Empowering a Legacy: The Shafer Biography
Hamer Shafer,1915 to 2009, and Phyllis Shafer,1925 to 2010.
IN THE AUTUMN OF 1932, during the heart of the great depression and while Hamer Shafer was only 16 years old, his father abandoned the family, leaving Hamer, his mother, and his three sisters financially and emotionally destitute. Working two jobs while attending high school, Hamer kept the family afloat (barely). He wore cardboard in the soles of his shoes because they had holes and there was no money to re-sole or buy even a used pair. He wore clothes that were ragged and frayed. The house where they lived had no indoor plumbing. It was heated by a coal burning stove, and they bathed once a week by warming a metal tub full of water.
In May 1934, when Hamer graduated from Muncie Central High School, he did not have the financial resources to attend college. Instead, he went immediately to work. As the sole employee of a fledgling company named Muncie Parts Mfg. Inc. (to be renamed Muncie Power Products 20 years later) Hamer learned everything he could about the company’s main core business: replacement and rebuilt automobile parts.
When the founder died in 1952, Hamer stepped in and became the leader of a company that would eventually become the largest manufacturer of power-take-offs (equipment that operates off of a truck’s main engine’s and not from a separate independent source) and hydraulics in the United States. Today Muncie Power Products employs 350 employees.
When the company was sold to an international Italian corporation in 1999, Hamer and his wife Phyllis increased their long time practice of being major benefactors to local charities. Their generosity, which amounted to several million dollars in gifts, benefitted the local symphony orchestra, the Presbyterian church, a youth opportunity center, the Muncie Children’s Museum, Interlochen Arts in Michigan, and dozens of other east central and Michigan charities. The Hamer and Phyllis Shafer Foundation Charitable Trust continues to this day awarding grants, large and small, to non-profits in Delaware County, Indiana, and Traverse City, Michigan.
In 1998, Jim Davis, Indiana cartoonist who is best known as the brainchild and father of “Garfield the Cat”, drew a painting of Phyllis and Hamer Shafer with Garfield and friends for the Muncie Children’s Museum. The Shafers had been the chairpersons and generous donors behind a successful fundraising campaign that allowed the museum to expand and update its headquarters in downtown Muncie, Indiana. Courtesy, Muncie Children’s Museum, 1998.
Author’s Note: In 2013, the board of directors of Muncie Power Products, one of the largest manufacturers and distributors of power take offs and hydraulics in the United States, contracted with Dane Starbuck to write the biography of Hamer and Phyllis Shafer which included a history of Muncie Power Products. The dual biography/history was published in 2016. The book was given to company employees, many customers, and to a few hundred individuals and East Central Indiana non-profits which had been and continue to be beneficiaries of the Shafers’ generous philanthropy. Dane worked closely with the board of directors of Muncie Power Products to conduct research. He met with the board several times in 2014 and 2015 and interviewed more than 30 colleagues of the Shafers to gain the knowledge he needed to tell the couple’s story. The goal was to document the Shafers and the company’s milestones, making the biography and corporate history worthy of the high standards that Muncie Power Products has maintained since its founding in 1935.
Forward by: Van Smith, former President, Ontario Corporation, and former Chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Washington, D.C.