When Pat Shay was overseas during World War II, he met President Harry Truman.
“When he’s shaking Harry Truman’s hand, Harry pulled my dad up close and said, ‘You’re squeezing my hand too hard,’” Shay’s son, Dennis, said. “My dad had an iron grip when he’d shake your hand, up to the day he passed away. He had the strongest grip.”
Pat Shay, 91, died Thursday. Born in Ely, Missouri, he owned and operated Pat’s Workshop in Columbia, where he upholstered furniture among other services.
Linda Shay Lynch, Pat’s daughter, said her father was full of energy.
“Marine to the bone, let me tell you what. It was always ‘Let’s go,’” Linda said. “He was always on the charge, man, I’m telling you. He had a lot of energy. To do stuff with him, you better have a lot of energy to keep up.”
As a Marine in World War II, Pat Shay served in Europe and the Pacific.
“He was a gunner on a Navy ship,” Dennis said. “He flew cargo planes to drop off munitions and supplies to other soldiers. When he was in Germany, he guarded one of the concentration camps after they were taken over from the Germans. His 20th birthday, he was fighting in Iwo Jima.”
Dennis said his father never liked to talk about anything bad that happened in the war.
“He only liked to talk about the good stuff,” he said.
One of Shay’s favorite stories to tell came from when he was stationed in Guam in the Pacific.
“They ended up with a washing machine somehow, and he’s pretty handy with stuff. He got it working again,” Linda said.
The washing machine was gas-powered so Pat and his fellow Marines loaded it onto a trailer, drove it around and washed soldiers’ clothes.
“They would wash other soldiers’ uniforms for 25 cents a load,” Dennis said. “When they left Guam, they left it behind for anyone else to use it, so it’s probably still there somewhere, being used by somebody.”
Shay was on the first Central Missouri Honor Flight in 2013. The flight took 35 veterans to see the World War II National Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“When he was in Washington, he was interviewed by Dan Rather and the National Marine Corps Museum, and his interviews were put into the museum archives,” Dennis said.
Shay was honored and excited to be on the honor flight.
“He told that story for the longest time after it happened,” Dennis said.
Shay married Lora Russell in Quincy, Illinois, on Nov. 29, 1952. They raised Linda and Dennis in Decatur, Illinois, until Shay’s work at Bell Telephone Company moved the family to Tucson, Arizona.
Dennis said they bought a boat in Arizona.
“Of course, there’s no major waterways in Tucson, Arizona,” Dennis said. “We had this boat for about two years, we’d fish all the time. The whole time we had the boat, we only caught one fish.”
Shay was a member of a four-wheel drive club in Arizona. One year, a Christian missionary asked the club to help deliver supplies to indigenous people living on the coast of Baja California.
“They went down to Baja California, way down on the coast, and they brought food and supplies,” Linda said.
“And he volunteered for more than that,” Linda said.
Shay volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, Marine Parents, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and at the VA Hospital.
“He built a playhouse, here in Columbia,” Linda said. “It was big enough to put a lawnmower into, but it was a playhouse. It was very elaborate. They put it in a trailer and they had it at a lot of events around Columbia, and they finally raffled it off to raise money for the VFW.”
From the Marines, to missionary work in Mexico, to raffling off playhouses, Shay spent his life in service of others.
“He just liked to help people,” Dennis said.
A graveside service will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10, at the Missouri Veterans Cemetery in Jacksonville. A visitation will take place from at 6 to 8 p.m., Monday, Oct. 9, at Bach-Yager Funeral Chapel.