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Final Farewell: Gen. Shoemaker laid to rest

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The funeral service was pre-planned — from the order of events and who would speak to how long they would speak and when everyone would be required to stand.

It was the final order of retired Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker, and it was carried out exactly as he planned it, said retired Lt. Gen. Pete Taylor, a long-time friend and associate of Shoemaker.

“And I’m sure that at some point one of us will have to give him an after action report on how it went,” Taylor said during the Wednesday service honoring the life of Shoemaker, held at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.

More than 1,000 people attended the funeral service for Shoemaker, which began at 1 p.m. with the presentation of colors by the Shoemaker High School Junior ROTC honor guard and the playing of the national anthem by the 1st Cavalry Division band.

The first speaker, III Corps and Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Paul Funk II, spoke about Shoemaker’s life and his time as a commander. Shoemaker spent his lunch time while commanding III Corps with troops at dining facilities, Funk said.

Shoemaker, a Nolanville-area resident, died of natural causes June 21 in Harker Heights. He was 93.

Shoemaker was the commander of III Corps and Fort Hood in the 1970s. In 1977, he was deputy commander of U.S. Army Forces Command before becoming its commander, a four-star position only a select few Army officers achieve. After the military, he became a Bell County commissioner. Killeen’s Shoemaker High School was named after him in 2000.

Guest speakers at the funeral included: Gen. Robert B. Abrams, Forces Command commander; Funk, Taylor and Shoemaker High School Principal Sandra Forsythe.

One of the commands left by Shoemaker for the ceremony was for everyone to stand during the playing of his namesake high school’s alma mater, which was sung by the Shoemaker High School choir.

The funeral service lasted about an hour, and was immediately followed by the procession to Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, where Shoemaker was buried.

Killeen police and Patriot Guard Riders escorted the procession.

Near the entrance to the cemetery, Shoemaker’s casket was loaded onto a caisson pulled by a team of horses through the cemetery to the location of the military burial.

A 17-cannon salute provided by a battery from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment was followed by a 21-gun salute from the 1st Cavalry Division and the playing of taps.

Members of the 1st Cavalry Division honor detail folded the flag draping Shoemaker’s coffin before presenting it to his widow, Tuke Shoemaker, who then presented the flag to Forsythe for permanent display at Shoemaker High School.

Being honored with the flag was a great feeling, but the true honor was the opportunity students and staff at the high school had to know Shoemaker, Forsythe said.

“Gen. Shoemaker dedicated (his) time at Shoemaker High School to the students. Each one he called his grandchildren,” she said. “The students knew they were loved. How ironic is it that our alma mater ends with ‘champions of our dreams,’ because Gen. Shoemaker truly was our champion and always will be.”

While Shoemaker may be physically gone, he will never truly leave, said Jay Taggart, chairman of the Military Relations Committee for the Belton-area Chamber of Commerce.

“He always had such great things to say, so those will resonate with me for a long time,” Taggart said. “He will still be with me — he will inspire me to get up, go to my meetings, go to those ceremonies and do what I can for soldiers and their families. It’s people like Gen. Shoemaker who show us how to do it, not just tell you how to do it.”

Shoemaker’s nephew, Col. Thomas Rickard, and niece Ann Haller issued a statement on behalf of the family following the services:

“Our family would like to offer our most sincere gratitude to the entire Fort Hood community for the outstanding support and genuine care given to Bob and Tuke Shoemaker. We are deeply honored and impressed by the professionalism of the entire Fort Hood and III Corps team. We are especially grateful for the enduring commitment and love from Ms. Leslie Francis (Shoemaker’s longtime assistant). Of the many achievements and honors earned in his lifetime, Bob was proudest of Shoemaker High School and absolutely loved the children, educators and staff. We would ask the many friends in this community to respect Tuke’s privacy at this sad time.”

jbrooks@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7468

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