By Todd Martin
As a community mourns the loss of a great leader, Shoemaker High School remembers a beloved “grandfather.”
Retired Army Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker gave his name to the high school on Clear Creek Drive in Killeen. Over the past 17 years, he gave far more to the students and staff at Shoemaker High School.
He gave himself.
Robert M. Shoemaker died at 93 on Wednesday, June 21.
A veteran of Vietnam. An innovator of the air cavalry. A community builder and champion of education, Shoemaker leaves a legacy of love for students and an undying loyalty to the red, white and blue and the Shoemaker Greywolves.
His influence is evident all over the school that bears his name. More importantly, his life of service influenced thousands of Greywolf graduates.
The love between the retired general and the students at Shoemaker High School was always mutual.
Even in the last year of his life, Shoemaker celebrated his birthday as always at the school he called “a magical place.” In February, he sat on the cafeteria stage with his wife Tuke as student groups lined up to honor the general.
At the birthday, Shoemaker Principal Sandra Forsythe said the occasion remained a huge one on the school calendar.
The 93rd birthday celebration was designed so the general could see as many of the 2,100-plus students as possible and as many students as possible could see him.
“General Shoemaker calls these students his grandchildren,” Forsythe said last February. “He does so much for this school. We celebrate life with him.”
“It’s special because the general supports us,” said senior Siasja Washington, who represented the JROTC battalion. “This is another year I get to decorate for the general and celebrate with him.”
Cherith Hicks, representing the freshmen class, said the general continues to inspire students.
“He is the reason our school is our school,” she said. “It’s amazing our school is named for a general and it’s amazing he is 93 years old. We think he is phenomenal.”
Born in Michigan in 1924, Shoemaker attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, trained as an infantry soldier, married in 1948, earned his aviator’s wings and distinguished himself in the world of helicopter air assault.
Shoemaker served three tours in Vietnam and eventually commanded the 1st Cavalry Division and III Corps.
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.
While the facts of Shoemaker’s career impress students, it’s his personal presence that inspires them.
“He’s the backbone of the school,” said senior Evan Poe of the Science National Honor Society. “He gives us pride. He inspires us to make him proud. We have immense respect for him.”
July 2, 2017