United Church minister, metallurgical engineer, grandfather, King Scout, Globe and Mail delivery boy. Born Feb. 2, 1923, in Ancaster, Ont. Died July 25, 2011, in Mississauga of natural causes, aged 88.
William “Billy” Shaver was part of a United Empire Loyalist family that included elected politicians from across the spectrum. The oldest of three children of John Shaver and Ida Johnson, he grew up in St. Catharines, Ont., where he delivered The Globe and Mail and was active at Welland Avenue United Church. Becoming a Scout leader at 16, he had a lifelong love for the outdoors.
Bill earned three university degrees, starting with a bachelor of applied science in metallurgical engineering in 1946 from the University of Toronto. After graduation, he worked as a supervisor for Alcan in Arvida, Que. He liked Quebec so much he went to McGill University when he decided to enter the ministry, completing a bachelor of divinity degree in 1953.
His first pastoral charge after ordination into the United Church of Canada was in Metis Beach, Que., where he met the postmistress, Sherrill Tuggey. Word has it he used to buy his stamps one at a time. They married in 1955 and had five children: Arlene, Ila Ruth (who died as an infant), Andrea, Wesley and Brock.
Bill held leadership roles in Hamilton Presbytery, including chairing the personnel committee that passed a motion asking the United Church’s General Council to ordain openly gay people. His congregations in St. Catharines and Simcoe, Ont., were active in helping refugee families adapt to life in Canada. When a farmer died in an accident, he went into the fields to help the family finish the haying.
After retirement in 1988, he and Sherrill borrowed their daughters’ backpacks and travelled around the world for a year. Afterward, they spent summers in Quebec and winters exploring Africa, Europe and the Americas or renting homes in Ontario close to their children.
Bill encouraged the family to travel, whether it was a Sunday drive and a picnic, or a summer road trip to the Pacific Ocean, and stressed education, no matter how old you were. He kept a big garden and composted regularly, walked home for lunch and a nap, and tried to take Monday off every week. When his four children went to university, he did too, earning a master’s in theology from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1980.
Over the years, Bill recovered well from a stroke, hip surgery and two bouts of cancer. The fact that he didn’t smoke or drink alcohol no doubt helped. He stabilized after being hospitalized last June. But for a man who always enjoyed home cooking, local produce and trying new dishes, being fed through a feeding tube was not his cup of tea. A couple of drops of Tabasco sauce might have helped, but he said he wasn’t hungry. The morning he died there was a spectacular sunrise in Ottawa. He would have appreciated nature’s tribute.
By Andrea Shaver, Bill’s daughter.