Shaver lifted himself out of poverty with education

Updated 6:16 pm, Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Born into a sharecropping family in Arkansas, Joe Shaver changed his life by attending college, starting a career that took him from the Caribbean island of Aruba to New York City.

Raised in the Church of Christ, Shaver also nurtured his faith his whole life, founding churches in Aruba and White Plains, New York, where he worked for 20 years.

“He taught us to help others, share with others, learn from others,” daughter Cynthia Hopkins said.

Shaver died Friday at 91.

Raised during the Great Depression, Shaver was often taken out of school to work in the fields.

“They were very poor … farmed cotton,” Hopkins said. Even so, “he got such good grades, he got some money to go to a little Christian college.”

Attending what is now Harding University, Shaver had finished only about a year before he dropped out to help support his family by working at what was then Emerson Electric Co. in St. Louis during World War II.

Called home to Arkansas by his father, Shaver was soon drafted into the Army toward the end of the war. He was sent to postwar Japan.

Discharged after a little more than a year, Shaver used the GI Bill to attend the University of Missouri in Columbia, where he studied business and met his future wife, a student at what was then Columbia College.

Working for what was then Standard Oil of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Shaver accepted a job with Lago Oil and was sent to Aruba, where he brought his bride after marrying her in 1950.

“Aruba was wonderful,” Hopkins said. “There were about 800 American families there to work in the refineries. An American colony on the island.”

Accepting a transfer to New York after the refinery was dismantled in the early 1960s, Shaver moved his family to White Plains, commuting daily to his office in Rockefeller Center, where he worked in the controller’s office for what is now Exxon Mobil.

Traveling as much as possible, Shaver and his wife “took all three of us to Europe, across the country,” Hopkins recalled. “They really tried to expose us to lots of different things.”

More Information

Joe Shaver

Born: Oct. 25, 1925, Ingram, Ark.

Died: Aug. 6, 2017, San Antonio

Preceded by: Wife Bea Shaver, parents Edna Pearl Meredith and Joseph Martin Shaver; a sister; two brothers

Survived by: Daughters Cynthia Hopkins and son-in-law Stephen, and Susan Johnson and son-in-law Walter; son Neal Shaver and daughter-in-law Marycke; seven grandchildren; three great-grandchildren

Services: Visitation at 1 p.m. Saturday at Northside Church of Christ, 19818 U.S. 281, followed by funeral and reception; burial will be private

Retiring in 1983, Shaver and his wife moved to San Antonio to be closer to their son and grandchildren, becoming members of Northside Church of Christ for many years.

Though mostly conservative, Shaver “was very open-minded,” his daughter said. “He was willing to learn and to listen; he was a sweet man … a genuine good human being.”

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