Robert John “Jack” Shaver, formerly of Ocean View, New Jersey and Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, passed away peacefully at the age of 91 on August 21, 2020, in Galloway, NJ, concluding his battle with dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Jack was born May 26, 1929, in Caro, Michigan, to the late Murry D. Shaver and Bernita I. (Western). He is also predeceased by his brother Donald M. Shaver, many extended family members, and a multitude of beloved friends.
Jack began flying in high school, served in the U.S. Army, and attended the University of Miami. He became a charter and commercial pilot, co-owned an airplane sales business in Annapolis, Maryland, and was able to achieve his dream of owning a P-51. His second flight in his newly acquired P-51 was the cross-country air race for the National Air Races in Reno, Nevada, in which he placed sixth. A couple years later, he purchased the P-51D (affectionately named Miss Kat Brat), with which he would perform in airshows for more than a decade. He was renowned for his thrilling airshow performances and P-51D expertise. He continued to perform in airshows with P-51s owned by others for many years after he had sold his own.
Jack was a founder, co-owner, Vice-President, and Director of Operations for Southern Jersey Airways, which was later the Allegheny Commuter, at Bader Field in Atlantic City. He also served as the Director of Air Operations for the Transfair exhibition of past, present, and future transportation, initiated by the NJ Department of Labor and Industry and held at the former National Aviation Facilities Experimental Center (NAFEC), which is now the William J. Hughes Technical Center and Atlantic City International Airport. A true thrill-seeker, Jack was an avid boater, raced his Jaguar XK120, and even made a home-built airplane in his early years. Although he flew many other airplanes and vintage military planes including a Mig-15, his lifelong passion was always the P-51D Mustang and restoring WWII warbirds. He was a self-taught aviation mechanic and an FAA licensed mechanic and inspector. Shortly after the untimely death of his business partner, Jack left Allegheny Commuter. He went on to establish and co-own Classic Air Services at the Cape May Airport in Rio Grande, NJ, where he and his staff rebuilt, restored, maintained, and completed annual inspections on mainly vintage military aircraft. Classic Air was one of the major P-51 maintenance facilities in the country. He also retrieved warbirds from South America and has flown them overseas. After his retirement, he continued with his restoration and WWII plane hobby on a much smaller scale at the North County Airport in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
Jack touched many with his passion and aerobatic performances, as well as his quick wit, compassion, and generous, free-flying spirit. He was humble about his accomplishments and rarely spoke of his many achievements. Jack created many lifelong friendships around the country and the world, and forged deep connections with countless people through the common thread of P-51 Mustangs and aviation.
He is survived by his children, John R. Shaver of Bay City, Michigan, Scott A. Shaver of Caro, Michigan, and Kathleen K. McDonald and son-in-law Thomas of Estell Manor. He also leaves his beloved grandchildren, Christina (Palermo) Smaniotto, Angela Palermo, Gianna Palermo, Meredith (Shaver) Rivett, Krista Shaver, John Shaver, Jr., and Andrew Shaver as well as eleven great grandchildren and a great, great grandson. Additionally, he is survived by brother Murry C., sister Judith, many cousins, nieces, nephews, and countless loving friends.
A private military service will be held at the Atlantic County Veteran’s Cemetery at Estell Manor Park. Condolences for the family may be sent to 104 8th Avenue Estell Manor, NJ 08319.
Donations may be made to Lewy Body Dementia Association (Georgia) or the Alzheimer’s Association (Illinois).