John Joseph Shea 1928-2021

Joe passed away peacefully at his home in Westminster, Colorado April 20, 2021 at the age of 92. Joe was a wise and gentle father to his six children, a loving and supportive grandfather to his 5 grandchildren and warmly embraced 62 foster babies that began their early lives in his families home, especially Tommy. Above all he was a steadfast and devoted husband to his beloved wife Erma “Jean” (Hassman) Shea. Their marriage of 64 loving years was legendary. He is survived by his children: David (Davette), Gary, Jim, Dennis (Cindy), Diane (Tony Deckert) and grandchildren: Caitlin, Kyle, Riley, Orion & Carson. He is preceded in death by his youngest daughter, Peggy Ann Shea, his parents and 4 of his 7 siblings, Newborn Girl, Mary (Amarose), Pat and Nick. Joe was born June 16, 1928 on the original family farm 1-1/2 miles east and a 1/2 mile north of the town of Yuma, Colorado. Joe was the third oldest of 8 children. His parents first child (girl) died at birth. He had one older sister Mary (Amarose) and 5 younger brothers Patrick, Daniel (Nick), Stephen (Steve), Jerome (Michael) and Edward (Ed). He attended grade school and high school in Yuma. Joe played football and track and was good at both. He was involved in 4-H, showing cattle at the county fair and Future Farmers of America. His parents John A. Shea & Margaret Gertrude (Klein) Shea moved from the family farm and into the town of Yuma in 1944, Joe was about 16 years old then. It was a small acreage in Yuma with a big two-story home and a lot of room for a big family. His parents raised a big garden each year and lots of strawberries. Joe attended college at Greeley with a major in Physical Education, and belong to Phi Delta Phi fraternity. About that time World War II was going on and labor was in short supply, as a result the railroad was hiring 16-year-olds. Five classmates and Joe were hired in June 1944 by the (CB&Q RR) Chicago Burlington & Quincy Rail Road to work on the “section gang” repairing track. Those were the days of a “six day work week” the pay was $.60 cents per hour. In 1945 the same bunch of friends hired out on the CB&Q RR Telegraph Gang, working in Nebraska. They started at Trenton, Nebraska then to Havelock, on East and then back on into Denver. They lived and worked in “outfit cars”. They had a cook car, shower car, bunk car and a loaf car. After their work was done in Denver the railroad was going to move them back to Lincoln, Nebraska. They were “put” (coupled) on the rear end of an “extra” train, when every bell and whistle in Denver went off! Everyone was making lots of noise! They found out later it was V.J. Day. “Victory over Japan” was announced August 15, 1945 that World War II was over! They all quit and went back to finish their senior year at Yuma High School. From 1945 until 1950 Joe worked several different jobs including: Harpers Dairy, Waxman’s Furniture, Safeway and Yuma County Transportation driving freight to and from Denver. On August 1950 Joe “hired out” as a brakeman on CB&Q Rail Road in Denver. The Train Master who took his application asked “Where are you in the draft?” Joe replied “Well, I could go any time” He actually had his draft notice in his pocket! He had to make a minimum number of trips to establish his seniority date. Once his seniority date was establishes he could be drafted and his job with the railroad would be secure and waiting when he returned. As a good railroader Joe was always meticulous with time, date and numbers. His handwritten notes said “I worked 41 years, 2 months and 17 days before retiring on November 5th 1991” from the BNSF ( Burlington Northern Santa Fe). He was so proud to tell his children and grandchildren that “HE was there” and worked on the last steam engines to run on the CB&Q RR. Shorty after, they merged with the Northern Railroad to become Burlington Northern Railroad. He would be “set up” promoted to conductor and work mainly freight trains between Denver, McCook Neb, and Cheyenne Wyoming, including Conductor on the California Zephyr passenger train. Joe was drafted in 1950, rode the train to Denver, and was then inducted into the Army of the United States on the 28th of October 1950. They rode passenger trains to Camp Cook in California for basic training. Joe was assigned to the U.S Army – Company “H”, 224th Infantry Regiment APO 6, 40th California Division. After 6 weeks