Shoemaker High School Honors Namesake

Silver Stars perform at Shoemaker birthdayA group of Shoemaker High School students who never knew their school’s famous namesake honored his memory Friday, marking the late General Robert M. Shoemaker’s 100th birthday.


More than six years after Shoemaker passed, the students he called his grandchildren still honor his legacy.

Leslie Francis speaks about general


As cheerleaders and Silver Star dance team members performed and the Junior ROTC posted the colors in the school auditorium, it was easy to look around and expect to see the retired general dressed in coat and tie and wearing his 1st Cavalry Division hat.


His presence remains.


Senior class officers, the JROTC executive officer and students connected to the ExCel service club took turns reading portions of Shoemaker’s extensive and impressive biography.


Following a video tribute of photos and video, Leslie Francis, Shoemaker’s longtime friend and caretaker shared personal memories of the retired general.


A saber salute presenting a portrait of the Shoemakers and patriotic with choir music concluded the ceremony.

Posting the colorsSabre salute to General Shoemaker


In an emotional remembrance, Francis said that the late general wished for a 100th birthday celebration at the high school he loved.


“I can’t begin to explain how much the general loved this school,” she said. “He called it the magical place…When I told him your schedule is clear, he said, ‘we’re going to school,’” she recalled.


Francis focused on a simple phrase that Shoemaker used often and that helped guide her decision-making as well as many others over the years. “Always choose goodness over fairness.”


He woke up every morning with the goal to make the world a better place, always with the greater good in mind.


“The greatest gift each of us could give our sweet general is to use this one small tool and make the world a better place every day…He wants to see each of us achieve all our dreams and rise to the top,” she said.


“He ended every speech he made here at Shoemaker High School with four words, Grey Wolves I love you.”


Shoemaker senior Ailenid Otero, JROTC executive officer, said she was impressed with Shoemaker’s military career.


“He is a pioneer of aviation and such a successful, highly decorated general,” she said. “It’s great we get to honor him.”


Senior Shebbah Joseph, president of the Excel Club said, “This was a moment to express our gratitude to Robert M. Shoemaker. We appreciate his service, and this was a moment to give back.”


Even today’s students, she said, recognize the displays at the entry of the school. “You see him every time you walk in and get intrigued by him.”

Honoring a general's legacy


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.


He served three tours in Vietnam and eventually commanded the 1st Cavalry Division and III Corps at Fort Hood, now Fort Cavazos.


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 to receive their diploma.


Even in the last year of his life, Shoemaker celebrated his birthday as always at the school he called “a magical place.”


In February 2017, he sat on the cafeteria stage with his wife Tuke as student groups lined up to honor him. Her birthday was also in February.


In 2020, students again held a birthday celebration in February, honoring Tuke Shoemaker’s 95th birthday. She died Dec. 27 that same year.