By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — Wally Shafer has spent nearly all of his life in Kay County, most of it in Newkirk. He raised his family in Newkirk, volunteered for many organizations in the community and held a career that took him from military service to more than 40 years at Eastman National Bank (ENB), which had a work culture he was proud to have been a part of. All that dedication, spread across many decades in Newkirk, came full circle when the community he dedicated his life to recognized him as Citizen of the Year at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet Jan. 18.
Newkirk residents voted for Shafer as the Citizen of the Year.
“It was a little overwhelming. I was very surprised,” he said.
Shafer was born in Ponca City and his family lived in Kay County his whole childhood on a farm west of Newkirk,
“I am the third generation to live in Newkirk,” he said.
He followed in his father’s footsteps, joining the U.S. Army, and serving tours in Alaska and Vietnam, two landscapes vastly different from the dusty Newkirk plains.
“It was a very exciting time, including in Vietnam, where I was a helicopter pilot,” he said. “I saw a very big change of scenery for someone from Newkirk.”
As exciting as it was, he yearned to come home, and after three years, he got the opportunity when he was offered a job at ENB
“Frank Midgley offered me a job at the bank. I came back to Newkirk fulfilling those desires,” he said. “I worked there 40 years.”
During his tenure at ENB, he said he performed every role imaginable, eventually becoming President when Midgley passed in the early 1980s.
“I became President, which I never thought possible,” he said.
Shafer’s love for the community stretched outside the bank walls and into the street, where he has logged many hours as a community volunteer. He served as treasurer and Sunday School teacher at First Presbyterian Church, as well as with the Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce and Newkirk Main Street.
Shafer sees volunteerism and community support as something that should be a part of everyday life, which has made him a better person.
“I think everyone has an inherent desire to serve,” he said. “It was important for me to surround myself with good people, and Newkirk has their share of good and wonderful people.”
Shafer retired from ENB in 2006 but remained on the Board of Directors until 2016. He also retired from cattle raising, and is happy he doesn’t have to check them in the cold weather any longer.
“It was a wonderful blessing that I was able to work there for so many years,” he said. “The culture of the bank was to serve the community, and the people there are servants of the community.”
Shafer and his wife, Jana, raised three children, Kelle, Jay and Kim, and have five grandkids.
Family members are proud of the distinction.
“It was well-deserved,” Kim (Shafer) Shanks said. “I’m so thankful he instilled a work ethic and volunteerism into our lives.”
Shafer reflected on his life and dedication to the community, and is happy with the many opportunities he has had to make Newkirk a better place to live and work.
“I’ve had a wonderful life with Jana. Newkirk’s a wonderful place with a lot of wonderful people,” he said.