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Dr. C. Wayne Shearer – Chattanoogan.com

Dr.  C. Wayne Shearer


Dr. C. Wayne Shearer

Dr. Claude Wayne Shearer, longtime Red Bank optometrist and one of the last remaining local World War II veterans, died on May 18, 2024 – Armed Forces Day – at his old home in Hixson. In his last hours he was surrounded by three generations of his family.

He was born on August 13, 1924 in Chattanooga and was just three months shy of turning 100 years old.

During his working years he was active in various optometric organizations. He served as president of the Tennessee Optometric Association from 1974-75 and was president of the Southeast Tennessee Optometric Society. And from 1978 to 1988, he served on the Tennessee State Board of Optometry, having been twice appointed by the Governor of Tennessee. He was a man dedicated to his patients and optometry for almost 50 years, trying to help his patients see better.

Dr. A member of a pioneer Chattanooga family on his mother’s side, Shearer was born in East Chattanooga, but at an early age moved with his banker father and mother to Cordele, Georgia, where he grew up. He graduated from Cordele High School in 1942 and was president of his senior class. He came from a family of musicians on his mother’s side and also played trombone in his high school band.

As a youngster, he helped deliver the Cordele Dispatch newspaper on his bicycle and contributed stories to it. This experience gave him a taste for reading newspapers, and a keen interest in the news would continue throughout his life. He never wanted to miss the top news on TV or radio and always subscribed to the local newspaper. His mind was sharp all his life.

He attended North Georgia College for about a year and then volunteered for pilot training as an aviation cadet in the Army Air Forces during World War II. After completing single-engine advanced fighter pilot training at Eagle Pass, Texas, in the class of 44G at the age of 19, he continued training on B-29s until the war ended due to the need for bomber pilots.

He served in the Air Force Reserve for 30 years, retiring in 1984 as a Colonel (O-6). Some of his reserve work included serving as a liaison officer in the Chattanooga area for admission to the Air Force Academy. Colonel Shearer retired as Commander of the East Tennessee Liaison Officers at the Air Force Academy.

Dr. Shearer graduated from the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis in 1950 after taking pre-medical courses at the University of Georgia, shortly after the end of the war. He also earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Memphis and an M.Ed. from UT-Chattanooga, the latter reaching middle age. While attending optometry school in Memphis, he met and married his wife, the former Velma Jordan, in 1948, who was attending the School of Nursing at the University of Tennessee in Memphis. They lived a long and happy life together for 64 years. His beloved Velma died in 2012.

Dr. Shearer operated an optometry office in Red Bank from 1955 until his retirement in 1997, when he was in his early 70s. He always felt that his office was a happy and friendly place. He also taught at North Chattanooga (Northside) Junior High from 1955-57 while he began his optometric practice.

He considered himself grateful and fortunate to have a loyal optometric office staff, some of whom had worked with him for twenty years or more.

He loved his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and was a long-time devoted member of Hixson United Methodist Church. There he sang in the Sonrise Choir and was a member of the McConnell Sunday School Class. Both were a joy for him to be part of this Christian community. He loved his church and his Sunday school class. His favorite Bible verse was Psalm 118, verse 24: “This is the day of the Lord; let us rejoice and be glad.”

Dr. Shearer was also active in the Pachyderm Club, the Red Bank and Hixson Chambers of Commerce, the Hixson Kiwanis Club and the Military Officers Association of America, where he held several officer positions. Dr. Shearer ran several close races in the 1990s as the Republican candidate for the Tennessee State House of Representatives. He was a longtime Hixson Republican precinct chairman. From 1989 to 1997, Dr. Shearer board member of Erlanger Hospital.

He was always interested in writing and, at the age of 91, began writing by hand a memoir-style book about his experiences training pilots in World War II at various American bases. In more recent years, these memories have been featured as a series on Chattanoogan.com.

He considered himself fortunate to have flown Army Air Forces planes as a teenage pilot.

He deeply loved his family, who were the most important to him. He also enjoyed sports and cheering on the Atlanta Braves and the University of Georgia, UT and UTC football and sports teams. He also enjoyed talking and being with his friends, including his Friday lunch friends for several years and others he spoke to regularly on the phone in recent years.

He had a deep speaking voice that could have lent itself to a career in announcing and was known for his down-to-earth manner and for not holding grudges. He felt equally at home talking to an hourly worker or a well-known or highly qualified person. He was known as both “Colonel” and “Doc” by various friends.

His little Yorkie dog, Daisy, was also company for him, especially after his wife died. Daisy died at the age of 16.5, just about two weeks before he passed away.

In addition to his wife, he was preceded in death by his parents, Claude C. Shearer and Eva Mathis Shearer, and younger sister, Norma Turton.

Survivors include his daughter, Catherine S. Morris; son, John C. (Laura) Shearer, both of Chattanooga; granddaughter, Mandi (Tori) Hampton, Chattanooga; grandsons, Logan (Kelley) Julian, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Dru Julian, Chattanooga; and great-grandchildren, Briana, Kylan, Kameron, Jaylynn, JaKayla, Nevaeh and Kayden Hampton.

His grandchildren and great-grandchildren affectionately called him ‘Poppy’.

He was also survived by his nephews, Bill and Jimmy Smith, and Charles Forgey, and several step-grandchildren, step-great-grandchildren, and nieces and nephews.

A celebration of life service will be held on Thursday, May 30, at 12:30 PM at Hixson United Methodist Church with Rev. Matt Wright officiating. A graveside service will be held at Chattanooga National Cemetery at 2 p.m. Visitation is from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. that day at the church.

Arrangements are under the care of Chattanooga Funeral Home, North Chapel.