Community, Co-ops, and Caps

Community, Co-ops, and Caps
Posted May 23rd, 2023

In the close-knit community of Goshen, one man leaves an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of those who knew him.

Jimmy Shaver was more than just a farmer. He wore many hats, both figuratively and literally. His enviable cap collection wasn’t store-bought either — it was hard-earned with a lifetime of devotion to the many local organizations they represented, including South Alabama Electric Cooperative, where he served on the board for an impressive 41 years.

With Jimmy’s baseball caps showcased on the kitchen table, his wife, LaRue, and two sons, Curtiss and Jim, pored over his belongings as they reflected on the legacy of a man whose love for his community was woven into the very fabric of his life.

Connection, camaraderie

Jimmy’s social nature was evident in his daily interactions. Most mornings, you’d find Jimmy at the Eagle’s Nest, a local gas station deli. If someone wandered in while Jimmy was there, he’d strike up a conversation, taking genuine interest in their lives.

“If somebody walked in who he didn’t know, before they left, he would know all about them,” LaRue says. “It was because he cared. A lot of people thought it was just nosy, but he really cared about everyone.”

Little black book

Among his close friends, Jimmy became known for his “little black book,” a small yearly calendar he carried in his back pocket. This unassuming little book served as his personal hard drive. When one filled up, he bought another and stored away his used books for safekeeping. Inside their pages were meticulously recorded phone numbers, names and appointments that spanned years.

While some poked fun at his reliance on handwritten notes, Jimmy’s trust in his little black book never wavered. He spurned computers, opting for the tangible reassurance of hard copies. His white truck, a familiar sight around Goshen, was easily identified by its dashboard always covered in loose papers, documents and reminders. “It was his filing cabinet,” Jim says.

He knew how important it was for electricity to be in rural America where it was hard to get. — Curtiss Shaver

To Jimmy, his little black book and cluttered dashboard reflected his fidelity to the community he loved. To him, it was important to keep track of names, numbers and appointments, to ensure that he never forgot a commitment or overlooked a connection.

‘It was good times’

That love for personal connection brought Jimmy and LaRue together at the square dances where their lives intertwined. Their friend groups often mingled at a corner in Goshen, where they would gather to drink Cokes and listen to music from the record player in Jimmy’s black Pontiac. “There were always a bunch of us, and it was good times,” LaRue says.

Before their paths crossed, Jimmy had already served in the Navy aboard the USS Hancock. After completing his service, he worked for South Central Bell as a microwave station technician, assisting with the smooth operation of telephones throughout the region. He was first positioned in Montgomery but longed to return to his hometown.

He finally got his wish when he was granted a transfer to work in Troy, allowing Jimmy and LaRue to settle down in Goshen. There, they built a home and raised their two sons.

For many years, Jimmy worked night shifts for South Central Bell and farmed row crops during the day on land he rented. His work ethic didn’t give him much time for leisure.

“Whenever Mama was off work, we would take him something to eat, and I remember pulling up and he’d be laying down beside the tractor tire taking him a nap,” Jim says.

Farming — a way of life

Jimmy’s true passion was farming, which he saw as a way of life. Together Jimmy and LaRue meticulously saved their money and gradually acquired parcels of land, expanding their farming enterprise, growing peanuts, raising hogs and cows and eventually establishing chicken houses.

Jimmy understood the significance of agriculture, recognizing that it was not solely about the money it provided. “He didn’t farm to live, he lived to farm,” LaRue says.

This deep understanding led Jimmy to participate in community organizations such as the Pike County Cattlemen’s Association and the Pike County Farmers Federation, where he contributed his expertise and insights.

Champion for co-ops 

In 1981, Jimmy began his 41 years on the South Alabama Electric Cooperative’s Board of Trustees. In 2014, he led the board as its president, a role he held up until his death in March at the age of 81. He also served on the board of trustees for PowerSouth Energy Cooperative and Alabama Rural Electric Association. “To him, it was not a position. It was a duty,” LaRue says.

With firsthand experience of life both with and without electricity, Jimmy possessed a deep understanding of the vital role played by electric cooperatives.

“He knew how important it was for electricity to be in rural America where it was hard to get,” Curtiss says. “He understood how valuable it was to the community.”

While on the SAEC board, Jimmy was known for being amiable, but he was always willing to challenge the status quo in a respectful manner when he felt it was necessary.

“Jimmy was never shy about doing the right thing,” says David Bailey, SAEC’s general manager. “I believe it was his commitment to fairness that guided his decisions on the board. His concern was always the member. He believed they had a right to good service. We are grateful for the many years he dedicated to representing the community and improving our service and he will be greatly missed by all of us here at South Alabama Electric.”

He was also a member of the Goshen Civic Club and a lifetime member of Little Oak Methodist Church, where he served most of his life as a trustee.

Through all of life’s challenges, Jimmy maintained a positive outlook and sense of contentment. Even in the face of illness, he rarely complained, always responding with a simple, “I’m OK.”

Celebrating a legacy

His funeral was a tribute to everything that Jimmy held dear. An arrangement of wheat, cotton and peanut plants was woven into a wreath and adorned with a couple of his well-loved hats. Lineworkers served as his pallbearers, paying homage to his role in the electric co-op. And his funeral procession, featuring an electric co-op bucket truck, passed by his farmland, his home and his church on the way to his final resting place.

It’s not just his remarkable contributions to the community that define Jimmy’s legacy, however. His greatest accomplishment lies in the family he created and the values he passed down to his children and grandchildren.

Survived by his wife of 56 years, LaRue Carr Shaver, and their sons and daughters-in-law, Jim and Kristi Shaver and Curtiss and Traci Shaver, Jimmy’s spirit lives on. Curtiss and Jim follow in their father’s footsteps, embracing the farming life and continuing his commitment to community service. They carry forward his deep appreciation for the land, his work ethic and his dedication to making a difference. His grandchildren — Zane, Jolea, Hunter and Sophie Jaymes Shaver — will carry his torch, their lives shaped by the values that defined their grandfather’s life.

As Curtiss reflects on his father’s teachings, he muses, “I think he instilled in us that basically, the joy in life was the task that God puts in front of you and to enjoy your task, whatever it may be.”