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A tribute to dad and country

May 28, 1998|By TERI JOHNSON

by Joe Crocetta / staff photographer

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SchaffnitsA tribute to dad and country

Suzie Rowles' and Pete Schaffnit's concert Saturday will be a fitting tribute to their late father.

Veterans who still can wear their uniform will be admitted free to the patriotic performance at Capitol Theatre in Chambersburg, Pa. Other veterans can attend for half price.

--cont. from front page--

Their father, Oscar Jacoby Schaffnit, served with the U.S. Army in Germany during World War I and received a Purple Heart.

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"A Tribute to Our Veterans" will honor all who served their country, says Rowles, producer of Suzie's Country Music Showcase, which is presenting the show.

The performance will feature gospel trio Buddy Merrick and Praise, as well as Hal Matter, "The Patriotic Cowboy." It also will include a dramatization of World War II soldiers at Iwo Jima.

The segment presented by Rowles and Schaffnit will include a dedication to their father.

Oscar Schaffnit was a calm, gentle man who had a great sense of humor, says Rowles, 59, of Pleasant Hall, Pa.

"He was everybody's dream of a dad," she says.

She plans to set up a table in the theater lobby of items that belonged to her father, including photographs and his helmet.

"Tennessee Waltz" was his favorite song, and they will perform it during the tribute.

"He loved to hear us sing," Rowles says.

Oscar Schaffnit played mandolin and violin, and he taught Rowles to play the accordion.

Pete Schaffnit, a 64-year-old Hagerstown resident, says as soon as he and Rowles were old enough to sing duets, their father encouraged them to perform for visitors.

They have two other sisters, Kathleen Thomas of Chambersburg and the late Josephine Zadai.

Rowles, the youngest, wanted to be just like her brother.

"Suzie was a little tomboy, and everyone loved her," Schaffnit says.

He prefers to sing big band music, and she'd rather do country in a big band style.

Lifelong hobby

Music has been a lifelong hobby for Rowles and Schaffnit, who grew up in Chambersburg and sang at church and school.

Rowles is postmaster at Willow Hill Post Office in Willow Hill, Pa. She and her husband, Larry, have five children and nine grandchildren.

She started Suzie's Country Music Showcase in March 1995 at Faust Music Complex in Orrstown, Pa., featuring regionally and nationally known performers every Saturday night. She moved the showcase to the Capitol Theatre last month because the Faust building had been sold, and she has scheduled 17 shows at the theater this year.

Schaffnit is owner of Duke's Tavern in Hagerstown, and he and his wife, Mary, have two sons and one granddaughter. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1955 to 1959 and won a "best of blues" competition while stationed at Biggs Air Force Base in Texas.

Schaffnit sang with the Chambersburg-based Phil Young Orchestra from 1953 to 1955, and Rowles was a member in 1956.

While Schaffnit was performing with the orchestra during the summer of 1953, he sang with Guy Lombardo at Waynesboro Eagles Club.

Schaffnit says he had plenty of shots at fame - including being called to appear on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts and Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour - but he never took the chance.

"I was a hometown guy, and I didn't want to move," he says.

He says he wanted to stay close to his mother, the late Mary Schaffnit, after his father died.

Oscar Schaffnit served as commander of American Legion posts in Chambersburg and St. Thomas, Pa., and a VFW post in Chambersburg.

He was helping to prepare a picnic for a veterans' group when he had a heart attack in July 1951. He died the next day.

"He was always working for veterans," Schaffnit says.

Saturday's performance for dad and country promises to be a stirring event, and waves of nostalgia are bound to accompany every wave of the flag.

"It's going to be a tear-jerker," Rowles says.




'A Tribute to Our Veterans'

featuring Buddy Merrick and Praise, Suzie Rowles, Pete Schaffnit and Hal Matter

  • When: Saturday, May 30, 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Capitol Theatre, 159 S. Main St., Chambersburg, Pa.
  • Tickets: $10 for adults, $1 for children 12 and younger; $5 for veterans and free for those who still can wear their uniform
  • For information: Call 1-717-263-0202
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