03 January 2008 by Published in: General musings 3 comments

Almost a year ago, I noted here that Ira Shaffer, a descendant of perhaps the greatest cavalryman of all, Marshal Joachim Murat, Napoleon’s cavalry chief, had asked me to become a member of the board of trustees of Friends of the Alligator, a group dedicated to raising funds to build a museum to house a replica of Philadelphia’s own U.S.S. Alligator, the U. S. Navy’s first combat submarine, at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, where the submarine was built. The Gator sank off the Outer Banks in terrible weather in 1862. It predated the C.S.S. Hunley. The difference is that the Hunley has been found, while the Gator has not.

Today, Ted Savas, who is also a member of the board of the Friends, shared some horrible, tragic news with me. From the January 1 issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Ira Shaffer, 57, headed charitable group

By Sally A. Downey

Inquirer Staff Writer

A funeral for Ira Shaffer, president of the Pennsylvania and Delaware Chapter of Operation Homefront, will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Salvation Army, 1920 E. Allegheny Ave. Burial will be private. Mr. Shaffer, 57, of Fishtown, died Sunday at Hahnemann University Hospital from injuries suffered in a hit-and-run accident Dec. 5 outside the U.S. Post Office in Fishtown. Police are seeking the driver of a dark SUV with front-end damage.

Mr. Shaffer and his wife, Nancy Hayes Shaffer, had gone to the post office to mail envelopes from Operation Homefront donors. The organization, launched in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, assists active-duty National Guard and Reserve troops and their families, as well as wounded veterans.

When her husband was hit, Nancy Shaffer said, she watched the hundreds of envelopes he was carrying “going up in the air like snow.” She is grateful to postal workers who collected the envelopes and mailed them, she said.

Before joining Operation Homefront in September, Mr. Shaffer had been eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware donor-relations director for the Salvation Army for two years. He had been a development officer for several other nonprofits, including Volunteers of America Delaware Valley, the Visiting Nurse Association of South Jersey, and the Devereux Foundation.

He was passionate about his work and was proud of his success as a fund-raiser for causes that helped people, his wife said.

Mr. Shaffer graduated from Springfield High School in Montgomery County and earned a bachelor’s degree from La Salle University.

He was a community-relations director in the Philadelphia Managing Director’s Office in the 1970s and then was an advertising executive in New York City for three years before before joining the nonprofit sector.

A Civil War buff, Mr. Shaffer was president of the Friends of the USS Alligator. The Alligator, the first operational submarine to have an air-purifying system and the ability to deploy a diver while submerged, was built during the Civil War but sunk in a storm before seeing action.

Mr. Shaffer and his wife met at the Shore and married in 1996. He is also survived by brothers Ronald and Hal.

Ira only recently began the job with Operation Homefront. Just a few months ago, he excitedly told me about the new job in a series of e-mails, and he was very eager to do some good. That was Ira–his prior job was with the Salvation Army. He was a guy who did the right thing.

We had talked about trying to get together for lunch on one of my trips home, and due to my father’s stroke, we hadn’t been able to get it together yet. Now I deeply regret that, as I won’t have the chance.

Ira Shaffer is a loss to the City of Philadelphia, to the community of people at large, and especially to the Civil War community, and I will miss him. Let’s hope that Philadelphia’s finest find the bastard that did this, and that they exact the appropriate measure of justice.

Scridb filter


  1. David Vermeulen
    Fri 04th Jan 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Dear Eric,

    I am researching the contributions of Noah Ferry, as part of our church history, our church being named, “Ferry Memorial Reformed Church” of Montague, MI.

    Details in our church archives on Noah’s service are sketchy. I noted in your notes that you have found Noah in a eulogy. Any assistance you can provide in accessing this eulogy or other details of his service would be much appreciated.

    David Vermeulen

  2. Michael Aubrecht
    Fri 04th Jan 2008 at 5:55 pm

    I am sorry to hear about the loss of your friend Eric. My thoughts and prayers are with you and this gentleman’s family. It sounds like he left behind a wonderful legacy and we should all hope to do the same.

  3. Fri 04th Jan 2008 at 6:38 pm

    Thanks, Michael. It was quite a shock.

    I can only hope that Ira’s loss won’t cause the efforts to honor the Gator to die with him.


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