On Saturday morning, February 1, 2020, William Andrew “Bill” Schaeffer passed from this life to be reunited with his parents William G. and Sarah E. (Fortna) Schaeffer, his son-in-law Friedrich Diebus, and the many wonderful dogs in his life, as well as his aunts, uncles, and cousins who knew him as Sonny.
Raised in Jonestown, PA, Bill graduated from Jonestown High School. He joined the Navy and served on battle escort ships and mine sweepers during WWII. After the War, he was stationed in Washington, D.C. where he helped to install NEWS, the first electronics system at the Washington Navy Yard. While there, he was ‘volunteered’, along with many other Sailors, to participate in Operation Crossroads, early atomic testing in the desert. After his discharge from the Navy, he went to the Lebanon Business College and graduated on the GI Bill.
A part-time job with the local tombstone maker in Jonestown led Bill to South Ryegate, Vermont, where he began an apprenticeship in the stone sheds of C.R. Davidson. He progressed to Journeyman and then Master Craftsman before leaving Vermont to start Schaeffer Memorials in Jonestown in 1954. During his career, he hand-carved granite and marble tombstones and sculpted raised lettering and dimensional ornamentations. His work is also evident in such civic projects as the carved lettering in the limestone at the Armor Bordner cabin, sandblasted lettering in the entry arch at Boeshore Scout Camp, and the commemorative sundial on the Square in Annville. Bill retired from his tombstone business in 2019 after 72 years in the trade. Throughout his career, he generously donated tombstones, markers, and cornerstones to civic and private organizations.
There was also a second career for Bill while he operated his memorial business. He was a rural letter carrier for the old Jonestown RD# 1. His mail truck was decked out with airhorns and whenever folks heard them, they knew they had a package. His favorite time on the mail route was Christmas when he received plate upon plate of Christmas cookies and handmade candies.
Bill enjoyed music, especially singing. He was often heard whistling to classical music on the radio or an LP. In the late 1940s, he was a tenor soloist in the well-known and highly traveled North County Chorus of Wells River, Vermont, and he played the lead in their presentation of “The Mikado.” After returning to Jonestown, Bill joined The Jonestown Male Chorus where he also soloed. He sang with JMC for 63 years. Bill was a leader and soloist in the choirs of the South Ryegate Presbyterian Church and St. John’s United Church of Christ, Jonestown. Many brides included him as soloist in their weddings; he had “Ave Maria” memorized. Some of his best singing was done in the Lazyboy with Melanie as they followed the bouncing ball and watched “Sing Along with Mitch.”
He was a member of The Jonestown Male Chorus, The Order of Eastern Star No. 115, Lebanon, Pulaski Lodge No. 58 of F&AM, Wells River, VT, Lebanon County Shrine Club, Harrisburg Consistory AASR, Zembo Temple where he served on the ambulance crew for the Circus, Walmer’s Union Church, Fort Indiantown Gap, Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, and the Jonestown American Legion Post 883. He was an authority on cookies and ice cream and never met a dog he didn’t like or that didn’t like him. Many times, the pockets of his jackets which once held Snausages or Beggin’ Treats were discovered chewed out. He loved NASCAR and liked to remind family and friends that he was at the last race on the beach at Daytona and the first one at the Speedway.
Bill is survived by his daughter Melanie Ann Schaeffer of Jonestown with whom he lived, granddaughters Sarah E. and her husband Kevin Anderson of Greensburg, PA, and Katherine A. Schaeffer and her husband Hilliard Kutscher of Buffalo, and great-granddaughter Lia Anderson who was named for him, and by his son Brian Scott Schaeffer and his wife Tracy and granddaughter Jenna of Jonestown.
Bill Schaeffer was a good father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. He was a loyal friend and honest worker. He loved dogs, cookies (especially his mother’s Toll House), ice cream, and cigarettes. And he will be very much missed.
A service in celebration will be held on Saturday, February 8, 2020, at the Kreamer & Lum Funeral Home, 5 Campmeeting Road, Jonestown, PA. The family will receive guest for visitation at 10AM. The service for Bill will begin at 11AM. All are welcome.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to The Humane Society of Lebanon County, 150 Ramona Road, Myerstown, PA 17067, or Hospice of Central Pennsylvania, 1320 Linglestown Road, Harrisburg, PA 17110.