John Thomas Schaffner (1944 - 2013)

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ALTOONA – John Thomas Schaffner, 69, passed away Friday, March 1 at Ramsey Village after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. Visitation will be held from 4 to 7 p.m., Thursday, March 7, 2013 at Iles Funeral Homes – Grandview Park Chapel, 3211 Hubbell Avenue, Des Moines. A Vigil Service will follow beginning at 7 p.m. A Memorial Mass will be held at a future date, still to be determined.
John was born on Feb. 19, 1944 in Milwaukee, Wis., the son of Anthony and Mary Schaffner. He graduated in 1962 from St. Pius High school in Milwaukee and went on to graduate from St. Ambrose University, where he met his wife, Marjorie "Margie" Elliott of Independence. On Oct. 15, 1966, they were united in marriage. John and Margie lived in Postville and Ankeny, Iowa before moving to Altoona in 1974.
John started his career teaching Social Studies and Government in Postville. He then worked for the State of Iowa, spending 32 years in public administration for various state agencies including the Department of Public Safety, Department of Economic Development, Department of Transportation, Iowa Racing Commission and the Department of Inspections and Appeals. He also spent many years as an adjunct professor at Des Moines Area Community College. After years of dedication to the State of Iowa and various departments, he retired in 2001. In his retirement, still eager to work, he went back to his teaching roots and was a substitute teacher for the Southeast Polk, Bondurant, and Ankeny Community School Districts sharing his wit and wisdom with his students.
John was a member of SS John and Paul Catholic Church in Altoona and St. Joseph Catholic Church in Des Moines. Always devoted to his community, John spent countless hours sitting on various boards and committees. Just to name a few, John was a member of the Altoona Public Library Board, Regional Library Board, Southeast Polk Community School District Board of Education member, and active with the Polk County Republican Party, where he served as chair. While in Postville, he was a volunteer fire fighter. John was a long time contributing writer to local and national auto racing publications. John was also instrumental in bringing gaming to central Iowa. In 2007, he was named "Altoona Citizen of the Year" by the Altoona Area Chamber of Commerce for his continual community contributions and advocacy over the years.
John loved fishing trips up north or on his pond, gardening, politics, coaching softball, NASCAR and Indy Car Racing. John was an official at the Indy 500 for many years and was also a proud member of the Indy 500 "Old Timers Club" as well as a USAC (United States Auto Club) member. But what filled his heart with the most joy was being "Bumpa" to his 10 grandchildren, spending time and sharing his humor with his beloved family and friends.
John is survived and lovingly remembered by his wife of 46 years, Margie of Altoona; four daughters, Jennifer Steenblock (Gary) of Des Moines, Susan Backus (Ted) of Delaware, Ohio, Cathleen Siebrecht (Aaron) of Pleasant Hill and Tracy Zimmerman (Chad) of Sartell, Minn.; sister, Mary Ellen Vogt of Milwaukee, Wis.; grandchildren, Zachary, Andrew and Nathan Steenblock, Brooke, Austin and Abigail Backus, Anastasia, Cael and Mary Siebrecht and Macy Zimmerman; sister-in-law, Jane Gates of Saginaw, MI; and cousins, Jeanie Bonin of Madison, Wis. and Robert Bonin of San Diego, Calif.
He was preceded in death by his parents and brother-in-laws, Ronald Gates and Donald Vogt.
The family would like to give special thanks to the caring and compassionate nurses and staff of Ramsey Village and to the many special friends who visited John during his time there. A heartfelt thanks to those who have helped John, Margie and the entire family throughout the progression of his illness.
Memorial contributions may be directed to the Altoona Public Library.
Published in Independence Bulletin-Journal from Mar. 18 to Apr. 6, 2013