James Vereen (Nick) Shaw, with his typical low-key grace and lack of complaint, departed for his last early-morning fishing expedition on September 5, 2021, leaving a life he described as “hard work, but rich and full of good food.” His 86-year old heart was just tuckered out.
Born during the Great Depression on October 24, 1934, to Vereen E. and Francis Payne Shaw in Brandon, Hill County, Texas, he was a scrapper from a young age and was no stranger to hardship. Battling Parkinson’s Disease for the last 15 years, he was always quick to point out his preference for being “old and rickety” to the obvious alternative. Nick died in his own bed in the Red Oak, Texas home he built with his own hands for his family in the early 1970s. He was always a “country boy” and breathed his last surrounded by the equipment, tackle and mementoes of a life spent on the rivers and lakes of the American west he loved.
Nick Shaw was raised by his grandparents, James Butler and Hessie Vereen Shaw, growing up on their farm during World War II and graduating from Bynum High School (Go, Bulldogs!) in 1951. He was enlisted in 1954 and spent two years stationed in Europe as a member of Special Police Platoon, 8th Infantry Regiment. He did not “spreche kein Deutsch,” but he could call you the German equivalent of “cuddle bear,” “sugar mouse” and “bunny fart.” As such a continental sweet-talker, it was not long before Nick married Joy Cockerham after meeting her on a blind date while they were in college. They both, unbeknownst to each other, went home and told their respective roommates that they had just met the person they were going to marry. They joined forces on October 12, 1957, married almost 64 years. Joy survives her partner, as do their four children: Deborah Shaw, Pamela Cross, Rhonda Shaw and Scott Shaw. Nick is also survived by grandchildren, Kate Shaw and Mason Shaw and his siblings, Cullen Davis, Robert Dorsey, Carolyn Shaw and Diane Gange.
Nick and Joy reared their kids in Red Oak living first in an old farm house on Brushy Creek Drive. The house was Joy’s birthplace and childhood home. It was Nick’s laboratory. He raised kids, bird dogs, ducks, geese, the best tomatoes in the county, one rogue squirrel and an orphan calf. He was more of a farmer than a gardener, planting everything from corn to potatoes and pushing an old wheeled plow to break-up the gummy black dirt. He kept a salt shaker anchored in that dirt under an old tin can to keep out the rain. Nick’s procedure for eating a garden-ripe tomato was to wipe the Sevin Dust off on your shirt, take one bite, then salt and bite repeatedly until it was time to pick another big un’.
Nick was always a proponent of education. He sent his children to Red Oak ISD and supplemented their teachers’ instruction by taking on subjects, himself, at the kitchen table, most specifically geography and the multiplication tables. He wrote out the times tables line by line every night. You had to be able to do one under 15 seconds to move on to the next – all the way to the twelves. Nick taught his offspring the cardinal directions and how to read a map. Later in his life, he thought that GPS was the greatest thing ever and was always awed by what humans could invent. Nick was an avid ROHS football fan, smoking 40 briskets every fall weekend to make sandwiches to sell at the Quarterback Club concessions stand in the mid-1980s. He suffered through many band and choir concerts, junior high basketball games and pancake suppers. His support of ROISD and his support of his children was always evident and always consistent.
Nick was employed for 30 years by Western Electric, a subsidiary of AT&T. He worked as an installer and traveled around many parts of Texas and the nation on a transfer crew that put in microwave equipment to upgrade telephone service. He was a union man, CWA Local 6215, and a loyal employee, always touting the innovations and inventions created by the phone company. He carried scissors that could cut a penny in half and he kept wooden cable reels in the yard for kids to play on. He retired from Western Electric in 1984 and started his own company, Shaw & Son, contracting maintenance, custodial and landscaping services for Southwestern Bell buildings across the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.
Nick Shaw was a builder and a furniture maker. He always claimed a lack of artistic ability and saw himself as a “basic hammer and nail guy,” but his workmanship was always neat and always STURDY. Nick was a generous and opinionated trainer of good humans. He drilled his children in good manners with a devoted seriousness – “yes, ma’am and no, sir,” “please and thank-you,” a strong handshake, holding the door for folks, the right way to hold a knife to cut your steak and direct friendliness. “Talk to people – they want to tell you their story.”
He taught lessons about love and hard work, about logic and pragmatism and about how to anticipate life’s inevitable events. He was an avid hunter and fisherman and a responsible gun-owner. He taught all of his kids to shoot a firearm and how to respect a firearm. He was a fiend for ice cream, just like his dad was. He was always a Pepsi drinker, preferred Merthiolate to Mercurochrome and pulled for the Cowboys even after they fired Coach Landry. Nick never knew a stranger. He would talk to you. He would pull you out of the mud. He would bring you cookies and he would give your kid a job. He will be greatly missed and he will be forever loved.
Funeral services will be at Red Oak United Methodist Church, 600 Daubitz Drive, on Saturday, September 18 at 10:00 am followed by a graveside gathering at Red Oak Cemetery. After that, join the family at home for BBQ and Homemade Peach Ice Cream as they celebrate Nick Shaw’s life in Nick Shaw style.
There will also be a visitation at Wayne Boze Funeral Home from 6 - 8 pm on Friday, September 17. That address is 1826 W. Hwy 287 Business in Waxahachie. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider a donation to the Red Oak ISD Education Foundation. https://tinyurl.com/34teuwpf
Hug your daddy. Take your grandkids fishing. Listen to Hank Williams. And get a dog.