they were loaded aboard the transport ship U.S.S. General Breckenridge and sent to Camp Hougen, Japan on the northern tip of Honshu at the foot of Mount Fuji for additional training. They spent a few weeks there and then were sent over to Korea. Joe spent 1 year, 5 months and 26 days deployed overseas. He drove a jeep in the motor pool and was a munitions handler. He was promoted to Corporal the 20th of October 1951. His company was sent back to Japan for R&R before boarding the U.S.S General Gordon for their trip home to the U.S. He was released from Active duty on the 5th of October 1952. They traveled by train to Camp Fort Carson, Colorado Springs as the place of separation. He called his parents and they drove from Yuma to pick him up. He served 1 year, 11 months and 7 days in Active Military Service and was transferred to ERC (Ready Reserves) for 5 years. Joe was Honorably Discharged from the U.S. Army on the 25th of September 1956. On April 18, 1956 Joe was in the Yuma Post Office to make a payment on his new 1956 Ford Victoria and this young lady (Jean Hassman) came in to mail a letter and asked” Hi Joe, when did you get in town? “Are you going to the dance at Otis tonight? They were married January 19, 1957. They rented apartments in Denver for two years and in 1959 bought a brand new home in Westminster. It was close to schools and the new Catholic Church had just been dedicated. Holy Trinity Catholic Church was a main reason Jean and Joe chose Westminster as their home. They were the 77th family to join the parish and have been active members since. When Holy Trinity School opened in 1966 their oldest children were among the first students. All six children graduated from Holy Trinity School. The family celebrated all the sacraments there. Joe ordered the Children’s National Geographic for the school library. He was involved in the PTA and worked Bingo to help support the school. Holy Trinity began hosting a Bazaar – Fun Fest, Joe was there to help set up, work, take down and clean up whenever he could. When his good friend Jim became maintenance supervisor at Holy Trinity, Joe gave him moral support and helped him when he could. Joe would help make repairs, do maintenance and even helped clean the school for several years. He loved to ride the lawn tractor and mow the Church grounds to make Holy Trinity a parish to be proud of. Joe received the “Man of the Year Award from the Holy Trinity Mens Club in 1995. Joe’s father passed away in 1973, and he welcomed his mother to come live with his family for 7 1/2 years. Many great memories were shared and made with 9 around the dinner table. Everyone, neighbors and friends enjoy the plentiful crops and vegetables Joe grew in his big garden. For 12 years Jean and Joe brought home and cared for 62 newborn foster babies. He loved to hold, rock and feed the babies and always met Jean at the car to bring the new baby in. Their abundance of love gave these newborns a great start in life. Many adoptive families still stay in touch and call them Grandma & Grandpa. Joe received awards from the City of Westminster and the National Arbor Society for all the trees he has planted and cared for in the public space near his home. Just as his father had done, Joe always helped and cared for widowers in his community, especially Mrs. Caney. Joe loved to take his family camping in the Colorado mountains, a pinion wood camp fire, putting a worm on a child’s fishing hook, a good beer, visiting with family and friends, a good laugh, reading a good book, having coffee and a news paper in the morning sun on the back porch, traveling in the motorhome with Jean across the country, competing in the Senior Games, proudly watching his children and grand children succeed in life. Fall was his favorite season. Joe Shea touched so many lives in such a positive way, first and foremost he was humble and kind. He was generous to a fault. Joe was “Well Loved because He Loved Well” Services – Thursday June 24, 2021 Holy Trinity Catholic Church 7595 Federal Blvd Westminster, Colorado 80030 10:00 Rosary 11:00am Memorial Mass.
Please join the family for a lunch reception to follow service at Church Ranch Event Center 10200 Wadsworth Blvd Westminster, Colorado 80021 Private family internment. Donations can be made to a charity of your choice in John’s name. Please share your thoughts, memories and condolences with the family at