AFTON– The memory of Clifton “Tony” Shepard, 60, will forever remain in the hearts and minds of the Town of Afton and the surrounding communities.
Shepard died on Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, at Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa.
For the past 10 years, he served as president of the Afton School Board, where he dedicated his life to education. He worked as a USDA County Executive Director (CED) for 33 years in Ottawa and Delaware counties.
A native of Arkansas, Shepard graduated from Fairland High School in 1974. He attended Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami, where he graduated with his associate's degree in 1977. He then went on to receive his bachelor's degree from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater in 1979.
Shepard was also a member of the Wesley Foundation Board, Ottawa County Health Board, the Federal Selective Services Board and was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Miami.
He married his wife Debbie France on Aug. 9, 2008, in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Survivors include his wife and his children Cristina Oakley, Abigail Stanford, Samuel Shepard of Tahlequah, Gerri Satterwhite, Janelle Cordray and Greg Giles. He had eight grandchildren: Gabe Satterwhite, DeeDee Satterwhite, Jaida Giles, Hudson Oakley, Cove Cordray, Haelyn Oakley, Gwinn Giles and Holden Oakley.
A visitation ceremony was held on Monday, Jan. 2, at the First United Methodist Church in Miami.
A memorial service took place on Tuesday, Jan. 3, at in the high school gym at Afton Public Schools with the Reverend Chuck Horton officiating. Interment followed at Mount Hope Cemetery in Afton.
School officials have established a Tony Shepard Memorial Scholarship in his memory. The family has asked that memorial contributions be made this fund in care of First National Bank in Fairland or Miami, or Brown-Winters Funeral Home and Cremation Service in Miami.
Afton School Board clerk, Grant Victor, had known Shepard for several years and described the him as one of the “the greatest examples of how to serve our community and children.”
“[Shepard was] always adamant that each child was served, whatever their activities and their backgrounds,” Victor said. “[He] didn't necessarily have to push that agenda, but it was always understood where they stood on those issues. [He] never attended Afton Public Schools, but was passionate in his love and desire to serve.”
Victor was a high school friend of Shepard. He said his friend was a paradigm of how mankind should be.
After losing another board member to cancer a year before, Victor said hearing the news of Shepard's battle with the disease was devastating.
“At a regular board meeting, Tony confirmed that the rumor of having cancer was true, but it seemed that treatment was very manageable and he would be fine,” Victor said. “Tony seemed to be doing remarkably well with the treatments until we received the call that he was gone.
“I had lost two close friends that were so wonderful to their families, churches and communities.
“But was it all lost? These two men have left such a wonderful stamp of what we men should be like and how we should serve others. Only God could take away something as great as these two men, but only provide us with an abundance of blessings."
Afton superintendent Randy Gardner said that Shepard's death came as a shock to everyone. Shepard and Gardner had known each other since childhood.
Gardner contacted the school board members the morning of his passing.
“We didn’t expect this,” Gardner said. “He was doing really well and going through chemo. Family and doctors were in shock.”
“He was so optimistic about everything. At the school’s Christmas program, he told me that there weren’t any signs of cancer cells. They said he started getting sick the day before he passed. I think it just took a turn for the worst.”
Despite his diminishing health, Shepard made an effort to be present at a majority of the school board meetings.
“He was pretty dedicated to his position there,” Gardner said. “He had slowed down, but that’s a matter of not feeling well, but when you looked at him, you couldn’t tell anything was wrong with him.”
Gardner said Shepard had a friendly personality that will never be forgotten.
“He would crack jokes and was very personable,” Gardner said. “He was a long time FFA Officer in Miami, and he was the head of it for quite a few years before he retired.
"He had a lot of contacts in the rural area and throughout the community and surrounding areas. He was just a good man.”