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Retired Navy veteran enjoys making replicas of Tidewater

Displayed in the Monongahela Area Historical Society museum is a detailed model replica of the USS Tidewater.

The man responsible for the replica knew the ship well.

Washington Township resident Jack Shaffer served on the USS Tidewater for nearly four years during the 1950s.

Shaffer grew up in Hyndman, Bedford County, a railroad town named for railroad supervisor E.K. Hyndman.

After graduating from high school in 1952, Shaffer enlisted in the Navy.

“I was going to be drafted,” Shaffer said. “I preferred the Navy.”

After training, Shaffer spent the bulk of his four years in the Navy aboard the ship, serving tours in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. His tours included stops in Norway, France Italy, and Spain.

In the winters, the ship would cruise the Caribbean.

Shaffer, a machinist aboard the destroyer, served from 1952 to 1956.

The ship had two machine shops.

“It was really a floating factory,” Shaffer said.

“We repaired valves and pumps and anything that needed (to be) repaired.”

The USS Tidewater had sheet metal and fabricating metal shops.

He served during the Korean Conflict, but was never stationed near that war-torn country. Instead, ships in need of repair for everything from failure of equipment to battle came to them.

After his discharge from the Navy, Shaffer worked in the mountains of West Virginia for 13 years for a company that developed the Polaris missile.

The Polaris was a two-stage solid-fuel nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missile built during the Cold War.

The work was very dangerous, Shaffer said, recalling one explosion that claimed 13 lives.

He worked in a tool and die shop while attached to the Polaris project.

The Polaris missile is now in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., where Shaffer’s daughter saw it.

He next worked for Consol Coal Company in the library of the company’s machine shop. Working as the afternoon supervisor, he was employed there for 13 years also.

“When they closed, I said, ‘I’ve closed a lot of places,'” Shaffer said with a laugh.

He then worked for Dynamet in Houston.

The firm specialized in titanium products, producing hip and knee replacements.

The company also made parts for Boeing 777 planes.

When the company split into two divisions, he worked for Trigon in McMurray, from which he retired in 1993.

Shaffer met his wife, Shirley, at a dance at a fire hall in Corriganville, Md., while he was on leave from the Navy.

The couple has two sons, Jack Shaffer, a postal employee who lives in St. Clairsville, Ohio, and Bob Shaffer, who works for Trigon, and a daughter, Lori Bruce, who works for Quest Diagnostic as a lab technician in Greentree.

The couple moved to Fallowfield Township in 1968.

They have lived in Washington Township since 2000.

In retirement, Shaffer enjoys wood working – a skill he developed even while he was still working. He has built kitchen cabinets, tables, and entertainment centers.

But his prize projects involve replicas of the USS Tidewater.

The latest version – measuring nearly four feet in length – is currently on loan to the Monongahela Area Historical Society museum.

“I knew how long and wide the ship was,” Shaffer said.

“I figured everything else from photos and my memory.”


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