United States, Canada, and the Virgin Islands. He cruised through the Panama Canal in 2007 this time with his wife rather than the Marines as he had in 1942.
Mr. Shedd was “very attentive” as a father, his son said.
“He always had time for me,” said his daughter, Mrs. Wozniak, earlier. When she became interested in art, Mr. Shedd would drive her around to various places where she could draw different landscapes, she said.
When she displayed her art at a Voorheesville show in recent years, her father’s photographs were exhibited along with her paintings.
Mr. Shedd played the guitar and would sing cowboy songs to his children. “He explained notes and chords to me,” said Jerome Shedd, who became a school music teacher and composer. “Around the house and in the car, we were always singing.”
Mr. Shedd served as a scoutmaster to Voorheesville’s Troop 73 when his son was in the troop, and continued to be part of the troop after his son had grown. “He would take time off in the summer to go to the Boy Scout camp in southern Vermont, which cost him a week’s wages,” said his son.
“He wanted to do it by the book,” Jerome Shedd said of his father’s role as scoutmaster. “He fostered leadership, and emphasized camping and knot-tying. He took it seriously.”
Mr. Shedd hiked the Long Trail in Vermont, some of it with his wife, some of it with his son, and much of it with his son-in-law, Frank Wozniak, finishing it in 1983. He laid out sections of the Long Path in the Helderbergs, which begins at the George Washington Bridge in New York City.
Over the course of many years, he hiked the Appalachian Trail with various friends and family members. “He always was a walker,” said his son. “He loved being outdoors.”
Mr. Shedd also loved local history. A model railroader, he built a detailed diorama of historic downtown Voorheesville for the New Scotland Museum. Always attentive to detail, his son said, “He had photos of actual people who lived there in the windows of the buildings.” He researched the project by consulting books and talking to old-timers.
Mr. Shedd was known for his sense of humor. “Whenever possible, he would start a conversation with a joke,” said his son.
He kept up his humor until the end. When his mother was brushing his father’s teeth “a little aggressively,” Jerome Shedd reported, “He said, ‘Hey, you don’t have to use the hand drill on me!’ That was two days before he died.”
He went on about his father’s personality, “He had a sense of right and wrong, of being precise about it and living it.”
Mr. Shedd, who never had a chance to go to college, was also a life-long learner. At the time he died, he was reading The Pacific. “He didn’t get to finish it,” his son said.
His interest in Hudson Valley history led him to visit the Half Moon replica.
“He always wanted to learn more,” said his son.
“Being from Vermont, he was not overly demonstrative, but he was certainly outgoing,” said his son. Jerome Shedd recalled riding a New York City subway with his father: “He would chat with the conductor and ask how fast we were going. He was very comfortable talking to strangers,” he said.
Mr. Shedd was a frugal man. “He didn’t like to eat out,” said his son. “He would calculate how much it cost.”
He liked to use discarded things. “He would pick up thrown-out bicycles, and get them in working condition, and then give them away to a child in need,” said Jerome Shedd. “He wasn’t acquisitive.”
Among the things he carefully restored then passed on to others were a one-horse sleigh from Vermont and an antique dogcart. “It was the process he liked,” said his son.
In the end, after battling cancer, said his son, Mr. Shedd was “very accepting of his fate; he knew how things were headed.”
He concluded, “A week or so ago, Mom was having a rare emotional outburst, feeling tired and frustrated and frightened. He just calmly said, ‘Well, that’s where we are.’”
Robert Clarence Shedd is survived by his wife, Mary Lou (West) Shedd of Voorheesville; his son, Jerome Shedd, and his wife, Lindi Bortney, of Ripton, Vt.; his daughter, Diane Wozniak, and her husband, Frank, of Voorheesville; his brother, Donald Shedd, of Wallingford, Vt.; two sisters, Grace Bagley, of Fairlee, Vt., and Alice Munson, of Weybridge, Vt.; three grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.
His brother, Paul Shedd, of Brandon, Vt., died before him.
A memorial service will be held at the United Methodist Church in Voorheesville today, June 17, at 2 p.m.
The family expresses gratitude to the doctors and nurses at New York Oncology.
Memorial donations may be made to Community Hospice of Albany County at 445 New Karner Road, Albany, NY 12205-3809, or to the Voorheesville Ambulance Services, 21 Voorheesville Ave., Voorheesville, NY 12186-9672.