John Meyers Schaffer, a longtime organist and music teacher who taught in Baltimore County public schools for nearly 30 years, died of lung cancer Nov. 2 at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. The Rehoboth Beach, Del., resident was 77.
Mr. Schaffer was born and raised in Weatherly, Pa. He was a 1948 graduate of Weatherly High School and received a bachelor's degree in music in 1952 from Pennsylvania State College at State College. In 1968, he received a master's degree from the University of Maryland, College Park.
He began teaching at North Point Junior High School in 1954 and later taught at what was then Hereford Junior and Senior High School from 1958 to 1968. He taught music at Cockeysville Middle School from 1968 to 1979, when he took a job with the State Department of Education. He returned to Baltimore County schools, from which he retired in 1981.
"He loved music and had a reputation for being strict but was a very good teacher. His favorite expression he used with the kids was, `We're going to keep on cutting the mustard because we have to get this right,' " said a daughter, Ruth Ann Carroll of Cockeysville.
Bryan C. Rowe, who is organist at Christ Lutheran Church in Washington and professor of math education at the University of Maryland, College Park, first met Mr. Schaffer when he was 13 and a student at the Maryland Center for the Gifted and Talented in Emmitsburg.
"He was the choral arts director there and was a tremendous influence on the young people. He loved working with kids and had an infectious passion for choral music," Mr. Rowe said.
Mr. Rowe described him as being "infused with energy" and said his "spirit and love for music was just contagious. It was hard not to catch it when he was around."
In addition to teaching, Mr. Schaffer, an accomplished organist, had been church organist at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Parkville and St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Randallstown.
Mr. Schaffer, who had lived in Towson and downtown on Mount Royal Terrace, also had led several local singing groups, including the Valley Singers, during the 1970s.
In 1992, Mr. Schaffer returned to his hometown, where he owned and operated the Fern Hotel, a 19th-century hotel and restaurant, for five years.
He moved to Rehoboth Beach a decade ago, and was church organist at Christ Episcopal Church in Milford, Del., and at All Saints Episcopal Church in Rehoboth, until July, when he stepped down.
He was a former member of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Baltimore.
"Jack was very involved with the homeless shelter that had been organized by the Mid Town Community Churches Association," said the Rev. Dale Dusman, pastor of St. Mark's.
Sister Karen McNally, chief administrative officer at Stella Maris Hospice, became acquainted with Mr. Schaffer in the early 1980s, when both were involved with AIDS Interfaith Residential Services, which resulted in the establishment of the Don Miller House in Govans.
"We worked together to make it happen. At the time, there was a great deal of fear of contracting AIDS," Sister Karen said. "He was very much into social service and helping others. He was a very good, kind and gentle man."
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. today at Faith Lutheran Church, 8 Sherwood Road, Cockeysville. A second memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. tomorrow at Christ Episcopal Church in Milford.
Also surviving are a son, John H. Schaffer of Nashville; another daughter, Jean S. Goldbeck of Forest Hill; a brother, Quinton A. Schaffer of Cape Coral, Fla.; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. A son, Richard M. Schaffer, died in 2003. His marriage to Louisa May ended in divorce.