Farewell, Tuke Shoemaker

Mrs. Shoemaker honored at recent birthday celebration
12/27/2020
By: Todd Martin
One of the kindest, most generous friends of Killeen ISD and all of Central Texas passed away Sunday.
 
Tuke Shoemaker was 95.
 
Born Feb. 27, 1925 as Mary Alice Rickard, she will always be remembered around KISD and Shoemaker High School as Mrs. Tuke Shoemaker.
 
The daughter of a former general officer and wife of the late Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker, lived a remarkable life herself and since the opening of the high school bearing her husband’s name, was a stalwart and visible supporter of the school.
 
Her dad, Maj. Gen. Roy Rickard called her “Tuke” as a nickname, but she liked it so much that she changed her name legally.
 
The late retired Gen. Shoemaker was an Army lieutenant when he and another young officer escorted the daughters of two generals to a military party. That experience led to the pair’s first meeting and almost 70 years of marriage.
 
Gen. Shoemaker served three tours in Vietnam and eventually commanded the 1st Cavalry Division and III Corps at Fort Hood.
 
Upon retirement, he served as a Bell County commissioner and helped lead the community’s efforts to bring a four-year university to the area. In 2000, Killeen ISD named one of two new high schools for the longtime leader.
 
He spent countless hours attending Shoemaker High School events and every year before his passing in 2017 at age 93, he greeted every graduating senior as they crossed the stage at the Bell County Expo Center to receive their diploma.
 
His wife, Tuke Shoemaker was at his side and even after his passing remained a presence at the school.
 
Just this year, she recorded a greeting that appeared on the scoreboard at Leo Buckley Stadium during Grey Wolves’ football games.
 
Last February, on her birthday, Mrs. Shoemaker sat in the school auditorium as student spirit groups performed and a slide show gave facts about her life.
 
The event ended with all those present singing “Happy Birthday” followed by a reception and lunch for the guest of honor.
 
During the celebration, Principal Micah Wells thanked Mrs. Shoemaker, assuring her that the students and staff loved her as much as she loved them.
 
He said the legacy of generosity that represents the Shoemakers continues to live on at the school and beyond.
 
At the birthday celebration in 2019, Shoemaker senior Carlon Rivera, vice president of S2S, said the Shoemaker influence is palpable in the hallways and everywhere students go.
 
“We love the whole family and want to celebrate the amazing life they had together,” he said at the birthday. “We know how many lives they have touched.”
 
Student organizers of the event culled information from an article that told of Tuke Shoemaker’s love for horses and children. She was an accomplished equestrian and a riding instructor.
 
In the published article, she commented that her siblings fought over the lone bicycle in the household, though all had horses for transportation. She also recalled the Army’s change in the 1940s from horse and mule power to trucks.
 
As a riding instructor, Tuke Shoemaker observed that horseback riding is a “great equalizer” with students that does not require traditional academic skills, but just an ability to think and move with the animal.
 
“They always called us their grandchildren,” Rivera said at the time. “Their influence is still very much felt, it makes a difference. When we represent our school, we also represent their name.”
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