Virtual Voices
U.S. Navy Fireman First Class Harold Stafford Shuman
Photo courtesy of the Shuman family
U.S. Navy Fireman First Class Harold Stafford Shuman

A tribute to Paw Paw

Essay

I sometimes tell people the atomic bomb saved my life.

In 1945 my 18-year-old grandfather was stationed on Okinawa, a small island in the Pacific Ocean, where he would have been on the front lines of a ground invasion into Japan. That never happened, thanks to two atomic bombs helping bring about V-J Day.  Harold Stafford Shuman came back home and went on to father six children and have 15 grandchildren (of which I’m No. 5) and three great-grandchildren.

My grandfather, while certainly in harm’s way, never saw combat during World War II, but he served his country honorably. Throughout his 86 years he exemplified all the characteristics of the Greatest Generation: duty, honor, faith, integrity, and hard work.

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My grandfather was laid to rest Monday afternoon at Houston National Cemetery. I spent the last few days celebrating his legacy with friends and family in Texas, where he lived his entire life.

In the early years of his marriage—which would have reached 65 years next month—my grandfather worked 10 hours a day, seven days a week, for 10 straight years. That would be difficult for anyone, but it was especially true for my grandfather after he lost almost half his foot in an oilfield accident.

One day he called my grandmother from the oilfield to tell her he was coming home—for good. Influenced by a Billy Graham sermon on being a godly father, my grandfather went into business for himself, stopped working Sundays, and started taking his family to church.

My grandfather grew to love and study God’s Word. That was evident as we sorted through his Bibles, most of them marked up from cover to cover and containing sheets of notes stuck between the pages. What a treasure.

We know very well that my grandfather wasn’t perfect—he had his faults like the rest of us. But something struck me during the funeral: He exemplified sanctification perhaps better than anyone I know. In the last 30 years of his life I observed him being less irritable, less stubborn, and less demanding, while becoming more gracious, more giving, more patient, and more loving.

My grandfather, whom we called “Paw Paw,” wanted the gospel preached at his funeral, because he knew it would be the last opportunity he ever had to do so. The minister did preach the gospel, but it won’t be the last time it’s carried forth in my grandfather’s name: Those of us he influenced will ensure his legacy never dies.

So long for now, Paw Paw.

J.C. Derrick
J.C. Derrick

J.C. is a reporter in WORLD's Washington Bureau. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.

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