Veteran celebrated at Welcome Center

By Sandi Latimer
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Sandi Latimer
Paul Shoaf and Quin Wells share a laugh as Shoaf shows her photos of his lifetime and lifestyle. Wells had organized a birthday party Sept. 20 for Shoaf who celebrated his 93rd birthday Sept. 26. A few friends, former flying buddies and even a dog gathered at the event at the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum where Shoaf visits at least once a week.

Paul Shoaf admits he is getting to the place where he’s in a class by himself.

“There aren’t many of us left,” he said as he celebrated his 93rd birthday at the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum with some friends.

Shoaf, an Army veteran, visits the museum at least once a week, says museum representative Quin Wells.

“He shares his stories of his World War II days and stories of his long life,” she said.

Shoaf made himself eligible for the draft rather than face youth detention, says Don Ivers, another representative of the museum.

“He had some teenage issues and was given a choice between the Boys Industrial School in Lancaster or go into the military,” said Ivers who helped work on a notebook of memorabilia from Shoaf’s military days.

Shoaf says he had experience working on vehicles from his Dad’s business, and that helped him in the army. He earned a mechanic’s license and was assigned to work on tanks and other vehicles in Bodega Bay, Calif. There he not only worked at vehicle maintenance, but also learned to drive the huge machines and earned his tank license.

The community had little effect on him until the Alfred Hitchcock thriller “The Birds” came out.

“I was surprised when the movie came out,” Shoaf said, adding he recognized some of the scenes where the movie was shot.

He spent most of his military days in the European Theater, being in the Battle of the Bulge for what he says “was a couple of days.”

After V-E Day in May 1945, he wasn’t keen about going to the Pacific.

“The feeling was if you went to Japan you wouldn’t come back,” he recalled.

His hearing was impaired, perhaps by a bomb blast or other effects of war, and he was sent to a hospital in Roswell, N.M.

“That was before the UFOs,” he quipped.

Shoaf came home with the Good Conduct Medal, the American Campaign, European Theater of Operations Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.

After the war, he helped his Dad in his shop, and took it over when his father died. He married and raised three children and has what he calls “a bunch of grandchildren.”

He sold the business 30 years ago and looked for other activities to keep him busy in retirement. He turned to aviation and earned his instructor’s license and for a while pulled banners behind a plane that flew out of Bolton Field.

Many of his friends at the party were fellow pilots who swapped airplane stories amid laughter.
Shoaf’s wife died three years ago. These days, he goes for breakfast at Lilly’s and then meanders over to the museum to chat and spin yarns to the delight of the workers and visitors.

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