James Shaff

Born in Clinton, IA
Born on Apr 18, 1922
Departed on Jan 29, 2020

Order Flowers


James H. Shaff, 97, of Cedar Rapids passed away on Wednesday, January 29, 2020 surrounded by his loving family. Funeral services will be held at Westminster Presbyterian Church on Monday, February 10, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. A public visitation will be one hour prior at the Church. Burial immediately following at Cedar Memorial Park Cemetery.

James Heman Shaff was born on April 18, 1922 in Clinton, IA; the son of John and Evelyn (Lillie) Shaff. James was preceded in death by his parents, seven brothers and sisters and their spouses, his first wife, Mary Dyer Shaff (mother of his four children) and his second wife, Janet Weiske Shaff, a lovely companion in their later years. 

James (Jim) is survived by his four children; Mike (Joanna) Shaff, Westminster, CO, Suzanne Shaff, St. Paul, MN, Tom (Patti Bahr), Iowa City, IA and Jennifer (Rob) Wilder of Wayzata, MN. Grandchildren include James (Iju Chiang) Shaff, Rob Wilder, Sam (Cassie) Wilder and Dean Shaff. Janet’s children Paula Meyer and Kendall Weiss of Cedar Rapids and grandson Matt (Sarah) Todd of Kenosha, WI.

Jim was one of eight brothers and sisters, numerous cousins, aunts and uncles to grow up and live on the family farm homesteaded in 1837 by his great Grandfather Heman B. Shaff. The Shaff Family Farm is one of the oldest farms in Iowa and is currently worked by the 6th generation of the Shaff family today. 

Growing up on a farm, Jim learned how to make and mend anything, churn butter, raise livestock, ride horses and drive every type of machinery available.  The fields on the farm, situated between prairie and river bottom, gave Jim an early education in soil composition. Building on this knowledge Jim became an expert in agriculture and spent his career as a farm manager and appraiser. 

Jim joined the Navy in World War II, leaving for two years before an honorable discharge brought him back to Iowa at the end of the war. Taking advantage of the GI bill, Jim enrolled at Iowa State College in Ames where he met Mary Dyer at a campus dance in 1946. Young and in love, they married on August 21, 1948 at Mary’s home church in St. Paul, MN. In 1950, Jim graduated from Iowa State with a Bachelor of Science in Education. His first job out of college took Mary and Jim to Winterset, Iowa where Jim taught returning veterans how to farm. In later years, much to Jim’s delight, his daughter Suzanne and grandson Sam followed in his footsteps and attended Iowa State University.

One of Jim’s keen interests was photography. His eye for good design and appreciation for grand structures shaped his photographic pursuits. We loved the high-speed slide shows which highlighted his photo skills and put at least one son-in-law asleep halfway through the first tray. His photography documented his love of travel within Iowa and across the globe. He was always up for a road trip as simple as driving down a country road to assess the status of ag production to hiking across the ridges of majestic, windblown Alps. 

Throughout his life, Jim liked to build furniture. He built tables, cabinets, drawing boards and boxes using a variety of materials and techniques. Considering this type of building was intended for his family, Jim’s tongue-in-cheek name for his entrepreneurial endeavor was FBN. Short for Fly By Night, the FBN aesthetic was classic, strongly built and may contain old John Deere tractor parts. Always put together with screws and bolts, never nails, the pieces were easily disassembled and reassembled when they arrived at one of his children’s homes, if not custom built onsite. FBN stood by its creations with its famous Taillight Warranty and encouraged recipients to read the fine print in the oral contract! FBN products are still in use today.

Jim enjoyed the challenge of golf and spent many hours talking mulligans with brother-in-law Howard Aldrich and nephew Howie while sisters Mary and Edith discussed other business. If Jim had a ‘home’ golf course, it would be Twin Pines in Cedar Rapids. Close-by and short, on many summer mornings he would book a tee time for 6:00 a.m. and get in a quick round before the day fully started. 

Jim was fastidious about his own property, creating a park-like setting in the spacious backyard of our Cedar Rapids home. Cursing moles and sand, Jim landscaped with an eye for both the long view and close-in shelter. Valuing trees for their purpose and beauty, Jim especially liked the magnificent oak which graced the front yard of our home. 

When our family moved to Cedar Rapids from Toledo, Iowa, in 1964, Jim and Mary joined Westminster Presbyterian Church. Jim was an active congregant throughout his tenure as a steward of the building and people. Because of his love of organ music, he was a member of the committee who selected the new Schantz organ for the church in the early 1970s. Jim was a Church Deacon, Sunday school teacher and could be seen rocking babies in the nursery between services. Leading the Church Building Committee was one of the roles Jim enjoyed the most and in retirement tirelessly worked to maintain and improve Westminster’s sacred spaces. Jim was an active member of the Wednesday morning Men’s Bible Study. 

Civic-minded, Jim was involved in community betterment projects, was a member of the All Iowa Fair board, International Optimists and was a 32nd degree Mason.

Recently, Kelly, a nurse at The Views of Marion told Jim’s children that when asked what he was most proud of in his life, he responded by saying, “my good relationships with my children.” Back at ya, Dad. 

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in James’ honor to the Westminster Presbyterian Church Building Fund.