Helping others succeed was 'Sy' Shifler's stock in trade

November 19, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Siebert C. "Sy" Shifler, who died Nov. 7 at the age of 80. His obituary appeared in the Nov. 8 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

Among those encouraged to go into the trades in Washington County by Siebert C. "Sy" Shifler was his son-in-law, Kirk Anderson.

"I was working at Rust-Oleum, and I wanted to get into electrical maintenance, but I didn't know anything about it," Kirk said.

Sy told Kirk he would put him to work and send him to apprenticeship school. And he did.

"I got no special treatment," Kirk said, noting that Sy did the same for many young people wanting to learn the trades.


Although Sy died Nov. 7 at the age of 80, his legacy of promoting the trades and helping launch careers will continue uninterrupted, according to his daughter, Laura Anderson, now vice president and office manager of Shifler Electrical Associates Inc.

"I got into the business first in sales and then doing the books and payroll," Laura said. "I learned all that from my dad."

Laura described her father as a risk-taker, leaving a secure job at Potomac Edison after 16 years, and starting up a business that he ran from home beginning in 1962.

Her father always believed in cross-training in the trades, so he encouraged employees to learn more than one trade, as he had.

"If dad thought you had the ability, he would give you a push, and you had to climb on your own," Laura said. "You would sink or swim, but he would give you the chance."

At home or at work, Sy believed in the work ethic and in being a team player. He also was creative with his punishments, Laura said.

"My brother, Don, and I had to sit for a time with our arms around each other when we were caught fighting," she said.

Sy and his wife of 58 years, Mary Roelke Shifler, met in Braddock Heights, Md., after Sy returned from his duties in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Mary said she thought Sy looked cute in his uniform and with all that wavy hair. During their courtship, they did a lot and laughed a lot, she recalled.

"I was still in high school, and Sy was 22," Mary said. "My parents signed for me so we could get married."

Having learned electrical work in the Navy, Sy went to work at Potomac Edison as a meter tester. He worked part time with John Wheeler, an electrician and former mayor of Boonsboro, Mary said.

While they raised their four children, Mary and Sy saw the business grow and flourish. The children now run things, and plan to continue their father's legacy of promoting excellence in the trades to the next generations, Laura said.

"Dad was always working," said Carroll Shifler, the elder son who now is president of the business. "I've been here 39 years, and learned my trade at my daddy's knee."

The work didn't stop when he came home either. Sy kept a large garden at their homes in Boonsboro and St. James, and a smaller version at South Pointe, where he and Mary resided for the past 11 years.

"He taught us all how to do things in the yard," said daughter Barbara Younkins, who said she also learned how to take telephone messages when she was 12 and the business was run from home.

Laura said her father was particularly proud of the dahlias and roses he grew in his gardens, often winning prizes for them at flower shows.

Don Shifler said his father did a lot for young kids, trying to keep them out of trouble.

"He worked toward getting outdoor basketball at Shafer Park in Boonsboro," Don said.

Carroll recalled how his father would take him and his friends to midnight bowling at Long Meadow Bowl on Saturdays when it cost only $1 to bowl.

"But the deal was we had to get up the next morning and go to church," Carroll said.

Carroll said he always will remember how so many of the people who worked and learned from his father over the years now are in business for themselves.

Always fond of family vacations, camping and going to the beach, Sy enjoyed having his grandchildren, then great-grandchildren, along on those occasions.

"The grandchildren would bury him in the sand, or he would walk on his hands to entertain them," Laura said.

Sy also discovered the joys of golfing, and spent as much time as he could on the links.

"He was pretty good," Mary said. "He once played with Sam Snead and Lee Trevino."

Longtime friend and business associate Don West said he and Sy met when he was a contractor and Sy was an electrician.

"We did a lot of big jobs together over 30 to 35 years," West said.

They later golfed, vacationed and attended University of Maryland games together, West said.

"He was knowledgeable and serious-minded about his work," he said.

Joan Warner, president of the local chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, said Sy actively was involved in promoting the trades, and once chaired the ABC board.

"Sy supported many young people," Warner said, adding he always was a champion of training, education and apprenticeships for them.

It was his way of giving back, Joan said.

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