Robert Morin Shoemaker 1924-2017

Robert Morin Shoemaker was born on the family farm located at the corner of Shoemaker Road (named for his grandparents) and West Road (now called General Squier), one mile west of downtown Almont on February 18, 1924 to Uriah Beebe and Pomala Orda Morin Shoemaker.  He joined older sister Betsey and was joined later by brothers Jack and Tom. 

As a young boy, Bob’s dad, with his partner, operated the Almont Hardware Store.  As the Depression worsened, Uriah and his partner agreed that the hardware store was not able to support two families, so Uriah went back to operating the family 80-acre dairy farm full time.

Robert started school in the nearly new school building in Almont instead of going to the Spangler country school, which was located a mile in the other direction from his home.  Most days, he would walk the mile to and from school. 

Even though he was only about 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed about 110 pounds (when he graduated), as a junior and senior he lettered in football, basketball and baseball.  For his senior year, he was selected to the Southern Thumb Association All-Star team for baseball. 

Robert graduated from Almont High School in 1941 in a class of 23 students.  He wanted to go to college but did not have the funds, so Robert decided to stay home and work on the farm and at Bowman’s Drug store.  He would get up in the morning and milk and tend to the dairy cows.  Then about 11:30 a.m. he would walk to the drug store and work until he had to go home and do the evening milking.  Once he completed the milking, he would walk back to the drug store and work until closing – about 9 or 10.  On Sundays he worked the drug store alone.  If someone needed a prescription, he would call the owner, Harry Bowman, to come down to the store.  He was earning $6 a week.

On Sunday, December 7, 1941 he was working alone in the drug store and listening to the radio when the announcement about Pearl Harbor was made.  He went home and wanted to enlist in the Navy but his parents said no (he was only 17), so he enrolled at the University of Grand Rapids to study pharmacy.  He worked numerous part-time jobs to cover his tuition and living costs while in Grand Rapids.

In December 1942, he enlisted in the Navy Reserve in the V-12 program that allowed him to finish the school year and then go to Naval Officer Training School.  His parents suggested he seek a congressional appointment to Annapolis or West Point. He was informed of his selection in the spring of 1943.  He reported to West Point on July 1, 1943.  Because of the war, the program of study was a three-year course and he graduated in 1946. 

After parachute and glider training, he was posted to Germany for three years. He spent two years stateside and then was send to Korea for a year.  After another two years stateside, he was posted as a military advisor to the Iranian military.  He spent two years at the Command and General Staff College and then received his aviation wings.  During the 1960’s, he was sent to Vietnam three times and attended the war College for a year.  Once back from Vietnam, he was posted at Fort Hood, Texas.  He moved up the ranks commanding the III Corp and eventually the Army Forces Command.  When he took command he was promoted to a General – four-stars.  He was Michigan’s only Four-star General.

On March 1, 1982, Robert retired from the Army after 36-years of service.  He was inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame in 1983 and received the West Point Distinguished Graduate Award in 2004.  During his Army career he was award a Distinguished Service Metal, a Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Merit Distinguished Flying Cross, a Bronze Star, the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Combat Infantry Badge, and Senior Parachutist Badge.

He retired to a home near Fort Hood, Texas.  His public service would continue.  In 1986 he was elected to the Bell County Board of Commissioners and served for eight years.  He pushed to get a four-year college for the Fort Hood area.  Texas A&M University – Central Texas was created in Killeen Texas.  He served as president of the Heart of Texas Council of Boy Scouts of America and president of the Fort Hood chapter of the United Way.  His community work was recognized by the Frank W. Mayborn Humanitarian Award and the Roy J. Smith Award for community service.

In 2000, the Killeen Independent School District named its newest high school for General Shoemaker – the Robert M. Shoemaker High School.  Until recently, he was almost a daily visitor to the school and attended most of the school’s sports and extracurricular activities.  He referred to the students as his grandchildren.

In May 2013, Bob and “Tuke” established the Wolf-Warrior Endowed Scholarship Fund at the Central Texas College Foundation.  The scholarship pays full tuition for students to attend two years at Central Texas College and two years at Texas A&M University-Central Texas for students from Robert M. Shoemaker High School. He died June 21, 2017 and was buried with full military honors.  Over a thousand people attended his funeral.

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