In Remembrance: Margaret Shafer

09-14-2012 by

Emily McGinley

Alumnus Byron Shafer (B.D., 1963) wrote in to share that alumna Margaret Shafer (M.A.C.E., 1963) passed away 16 July, 2012:

Quite simply put, Margaret's was the purest soul I have ever known. She experienced her most profound joy in helping others to become the best persons they could be, including most especially me. Margaret had a deep sense of God's calling her to do this, and she lived that purpose out to the fullest. In my eyes, and in many others' as well, she was truly a saint.

What a remarkable privilege I have had to walk in her light for almost 56 years, to have shared with her almost every day of our 51+ years of married life, and to have participated with her in the nurturing of three children and four grandchildren. Not only our family's homes but also the wider world are far, far poorer places today for her passing.

Yet the reality is that for the past several years almost every one of her days had been filled with great pain and limitation of body, brought on by Parkinson's, severely overlapping toes, scoliosis, a hip condition, cataracts, a leaking mitral valve, pericarditis, and, most recently, heart failure. Only those closest to her could have guessed how much she was enduring daily.

Doctors had recently told her that she was in serious danger of sudden death syndrome. She wanted to maintain important vitality in the face of her heart conditions, so she chose to hope that yesterday's surgery would afford her at least several more years for fulfilling her calling. She went into the surgery smiling and expressing her complete faith that, whatever the outcome, she was in God's hands. Now I believe she is more so than ever, for she and I are confident in God's gift of eternal life.

Many of you know that over the past several years Margaret was writing her memoirs. She recently completed them and had then asked me to copy-edit the manuscript. I have not yet done so, but part of my mission over the months ahead will be to make sure that all of you have the chance to read Margaret's own recounting of her life and purpose.

Margaret's favorite piece of music was Gabriel Faure's Requiem. I close by quoting part of its text, which is my prayer for Margaret:

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine et lux perpetua luceat eis. (Rest eternal give them, Lord, and let light always shine on them.)

To view some wonderful testimonials to Margaret and get a link to a 2001 NY Times article about Margaret, see the July 17th entry in the pastor's blog at the Fifth Ave. Church, and the 27 comments accessed by a button at the end of the pastor's remarks:

In the love of Christ, which Margaret so fully shared with us all,


Margaret's biography is as follows:

Margaret Loehlin Shafer

Margaret was born on January 11, 1938 in Ambala, Punjab, India. Her parents, Clinton H. and Eunice Cleland Loehlin, were missionaries working in the Punjab for the Presbyterian Church (USA) from 1923 to 1968. Margaret’s four older brothers and sisters are John Loehlin, Marian Davies, Mildred Harris, and James Loehlin.

Margaret attended elementary and secondary school at Woodstock International School in Mussoorie, India; received her B.A. (1960) from the College of Wooster, Wooster, Ohio; took her M.A. in Christian Education (1963) from McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois; and completed her M.S.T. (Master of the Science of Teaching, 1976) at the Fordham University Graduate School of Education, New York City.

Margaret met Byron at the College of Wooster, and they were married on December 27, 1960. Their three children are Stephen Shafer, James Shafer, and Tina Hollister, and their four grandchildren are Max and Finn Beirne-Shafer, and Nina and Max von Vacano-Shafer.

From 1962 to 1968, Margaret served as Director of Christian Education in three different congregations, the first in Chicago and the other two in Greater Boston. From 1968 to 1976, she was a full-time mother and community activist. From 1977 to 1982, she taught troubled youth at an Alternative Middle High School in Mt. Vernon, New York. From 1982 to 1990, she served on the program staff of the National Council of Churches of
Christ (USA) as a specialist in public education and church/state relations and as the NCCC’s point-person for educating for the prevention of the spread of AIDS. From 1991 to 1998, she served as Associate in Education for the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, among other projects organizing its Center for Christian Studies. Then from 1998 to her retirement in 2004, she served that same congregation as Associate for Outreach, among
other projects developing its ministry with homeless people on the streets and challenging, both on the sidewalks and in the courts, the actions of New York City’s mayor and police commissioner that sought to prevent the congregation from ministering to the homeless persons sleeping on its steps. The church won the federal-court case, at all levels of appeal.

From 1995 to 2010, Margaret returned to India every year or two—leading mission study trips, developing lay leadership for Christian groups there, and volunteering as a teacher and mentor at the United Theological College in Bangalore.

At the end of May, 2010, Margaret and her husband Byron moved to the Meadow Lakes retirement community in East Windsor, New Jersey. Margaret became deeply involved in such local organizations as RISE, the League of Women Voters, and the First Presbyterian
Church of Hightstown.

At the time of her death, on July 16, 2012 during open-heart surgery, Margaret was editing the RISE newsletter and serving on the Boards of both the local LWV chapter and the church, where she was also Chairperson of the Christian Education Committee.

Through all her life, Margaret championed the disadvantaged and was known for her insight, grace, and kindness. Her life’s mission was to help others become the best persons they could be, and she fulfilled that mission with great energy, imagination, and love.

Rest in peace, Margaret. “Well done, good and faithful servant.”