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I don’t remember Jack Sheaffer without a cigar in his mouth, lit or unlit. He was also memorable for his speech. To Jack, “chingadero” was a pronoun, adjective and conjunction. Odd that a photographer should be so well known for his use of language.DSCF1090

Once a year he put on pink tights and a tutu and did a dance for patrons of the annual press club gridiron show. Jack was in line with several men in pink tights and tutus. I remember instructions from the show’s director Marge Hilts was “grab your balls.” And then I think it was pirouette.  It brought the house down.

His everyday costume was a suit. I have no idea where it came from, but it always looked like his tailor was a Russian with a Stoly problem. It likely was  because of his build. He was a big man, a bit overweight. He drove a big car.

Jack owned a bar out on Mission Road on the edge of the Tohono reservation. Ted De Grazia had painted the side with typical De Grazia stuff he did in those long ago days of more wine than roses.

The liquor store building is still there on Mission. The art was painted over, but I am told it’s beginning to show through, demonstrating in more than one way the power of spirits.

Jack had a way getting in the middle of things. He loved gossip. He had more tips than a crooked stock broker.DSCF1091

In 1982, a great electrical explosion rocked the newspaper building at 4850 South Park Avenue. Four people suffered burn injuries. Frank Delehanty, the Star’s business manager, died from his burns. Frank Johnson, the managing editor, and production exceutive Wayne Bean received less serious injuries. Jack suffered the worst burns, took years to recover.

Jack was born in 1929 in Southern Arizona. His family had a ranch at Amado. He died in Tucson in March 1999.

It was after the accident that he produced his book of photos with the late Steve Emerine, who worked for both daily Tucson newspapers, taught journalism at the University of Arizona and even served a term or two as county assessor.

Here is one Jack Sheaffer story as recalled by Bill Waters who was city editor and then ombudsman at the Star. He retired a couple years ago after a couple decades at the Santa Fe New Mexican:

 Chingadero stories, caray — so many.DSCF1092

 My first contact with Jack was when Hubert Humphrey came flying into Tucson, and I’m at Channel 4, John Paul at 9 in those days, and Hubie comes down a staircase onto the field; Jack does his Jackie Gleason/Reggie Van Gleason act with his 4×5 Press Graphic, and woops, his glass plate goes flying 15 feet away, and all’s on hold until he can replace it.

 Not long later, during the strike against the Star/Citizen, Jack shows up to shoot the strikers, who give him the blanket-toss into the air and his jaw strikes a parking meter; undeterred, he gets a shot, bless his big heart; better than what I got for Channel 4.

Jack was one of the biggest-hearted guys I ever knew. Couldn’t make a deadline to save his soul (“It’s just coming off the dryer, was his sister Lucille’s standing instruction to tell me when I’d call for the umpteenth time — a great and dear individual), and one evening Jack came in with a loada bull about his delay, and I sent him to a typewriter to write the cutline since the rest of the staff was gone, and Jack sat trying to make out what to do — borderline illiterate — until Rippey, that grand individual, says “I’ll do it” and I said BS, Tom, about time he learns to do something, anything, on time. Tom ended up writing the cutline.

Earlier, there was a time when I was on sports desk and we’re on our way to interview Bobby Hull down in Tubac; Jack hasta stop at his bar out on Mission Road, and we’re going 80-90 along a back road along the mines when a pickup truck comes rooster-tailing dust from the west; I alert Jack that he ain’t gonna stop at his stop sign, so Jack gases his Chrysler 300 and we get hit — on the very tail of his Chrysler. Both drivers finally get to a stop, back up, and all that’s dented is some chrome on Jack’s back bumper. Jack magnanimously forgives the lout, since we’ve got an intvu coming up …

Jack was given to calling this or that a chingadero, as you well remember, or a chingaderito, depending on circumstances. He and I went to an interview with Barry Goldwater, who quickly greeted Jack as “Chingadero,” to the chagrin of various GOP fatbacks …

But most memorable was when Ford and Echeverria met in Nogales, like in ’75: Jack and I were walking down the center of Obregon, which was blocked off — only way to get to the theater where the presidents were meeting. From a block and a half north came the shout of one of Jack’s billion friends, this one with a gringo accent: “Hey, Chingadero!” Deadly silence. Jack spins around with a wave to acknowledge the guero, to whom it might not have occurred that he was in Mexico … truly one of the greatest characters you or I ever knew …

At a Gridiron Show visit to Phoenix, he took off with our daughter to buy some candy bars, to Julie’s and my alarm, not knowing where she was, Jack coming back with a hangdog look and a bag of candy …

Jack, unwittingly, was a great reporter, having the ability to overhear and pass on all kinds of  stuff; , some worthwhile, some, well, nice try; probly a better reporter than photographer. A wonderful human being.

Jack was born down, or up, in Amado. I think he was a war photographer, which got him his start as “Jack Sheaffer, Star Photographer,” the sign on his office on Stone Avenue half a block north of the Star.





  1. This is a correction from Bill Waters:

    Marge’s instructions to the ballet gang tended to actually fit ballet moves. Usually at that point, it was “grab your balls and releve, whatever a releve/relevay is. She was pretty incredible, too: Stanford grad married then to Dr. Schuyler “Sky” Hilts. The Gridiron Show writers’ meetings over which she presided were full of high hilarity. At one point, we were doing a script leading to Ron Asta playing his accordion, inevitably “Lady of Spain.” I asked, rhetorically, if that was the first thing accordion players had to learn — to which Marge, without missing a beat, responded, “No, the first thing you have to learn is to keep your tits out of the way!”

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