Steven Shaffer

Obituary of Steven Dale Shaffer

Steven Dale Shaffer, loving husband and father of two children, passed away at the age of 71, on January 22, 2024. 

Steven Dale Shaffer was born October 21, 1952, in Upland, California to Henry and Olive Shaffer, the youngest of three children. Steve’s brother Roger was 14 years older, and his sister Linda was 7 years older.

Steve began his life in Montclair, California, receiving his entire education in Southern California. He obtained an AA Degree in Flight Control at Chaffey College, a BS degree in microbiology from UC Riverside, and an OD degree from SCCO in Fullerton. Steve lived in California for 32 years before moving to Washington.

 Steve’s first job was at Tastee Freez, picking up trash in the parking lot when he was 13 years old. He got free drinks and a small wage. Then he went to McDonalds and worked his way up to becoming a Swing Manager. He even got to portray Ronald McDonald in a parade in Ontario, CA.  After graduating from Montclair High School in 1972 Steve went to Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga and got his AA degree in Flight Control.  Steve became a flight controller at Chino Airport., where he began taking flight lessons. After obtaining his ratings, Steve started delivering airplanes all over the country including Beechcraft, Cessna, and Piper aircraft.  Steve was able to get lots of flight time and he loved flying.

Later, Steve worked as a circulation manager at the progress Bulletin in Pomona, California. In 1976, Steve saw a girl with long blond hair working downstairs in the dispatch section of the advertising department. She was making tear sheets of advertisements to be delivered to various businesses. They also saw each other in the garage when he would pick up his delivery truck and she would pick up her Pinto for making deliveries. Her name was Debbee and they began a 4 year courtship starting with a first date flying to lunch at Catalina Island with Steve as the pilot. After getting his BS degree in 1978, Steve got a job as a microbiologist at SAPRC (Statewide Air Pollution Research Center) at UC Riverside.  During Steve’s first year he wrote 32 papers with his research team. In 1980 he began Optometry school at SCCO on an Army scholarship. He also got married to Debbee in September of 1980. They lived in Chino for the first year since Steve was going to school in Fullerton and Debbee was going to school in Riverside. Chino was halfway between the two cities in California. He graduated in 1984, then paid the Army back 4 years at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, Washington. Steve and Debbee chose Olympia, Washington to be their stomping grounds. They lived in Olympia for the next 32 years because Steve was able to stay at Fort Lewis with only one close call to being deployed in the Bosnian War in 1994. In 1987, their first child, Jenna was born at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma. Steve was a captain with the Medical Department in the 9th Infantry Division at Ft. Lewis. After two years he became a Major and transferred to Madigan Army Medical Center. He was also an adjunct professor with Ophthalmology student residents. In 1988, he became part of Group Heath HMO as an optometrist and worked at the Lacey office. He also joined the Army National Guard in the 66th Aviation Command in aviation medicine. Steve and Debbee’s second child, Jason, was born at St. Peter Hospital in Olympia in 1992. In 2004, Steve opened his own practice in DuPont, Washington called DuPont Family Vision Clinic.

After 10 years and a heart attack, Steve retired in 2014 and sold his practice. He continued to work with the National Guard until 2016. The National Guard honored Steve with a thrilling ride in a Blackhawk helicopter flying over Seattle to see the Space Needle and other landmarks.  Steve and Debbee moved to Oro Valley, Arizona in 2016, after Debbee retired from teaching. That same year, Steve and Debbee sold their house in Olympia and married off their daughter, Jenna, to her husband, Travis. Jenna and Travis made their home in Carlsbad, California. Their son, Jason, moved to Tacoma, Washington.  Debbee’s sister, Misty, and her husband, Bill, joined the Shaffers in Arizona in 2020, building a home in Marana (close to Oro Valley).  Steve’s niece, Joni, and her husband, Neil, also moved to Marana in 2021.

Steve had many roles in his community.  Besides being involved in several neighborhood associations, he was also part of the DuPont Lions Club and DuPont Historical Museum. With his children, Steve got involved with the Boy Scouts and Ballet Northwest. He served as den leader and scout leader, going on several outings with his son, Jason, and the troop. He also served as president of the Ballet Northwest Board and performed several times in the annual Nutcracker with his daughter, Jenna. Steve was selected as one of the top 10 Citizens of the Year by the Kiwanis Club of North Thurston in 1998.

Steve had several hobbies including photography, genealogy, hiking, and running. His most memorable picture was taking a quick shot from the Chihuly Bridge in Tacoma, Washington while pushing Debbee’s Aunt Lila in a wheelchair. He loved that picture and had it enlarged several times and turned it into notecards. He also loved taking pictures of glaciers, flowers, lighthouses, mountains, and sunsets. Steve took great pride making iMovies for beloved ones because they helped bring him closure.

He ran his first marathon at the age of 58. He loved doing the Rock n Roll marathons, especially the one in Las Vegas with his daughter, Jenna. Another one of his favorite moments was flying over Mt. St. Helens with his son, Jason, as a Father’s Day gift. That was his last time to fly as the pilot. 

Steve loved spending time with his 4-year-old grandson, Evander. They both had an interest in trains and planes. Evander gave Steve the nickname of Pop.

In 2020, Steve was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  His wife, Debbee became his loving caregiver. Steve survived a second heart attack in 2021. Together, Steve and Debbee began the long Alzheimer’s journey and participated in several programs around Tucson and Oro Valley that were sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association and PCOA like The Art of Memory, Music Jams, and Memory Cafés. The Adventure Bus Program sponsored by Handmaker Assisted Living provided a fun stimulating day once a week for Steve and respite for Debbee. Vistoso Church volunteers provided another stimulating program for Steve and respite for Debbee. They met many amazing couples who were on a similar journey and found comfort in their support.

Steve’s brother, Roger Shaffer, preceded him in death. Steve is survived by his wife, Debbee; daughter, Jenna Stewart and husband, Travis, of Carlsbad, California; son Jason Shaffer, of Tacoma, Washington; sister, Linda Frost, of Olympia, Washington; sister-in-law, Suzie Shaffer, of Lynnwood, Washington; grandson Evander Stewart of Carlsbad, California; several nieces and nephews, including Joni Fuller and husband Neil Carlsen, of Marana, Arizona; Roger Shaffer, Jr. and wife Hasi, of Seattle, Washington; William Shaffer, of Tokyo, Japan; Julie Frost and wife, Jennifer Foy, of Bremerton, Washington; Lisa Frost and husband Adin Worley, of Olympia, Washington; several grand nieces and nephews, including Ryan Shaffer and Tyler Shaffer, of Kenmore, Washington; Alia Shaffer and Aruna Shaffer, of Seattle, Washington.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggest donations be made to the Alzheimer’s Association, or to the Pima Council on Aging,

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Funeral Service

10:00 am - 11:00 am
Monday, March 4, 2024
Adair Funeral Homes-Avalon Chapel
8090 N. Northern Ave
Tucson, Arizona, United States


12:00 pm - 12:30 pm
Monday, March 4, 2024
Arizona Veteran Memorial Cemetery -Marana
15950 N Luckett Rd
Marana, Arizona, United States
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