SPRING VALLEY, WI – Sacred Heart Catholic Church was filled to overflowing on Thursday, March 2 for the visitation, and on Friday, March 3 for the funeral mass for recently retired Spring Valley Fire Chief Terry Shafer. The beloved Chief died unexpectedly from a heart attack while playing cards with his brothers on Saturday, February 25.
As the Friday visitation concluded, a long solemn single file procession began, led by the members of the Spring Valley Fire Department, Spring Valley Area Ambulance and Spring Valley Police, followed by dozens of other local and regional fire and EMS members all respectfully saluting the open casket as they passed by it. Two fire fighters in full dress uniforms stood as an honor guard on each end of the casket. They then passed by a table with flowers and the white helmet of the late Chief.
Terry’s large family then came forward to say their final tear filled goodbyes to their dearly loved brother, dad, grandpa…
All the pews in Sacred Heart Catholic Church were full with family, friends and community members and the visiting EMS personnel lined the walls standing for the entire funeral service.
Funeral Director Ross Keehr closed the casket and the hymn of “How Great Thou Art” opened the beautiful funeral mass for Chief Shafer.
Father Prince Raja led the service that was filled with beautiful music, inspiring words and thoughts and stories about the wonderful man who served the community and region so selflessly.
Brother Michael Mandernach spoke eloquently beginning with his sincere sympathies to Terry’s family and recalled that the first time he met the Shafer family was at a barn dance.
He spoke of the wonderful things about the Village of Spring Valley, its community theater, churches, good schools, etc. and that it is the men and women like Terry Shafer that make it so special.
“He helped everyone,” said Brother Michael and intoned that Terry left three gifts to us all: the gift of gratitude, the gift of joy and the gift of courage.
“Every time his pager went off he went off to the sound of the alarm never knowing what it would be for. Like the entire EMS here they are concerned about the safety of us all. And thank you to you all,” he concluded as he looked at Terry’s casket and intoned, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter the kingdom of God.”
Communion was a part of the funeral mass for Chief Shafer and the offering of “Peace” followed it to all who were gathered there.
Terry’s son Chad then masterfully and bravely eulogized the dad he obviously loved deeply.
One thing that he said was, “He never wanted to put the Spring Valley First Responders to the test so he did it in Minnesota. He died in the arms of his brothers who did everything they could to try to save him. And as dad said many times ‘It could have been worse.’”
Chad shared and as everyone knew, “He loved to tell stories.”
Chad said, “He quit as Chief on his own terms and turned the white helmet of the Chief over to the firefighter of his choice: Fire Chief Mike Fitzjarrell.”
Of course, Chad told stories of Shafer family life growing up, tapping trees for syrup, of his dad’s notorious sweet tooth, hunting and his love of serving his community.
He related that it was his dad who tirelessly pursued the million-dollar communications grant for Pierce County to the benefit of all EMS services in the county. He also worked to secure a new pumper truck in 1993 that would carry him to his final resting place with his nephew Cody behind the wheel. He spoke as well of the other numerous pieces of equipment for the department that Terry helped procure for the betterment of the community and the fire department.
Truly fine words about a fine man, a real leader in our community.
The mass ended with prayer and the beautiful “On Eagles Wings,” as the final hymn as Chief Shafer was borne out by h is honor guard and pallbearers, Terry’s brothers along with Toby Vorlicek and Adam Vorlicek. The Honorary bearers were Terry’s grandchildren.
Outside in the bright sunlight of a crisp late winter day the casket was passed up to Spring Valley Fire Fighters onto the pumper truck for a final ride on a fire rig.
Then there was a funeral procession of over 40 fire trucks, ambulances, school busses, police cars and others that accompanied the Chief to his final resting place with burial in St Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery, El Paso Township, Pierce County, Wisconsin. Rest in Peace Chief, you have earned it.