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From the desk of Dora DePaoli, Staff writer: Remembering Roy

July 27, 2001

Holtville recently lost one of its beloved citizens, Roy Schaffner. He could be counted on to lend his support to all worthy causes. He was an unassuming man with a wonderful sense of humor.

Roy, 77, died at home at 5 a.m. July 7 This was about the time he used to be out milking his cows. Roy, along with his sons, Emil and Rudy, ran the Schaffner Dairy, which has been in continuous operation since 1921. It was started by Roy's father, the late Emil Schaffner, a Swiss immigrant.

One of Roy's grandsons, Brian Lohse, shared a few things about him at his memorial service. While Roy served on the Pine Union school board, and later on the Holtville Unified School District board, he would frequently tell his family that teachers made "too much money." Because of this four of his daughters became educators, convinced they would have cushy jobs and get rich.


Roy was a bit absent-minded. He once took Brian to a Holtville Rotary Club meeting. When it came time to introduce his guest he forgot his name.

His wife, Marion, probably realized early in their marriage that life with Roy would not be dull. Following their 1949 wedding in La Crosse, Wis., three of Roy's groomsmen accompanied the newlyweds on much of their honeymoon trip to California, eating together and staying in the same motels. One night they even had to share the same motel room when there were no vacancies.

In 1962, Roy and Marion took their seven children to Wisconsin on the train to visit their grandparents. Marion, being a capable mother, packed salami and cheese sandwiches and fruit and cereal boxes to save money on the trip. While the rest of the family ate sandwiches, Roy took his meals in the dining car. He decided to distance himself from the family when a woman asked Marion if they were a "scout troop or something."

People who went out to dinner with Roy and Marion often heard him remark that he wanted "just a little soup." Then he would look at Marion's plate and offer to trade with her. But no matter who went out to eat with the couple, he always picked up the check.

He was an ardent supporter of the livestock auctions at the Imperial and Glenn county fairs. One year during the local fair Emil purchased a 4-H chicken. No one had time to cook it, so Marion and Roy decided they would handle it. Marion told Roy to plug in the electric skillet and go to the pantry and get the big, yellow container of cooking oil and pour some in the pan. The oil didn't seem to get hot or smoky, but after a while Marion told him to put the floured chicken in anyway. They waited and waited for the chicken to start sizzling. Finally Marion asked to see the jug Roy used. It turned out to be Sunlight dish soap. Being a frugal Swiss, there was no way Roy would throw out a $350 chicken. They rinsed and rinsed that bird and eventually ate one really clean chicken.

Roy enjoyed all his grandchildren. He especially liked teasing his twin granddaughters, Erin and Emily, the youngest of his 12 grandchildren. Always one to think the worst, Roy told Emily he might not make it back from his last trip to Switzerland.

"The plane might crash and I would die," he said. Emily surprised him as she answered: "That's OK if you die, Papa, you're old anyway."

Roy liked repeating that story.

Once when the twins visited Roy and Marion, Erin asked if Grandma had a husband.

"Why yes, Papa is her husband," her mother replied.

"Oh," Erin remarked, "I thought he always just spent the night."

Although Roy was mostly a law-abiding sort, my sister, Louise, reminded me of the time he outran the Holtville police when Roy and Louise were in high school. It seems that Roy, his sister, Susie, his brother, Henry, and Louise were in a Ford Model A when the police gave chase. Louise doesn't know what the infraction was, but she remembers zooming down dirt roads while making their getaway.

Never one to care what he wore, Roy would put on whatever Marion laid out for him. One morning his daughters started laughing uncontrollably when they spotted him in church wearing one of their mother's blouses. When the girls told him about it he said: "Oh, I thought it buttoned backwards."

During the final months of Roy's illness five of his friends; Fritz Heuberger, Ernie Strahm, Tony Pitardi, Hank Felchlin and Fred Ritter, took him to breakfast every Wednesday. His family said these outings helped keep him going.

Roy loved candy, especially chocolate, preferably Snickers or Swiss chocolate. It was a favorite bedtime ritual for him to pass out pieces of chocolate to his grandchildren. He called the chocolates "mimfili." The babies quickly learned that Swiss word.

Roy will be missed by everyone who knew him: the people of St. Paul's Lutheran Church where he was a faithful member, his friends at Rotary, the Holtville Athletic Club, the Swiss Club and especially his loving family.

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