John Sheaffer dead at 95

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – A man who was part of the heyday of the Sheaffer Pen boom, and a bigger part of it’s reverberations through Fort Madison died Saturday with family in Memphis, Tenn.

John Dunlap Sheaffer, 95, was born May 10, 1925 the son of Craig Royer and Virginia Dunlap Sheaffer of Fort Madison, where he made his home until moving to Memphis, TN in 2017. 

The complete obituary can be found under the Obituaries link at www.pencitycurrent.com.

Sheaffer is the grandson of W. A. Sheaffer, the founder of Sheaffer Pen. His father Craig ran the company from 1938 until he was named Chairman of the Board in 1953, and then unexpectedly died in 1961.

John worked his way up to Vice President of International Operations overseeing manufacturing and sales functions in five different countries.

In 1966 the company was sold to Textron, Inc. out of Providence, Rhode Island. In 1976, the Sheaffer Division of Textron was merged with Eaton Paper Co. Sheaffer-Eaton was then sold to Gefinor (U.S.A.) Inc, who in turn sold off the division to Bic in 1997.

Early in 2004 Bic announced their intentions to close the Sheaffer plant by the end of 2006, ending nearly one hundred years of pen manufacturing by Sheaffer in Iowa.

After graduating from high school at Culver Military Academy in 1943, Sheaffer volunteered to serve in the Army, where he was decorated with the Bronze Star for Valor after stints in the Southwest Pacific Theatre of Operations.

He was honorably discharged in January of 1946 at enrolled at the University of Colorado graduating in 1950 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. 

He returned to Fort Madison and went to work for the W.A. Sheaffer Pen Company, his family-owned business. 

In 1951 he married Gertrude Russell Coors in Memphis and the two raised four children John II, Virginia, Carolyn, and Russell.

Sheaffer was active in many Fort Madison organizations and served on the W. A. Sheaffer Memorial Foundation and was Chairman of the Board of Trustess of the Sheaffer Memorial Golf Course.

“My dad lived in Fort Madison for 91 years,” Russell Sheaffer said Tuessday. “He loved the community and the area. He and my mother moved to Memphis for the sole purpose of being closer to family and not being able to manage their large home on High Point. It was very bitter sweet for him to leave.”

Sheaffer said his father felt very strongly that the foundation continue to support the city and surrounding areas.

“The family will continue to do that. That’s what my father wanted.”

Sheaffer said his father and uncle Walter established what was the beginning of the Sheaffer Foundation that built the golf course just north of the city, under the watchful eye of his grandfather who was running the company at the time.

“My grandfather didn’t even play golf,” Sheaffer said with a chuckle. “But he felt the city needed it. At the time there wasn’t a public golf course in town and they wanted the citizens to have one. So they built it and gifted it to the city.”

Giving back to the community was very much a part of the company’s philosopy, Sheaffer said.

“Dad certainly felt it was a responsibility to give back to the community that gave so much to them,” Sheaffer said.

“When we owned the company it was the employees that made Sheaffer what it was at the time. There was a very close knit relationship between my family and the employees, as well as the businesses that supported Sheaffer in Fort Madison.”

Sheaffer said his father used to share stories about going onto the plant floor to talk with employees and getting ideas on how to improve the brand.

Sheaffer said his father will be buried with a Sheaffer pen in his pocket. He said a tribute to his father will be held at some point in Fort Madison, but those details are still being worked out.

Gene Enke, a retired insurance salesman in Fort Madison, met John through his connections there and called him a true friend.

“We were personal friends. We met through the insurance office and from there John recruited me to be on the Sheaffer golf board,” Enke said.

“John was a gentleman from a generation passed. He was a gentleman in every respect. He was involved in the Sheaffer Foundation and that foundation took care of a lot of Fort Madison needs for many decades. He was just a good man.”

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