Shearer, Claude Wayne

World War II Veteran, Longtime Optometrist, And Writer

  • Monday, May 20, 2024
Dr. C. Wayne Shearer
Dr. C. Wayne Shearer

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

He was born Aug. 13, 1924, in Chattanooga and was just three months shy of being 100 years old.

In his working years, he had been active in various optometric organizations. He was president of the Tennessee Optometric Association from 1974-75 and was president of the Southeast Tennessee Optometric Society. And from 1978-88, he served on the Tennessee State Board of Optometry, having been appointed twice by the governor of Tennessee. He was a man dedicated to his patients and optometry for almost 50 years, and tried to help his patients see better.

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

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

For about a year, he attended North Georgia College and then volunteered for pilot training as an aviation cadet in the Army Air Forces during World War II. Upon graduation at age 19 from single engine advanced fighter pilot training at Eagle Pass, Tx., in the Class of 44G, he continued training on B-29s until the war was over due to a need for bomber pilots.

He was in the Air Force Reserve for 30 years, retiring as a Colonel (O-6) in 1984. Part of his reserve work included serving as the Chattanooga area liaison officer for admittance to the Air Force Academy. Col. Shearer retired as commander of the East Tennessee Liaison Officers of the Air Force Academy.

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

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

He considered himself grateful and fortunate to have had a faithful optometric office staff, with several working with him for 20 years or more.

He loved his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and was a long-standing and dedicated 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 a part of this Christian fellowship. He loved his church and his Sunday school class. His favorite Bible verse was Psalm 118, verse 24: “This is the Lord’s day; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

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, holding various officer positions. Dr. Shearer ran several close races as the Republican nominee for the Tennessee State House of Representatives in the 1990s. He was a longtime Republican Hixson precinct chairman. From 1989-97, Dr. Shearer was a Trustee on the Board of Erlanger Hospital and was involved in the development of Erlanger North.

Always interested in writing, he at the age of 91 started writing by hand a memoir-style book about his World War II pilot training experiences at various U.S. bases. In more recent years, these memories ran as a series in Chattanoogan.com.

He considered himself lucky to have flown Army Air Forces airplanes as a teenage pilot.

He deeply loved his family, who were 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 to and being with his friends, including his Friday lunch friends for several years and others with whom he would talk on the phone regularly in his last few years.

Possessing a deep speaking voice that could have lent itself to a career in the announcing field, he was known for his down-to-earth manner and for holding no grudges. He was equally at home speaking to an hourly laborer or a well-known or very accomplished person. He was known as both “Colonel” and “Doc” by different friends.

His little Yorkie dog, Daisy, was also companionable to him, especially after his wife died. Daisy died at 16½ years old only about two weeks before he passed.

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, and Teddy and Cyrus Julian.

He was affectionately known as “Poppy” by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He was also survived by his first cousins, Bill and Jimmy Smith, and Charles Forgey, and several stepgrandchildren, stepgreat-grandchildren, and nieces and nephews.

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

Arrangements are by Chattanooga Funeral Home, North Chapel.

Please share your thoughts and memories at www.chattanooganorthchapel.com.

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