OBITUARY for WALTER ORION SHEPPARD, JR.
Walter O. Sheppard, Jr, 97, Captain, USAF, passed away peacefully Monday 10 July, 2017, surrounded by his family. He was born in Fort Myers, at the old wooden Hospital on Victoria Street June 20, 1920, lived and served this community his entire lifetime, but for 5 years of his early life in service of the US Army and the US Navy in combat of the Pacific Theater of WWII. Walter’s life uniquely personified “The Greatest Generation.”
The son of Walter O. Sheppard, Sr., and Helen Digges Sheppard, Captain Sheppard graduated from Fort Myers High School in 1939, learned to fly while in school, and enlisted in the Army Air Force shortly after Pearl Harbor. Because of his talents and knowledge of aircraft, he was assigned as a Flight and Gunnery Instructor in both fighter and twin engine bomber planes early in the War, at Stuttgardt, Arkansas. After his repeated requests for combat duty were denied by the Army, Captain Walter applied for combat pilot needs in the Navy. He was only one of 30 pilots to receive Army Air Corps/ US Air Force and Navy wings in WWII. Serving in the Pacific Theater, he was in command of a Flight of Navy Rescues planes, widely acknowledged as one of the most dangerous jobs in the War service. His squadron, his beloved PBY-5A aircraft “Super Duck” and crews were responsible for saving over 500 Marine, Naval and Army Air Force lives, including finding the battleship USS Indianapolis and Australian flight crews. Captain Sheppard received numerous awards for his service, qualifying for three Bronze Stars, Air Medal and other combat and service awards.
Returning from the service in February 1946, he remained in the Air Force Reserves until 1952. Walter continued his education after WWII at Stetson University, then attained his law degree(JD) from the University of Florida in 1950. He loved his Florida Gators! During that time he married Ruth Spires Sheppard, his beloved wife of 47 years, who died in 1993. Walter was also predeceased by his beloved wife Ginger Bass Sheppard of 9 years; his mother, father and two sisters, Virginia S. Holloway and Elizabeth S. Shands.
Walter’s life was marked by his service to his country, his profession, his community and the State of Florida, always putting family first. He opened and maintained his law office in 1950, practicing in Ft. Myers over 51 years. Serving 8 years in the Florida Legislature, he was responsible for critical legislation being on such committees as Salt Water Conservation, State Corrections, the Judiciary, Ways and Means and Public Utilities. As an avid hunter and fisherman, Walter sponsored legislation to ensure the snook be designated as a game fish. Amongst his many years of community service, he was President of the Lee County Bar Association, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, President of the Jaycees, Board Chair and member of The Thomas Edison and Ford Estate, Edison Pageant of Light, more than 50 years of service on the Lee Memorial Hospital Board, now Lee Health Systems and co-founder of the Canterbury School.
Walter is survived by his four children Carroll Ruth (Dr. Thomas) Duncan, Walter O. Sheppard III, Barbara Ann ( Richard G.) Andrews, Lucinda Suzanne Sheppard and step-daughter, Keri R. Martin; grandchildren Jena Carroll(Chad) Walldorf, John Gabriel Purser, Lauren Ashley Sheppard, Richard Orion Andrews(Margaret), Alexander Bayne Andrews, Andrea Elizabeth Duncan, Ian Thomas Duncan and 6 great grandchildren Katherine Rion Walldorf, Evelyn Anson Walldorf, William Digges Walldorf, Lucille Brantley Andrews, Julian Thomas Duncan and Henry Chamberlain Duncan; nieces Virginia Shands
Sharpe, Carroll Elizabeth Shands, Kathleen Sheppard Holloway: nephew Lee Campbell Holloway and first cousin John(Ellen) W. Sheppard, whom he considered his brother.
Funeral service will be held at St Lukes Episcopal Church, Fort Myers Saturday, 15 July 2017, 11 am, interment to follow at Ft. Myers Cemetery. Family will receive friends Friday, 14 July 2017, 5pm-7pm at Harvey-Engelhardt Funeral Home, Fort Myers. The family would request that in lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, the Edison and Ford Estates, Ostego Bay Foundation Marine Science Center or the charity of your choice. Please join Walter’s family at the Celebration of Life event on Saturday, 15 July 2017 at the Edison and Ford Estates, 5:30-7:30 pm
in the evening. Online Condolences and memories may be shared on Walter’s tribute page at www.Harvey-Engelhardt.com.