Gertrude was second child born to Fred and Gertrude Grieb on December 12, 1913, in Arroyo Grande, California. Following gradation from high school, she attended Samuel Merritt Hospital School of Nursing, graduating June 26, 1937. She worked in Arroyo Grande until her marriage to Donald Elmore Shaffer March 9, 1940. She had two children Sharon Lea and Sharleen Eleanor. Donald, Gertrude and the girls made their home in Arroyo Grande until the early 60’s when they moved to Smith River, California. In 1996 they moved to Yucaipa, California to be near her daughters, where she lived until she passed away July 26, 2003.
Those are the facts, now let us really tell you about our mom.
Family was important to her. Going to Grandma’s house on Sundays when Dad was working was a favorite thing to do. She was always up to join a game of 500 or just sit and visit after an informal drop-in family pot luck dinner. Mom loved to cook. She had her favorite “secret” recipes for enchiladas, “More”, pie crust and others which of course she taught to us.
Sharon inherited more of the cooking gene than Sharleen and she continues to pass down the family favorites. Mom loved making candy and eating it too, even though the bathroom scale kept track of every piece she ate! Divinity, pinoche and fudge were among her favorites, and she would help us make taffy in the kitchen just so we could have the fun of cooking with her and having a taffy pull.
She taught us how to cook, make pies, cookies, and make use of the abundance that came from the orchards, garden, lakes and ocean. That we had been taught how to prep fresh vegetables, prepare clams, abalone, trout and salmon, as well as cut up a chicken or rabbit or deer served us well over our adult years of outdoorsy life. And in those pre-permanent press fabric years, because of mom, we knew how to iron with a mangle, be pretty efficient with an iron, to be independent.
Mom had a green thumb and had a vegetable garden wherever she lived. In Arroyo Grande and in Smith River she was aided by green/lath houses and in Yucaipa, the southern California sun provided produce nearly year round. She shared the wealth from her efforts with all who would take “just a couple more tomatoes and zucchinis” please? And then there were the flowers! Mom didn’t have a formal flower garden. She just had flowers. Lots and lots of flowers. She belonged to the Garden Club and took so much pleasure in growing things of beauty to please both the palate and the eye.
Gertrude took being a mom very seriously. She did not work outside of the house when we were young. She put her artistic talents to work and went into business making “Wee Tuck In” gift cards that she sold in various boutique clothing and gift stores and florists in the south county area. These were decorated with shell flowers that she patiently taught us to make as well as with some charming brush strokes. When we were teens she returned to nursing, but only as a special care nurse where she could pick and choose her shifts.
Mom loved to fish and camp. When their daughters were young Mom and Dad took us each year to Lake Almanor trout fishing. Salmon fishing was a passion and she and Dad did more and more of this as their daughters got older. The salmon run on the Smith River was in November so arrangements were made for us stay with family for a week or two so we would not miss school while Mom caught and canned huge King salmon. When her daughters were grown and no longer living at home, another of Gertrude’s passions became evident. She loved to travel. Sharleen asked her parents to go to Hawaii one year for Christmas. Don did not want to fly. Mom surprised us all, even herself, when she and her daughter boarded a plane that December and Don spent Christmas alone. After that they both traveled to Hawaii with their daughters and spent many spring and summer times traveling the Al-Can highway in their truck and small camper for weeks at a time enjoying Canada and their beloved Alaska.
Gertrude had her first and only birthday party at age 80. Her daughters were in the midst of planning a bash for their mom’s 90th when she, in a matter of days, took ill and died. Mom had always thought she would outlive our dad. There were so many places yet to go, things yet to see, foods yet to taste, sights, sounds, smells yet to experience. But it was not to be. Don and Gertrude were married for 68 years. That fact speaks more about the character of Gertrude Grieb Shaffer than a thousand words on paper can. She was a good woman, a faithful wife willing to compromise for the benefit of the family, and the best mother two daughters could have dreamed of having.
Sharon Shaffer Marks and Sharleen Shaffer De Tomaso