Jack Sheahan, decorated World War II veteran and local advocate for patriotic causes and the disabled, died Tuesday at the age of 78.
A 22-year resident of Payson, Sheahan was born in Evanston, Ill. He joined the U.S. Army in 1942 and served in the 27th Armored Infantry Battalion of the 9th Armored Division for seven years.
After being wounded in Germany in 1945, Sheahan received the Purple Heart and was honored with membership in President Dwight Eisenhower's Society of the Remagen Bridge.
In an interview with the Roundup earlier this year, Sheahan who referred to himself as "a top-flight grunt, a PFC in the infantry" talked of his war experiences with pride, especially the Battle of the Bulge.
"There were 50,000 killed and injured up there," he said. "It was the biggest land war ever fought by the United States."
Sheahan was seriously wounded on April 14, 1945.
"My dad got a telegram saying I was wounded in action, and they never said any more," he recalled. "I had been hit six times once in the elbow, twice in the stomach and three times in the leg.
"They didn't take my leg off until November of '47. I was in the hospital all that time while they tried to save it."
While Sheahan had long careers in both law enforcement and sales, and served several years as head of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, his military experience shaped the rest of his life.
"I'm a flag waver and that's all there is to it," he said. "I've paid my dues and I can prove it. ... My medals are hanging up there and I'm proud of them."
In his later years, Sheahan played an important role in the creation and development of the Payson Veterans Memorial. Among his other patriotic projects, he was especially proud of the successful campaign he waged to have the large U.S. flag at the south end of town illuminated.
Former Payson Mayor Ray Schum remembered Sheahan as a patriot and "self-proclaimed authority" on the ... American flag.
"When he noted misuse of the flag in any way, he quickly let the offenders know just how the flag should be displayed," Schum said.
Sheahan also considered himself a friend of the Tonto Apaches, and often expressed his belief that the town doesn't appreciate their contributions to the community.
Two of Sheahan's best friends, longtime Payson residents Ray Frost and Dan Adams, spoke warmly of him. Frost recalled the time his wife, like Sheahan a diabetic, passed out at an Elks dinner 15 years ago.
"Jack wheeled over and wanted to know if she was a diabetic," Frost said. "Here's a guy with one leg, but he pulled a chair over, got out of his wheelchair, rolled it over to me and said, 'Get a couple of guys to help you put her in here and get her to the hospital. I'll be waiting here for you to bring my chair back.' That's the kind of a man he was, and from that day on he and I became the very best of friends. He did a lot of things behind the scenes that people didn't know about. He was one hell of a nice guy."
Adams admired Sheahan's willingness to act on his convictions.
"Jack had a very short fuse," Adams said. "He was quick to take umbrage at things, but he never sat and sulked. He went out and did something about it or tried to."