Billy Earl Shaffer left his earthly body to join his Heavenly Father on December 20, 2021. He passed peacefully at home, surrounded by his family. He was 92 years young.
Billy Earl Shaffer was born on June 10, 1929 to William Henry and Beulah Shaffer in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He grew up helping his father in an automotive garage and wrecker service. From a young age he was skilled at working on anything automotive. When he was just seven or eight years old he took a Volkswagen motor apart and put it back together, just to show that he could.
While living in Arkansas, at the age of 17, he met the love of his life, Irene Tuttle, 15 at the time. They fell deeply in love, eloping to Caswell, Missouri on October 5, 1946, where state law permitted them to marry at that age. They shared 75 years of loving marriage together, recently celebrating their 75th anniversary with cake and family. One of Bill’s crowning achievements that meant so much to him was that he and Irene were happily married for over 75 years.
After marriage, Bill utilized his excellent mechanical skills by opening and operating a wrecker service in Northwest Arkansas. Some of his best customers were the Campbell Soup Company, Tyson Foods, and ABF. Bill had a strong work ethic that he passed on to his children. He would work in the garage during the day and be out with the wrecker at night. Not only was he a skilled mechanic, he was an exceptional wrecker operator. In addition to typical wrecker duties, he pulled many cars off cliffs or out of lakes. Once, he even pulled an airplane off a cliff. Bill was always one to respond to a person in need.
Bill and Irene and their children moved to Ruidoso, New Mexico in the early 1960s. Upon arrival, he showed that in addition to being a gifted mechanic and wrecker operator, he was also skilled at carpentry. For two years, he built the house that became the family home, by hand, himself, completely out of pocket. The house is still in great shape almost 60 years later. Countless birthday parties, Thanksgivings, and Christmases have been held there over the years.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, he owned and operated a gas station in Ruidoso Downs, at what is now Cortez Gas Company.
Bill continued his legacy of always lending a helping hand, by maintaining the Capitan school buses, ensuring the safety of the Capitan schoolchildren for more than two decades. Whenever a school bus would happen to break down, he would fix them where they were, immediately, dropping everything at hand to do so; even if it was in the middle of a snowstorm. If the parts store was not open, he would make them open. In recognition of his years of service, the Capitan School Bus driver’s association awarded him the golden school bus trophy on September 30, 1997.
Bill was a lover of all things Buick. As a young man, he loved to race in his ’38 special straight 8 Buick with suicide doors. His nickname in Arkansas was Big Foot. This Buick is still in the family today. While he drove Buicks as his personal car of choice all of his life, he also collected old cars, including Model A’s, GMC, Volkswagons and an International.
Bill was a sweet man, and fond of all things sweet tasting. He loved to reminisce about taking Irene to get married in that ’38 Buick. They had a whole $2. After they were married, they spent the entire $2 purchasing Sorghum. On the way out of town, they stopped to get gas. The owner of the gas station found out they had just got married, and when Bill asked to pay for the gas the next day, (since his $2 had already been spent on the sorghum), the owner said, “Congratulations, I’ll buy your gas.”
Billy Earl is survived by his loving wife, Irene; their children Billy Earl Shaffer, Jr., of Alamogordo; Mary Waldrop of Alto; and Stephen Shaffer of Ruidoso. He was also blessed with many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild on the way.
Family was a huge part of Bill’s life. He not only raised three children, but he helped raise many of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, lovingly caring for them while their parents worked, and having them over for weekends and summer vacations. For the past 20 years or so, you could often see him patiently holding a grandchild’s hand, and letting them get the mail out of the box at the post office. He could also be found most everyday at Ruidoso State Bank with a grandchild, proudly exclaiming “What a Dandy!” to all who were around. He would then lift the lucky grandchild and let them pick a “pop” out of the candy jar.
He attended every birthday party, every Christmas, and every Thanksgiving where he would famously take pictures of his family while right in the middle of opening their mouth to shove in a bite of food. He was just happy to all be together and taking pictures; he seemed mystified when someone would say, “that’s not a very good picture of me.”
Billy Earl’s family never went without. He was always there to provide, and help. One time when his daughter was a teenager, she left him a note saying, “I need 4 tires, and I need them now.” J Bill went and got them right then. All family members from children to grandchildren remember him coming at all hours of the night (especially as teenagers and young adults) to get them out of a snowbank or the side of the road when broken down.
Bill and Irene Shaffer have attended First Baptist Church of Ruidoso from the 1960s to the present and the membership is the longest one at this time. A private service for family and close friends was held at First Baptist Church on December 28, 2021, with internment at the Gavilan Memorial Gardens Cemetery immediately following.
Billy Earl lived a full life enjoying many friends and family members. He always treated people fairly, and in accordance with the Golden Rule. He was an honest man and one of integrity. As one family member put it, “He would help out at a drop of a hat.” You were a pinnacle of our lives, and lived life as a role model for others. You will be greatly missed, Billy Earl
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