LONG-TERM SUPPORTER OF LLUSM LEAVES COLORFUL LEGACY

By James Ponder

donor-shearer.jpg

Frank William Shearer, MD, became a captain in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. Sometime later, he was promoted to Major.

To call Frank William Shearer, MD, a long-term supporter of Loma Linda University School of Medicine is a serious understatement: when he died this year at the age of 107, Dr. Frank, as he was called, had been big on the school since the 1930s. During his life, he blazed the trail for his three brothers, his son, and granddaughter to graduate from LLUSM, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.

Dr. Frank was an American original. Although the U.S. Census Bureau lists 53,364 centenarians in the United States, only one of them had his picture published waterskiing-at the age of 101, no less-in National Geographic. That one, of course, was Dr. Frank. The remarkable image even graced the front cover of the magazine's Turkish edition.

He stood out in other ways, too. Among them was the fact that he used no less than 10 different names throughout his lifetime.

Born Francis William Shearer on November 21, 1905, at Duck Lake in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, he was initially called Willie. He might have been Frank, but his father—who was also Francis Shearer—had adopted that as his own name. But when Willie started school, everyone called him Bill.

donor-shearer-polo.jpg

That's Dr. Frank Shearer (right) with three of his colleagues from the Toppenish Polo Club in 1969, the year they won their second Northwest United States-Canadian Championship. Throughout his life, Dr. Shearer was known by 10 different names. Most people called him Dr. Frank, but to his polo buddies, he was simply "Doc"or "Doc Shearer."

The name served him well from grade school, which he attended on the Shearer Farm, through high school at Battleford Academy, and then from Canadian Union College and Pacific Union College to the College of Medical Evangelists, as Loma Linda University was then known. But when he graduated with his MD degree in 1932, the man variously known as Frank, Willie, or Bill became simply Dr. Shearer.

At the conclusion of medical school, Dr. Shearer married Bernice Alice Deer, a Battleford classmate. The newlyweds had just 10 days to visit family members in Canada before taking off, in their 1925 Ford, for Seattle where Dr. Shearer took a one-year internship at Swedish Hospital. After that, the couple settled in Toppenish, Washington, where he opened a medical practice.

When World War II broke out, Dr. Shearer's career was growing along with his family. Raymond had been born during the Seattle internship, Marilene arrived a few years later in Toppenish, and Douglas joined the team in Carmel, California, while Dr. Shearer was serving the Army Air Corps in nearby Salinas. In the Army, Dr. Shearer added two new monikers to his growing collection—at first he was Captain Shearer, but a promotion in rank elevated him to Major.

When the war ended, Major Shearer and his family joyfully returned to Toppenish, elated that the conflict was over. In Toppenish, he reverted to civilian nomenclature as Dr. Shearer. Many of his friends just called him Doc. Either that or Doc Shearer.

The postwar baby boom hit Toppenish in a big way and Dr. Shearer could hardly keep pace with the burgeoning demand for his services. Babies were arriving all hours of the day and night. His brothers, Bob and Ed, also Loma Linda graduates, moved to town and joined the practice. Which meant, of course, that there were now three Drs. Shearers. To avoid confusion, they decided to be known as Dr. Bob, Dr. Ed, and Dr. Frank, respectively. Dr. Frank took the name change in stride. He thought it sounded better than Dr. Bill.

Life was good for the Shearer family in Toppenish. The bucolic Yakima Valley—which boasts four seasons, gorgeous natural scenery, and a Wild West cowboy and Indian heritage—was a great place to build a career and raise kids. But there was also a practical reason the family moved there during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

"Dad said he had seen many doctors who were unable to get paid in Seattle,"she shares, recalling her father's internship at Swedish Hospital. "He knew his family would never go hungry living in a farming community."

He was right. Doctors made house calls in those days, and Dr. Frank became very respected in the community for his courteous demeanor and generosity. He was frequently paid with chickens or produce for his services. "Those who could not afford medical care were never turned away,"Marilene relates.

In his spare time, Dr. Frank enjoyed the active outdoor life of the Pacific Northwest. He was an avid fisherman, hooking steelhead, salmon, and trout, and an adept hunter who filled his home with big-game trophies, including a grizzly bear, caribou, Dall ram, mountain lion, and javelina.

In the 1950s, Dr. Frank bought an airplane so he, Marilene, and Ray could learn to fly. Later, Doug also got his wings. Ray and Doug became physicians and joined the family's practice as Dr. Ray and Dr. Doug. With four pilots in the family, it was hard to keep the Shearers out of the skies. They flew all over the Northwest as well as to Canada, California, and Alaska.

Dr. Frank loved boats as well as planes. In the late 1930s, he purchased a Chris Craft powerboat and took up waterskiing. His first skis were 12-foot upturned planks with a pair of shoes nailed to the tops. Later, he bought a Century ski boat, which he skied behind at the age of 100. He enjoyed boating in the San Juan Islands, and once navigated a cabin cruiser through the Inside Passage to Alaska.

He also loved riding horses. After Marilene married Tim Foster, the couple moved to Tim's father's farm where they raised Hereford cattle. "Dad often helped with the cattle," Marilene shares, "gathering, sorting, moving, branding, and occasionally demonstrating a minor medical procedure. He was always fun to work with and never complained that it was too hot and dusty or cold and wet. Dad and Mom especially enjoyed riding after cattle in the mountain range in the summers. Dad was a natural horseman. He started playing polo in the mid-1930s and was an early member of the Toppenish Polo Club."

Dr. Frank and his mounted cohorts won the Northwest United States-Canadian Championship in 1939. The name of "Doc Shearer"appeared on the official bulletin again when the team took the title a second time 30 years later in 1969. Dr. Frank wasn't there in name only—he fought hard and helped the team win. Even after retiring from full-time medical practice in 1976, he rode horses on a regular basis, and was still hitting the ball from the saddle at the age of 104.

Sadly, Bernice—his loving companion of 64 years—passed away in 1996. Four years later, Dr. Frank, who was a youthful 95, married Hellyn Jackson Brown, an 89-year-old retired nurse anesthetist. He had first worked with Hellyn in the 1940s, and they met again at church. The family welcomed Hellyn into their circle, and joined Dr. Frank in mourning her passing in February of this year.

In his latter years, Dr. Frank began to think about giving back to the medical school that had laid the framework for his extraordinary career. He contacted the office of planned giving at Loma Linda University Health and set up a charitable gift annuity to benefit the LLU School of Medicine. He and his brother, Dr. Paul Shearer, donated the Shearer-Heidar Room at the Wong-Kerlee International Conference Center as a memorial to their parents.

In reflecting on the importance of alumni giving, Todd Mekelburg, director of planned giving, underscores the value of Dr. Frank's legacy.

"Loma Linda University Health recognizes the commitment people make when setting up estate gifts to benefit our organization,"Mr. Mekelburg observes." We feel privileged and grateful to have supporters such as Dr. Shearer who believe in our mission and goals."

For Dr. Frank, exploring the skies, rivers, mountains, and streams of his beloved Northwest was an integral part of the grand adventure of life. Leaving something to help others was a natural extension of the blessings he so thoroughly enjoyed.

eBrochure Request Form

Please provide the following information to view the brochure.

A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to Loma Linda University Health a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I give to Loma Linda University Health, a nonprofit corporation currently located at (LegalAddress), or its successor thereto, ______________* [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to Loma Linda or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Loma Linda as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to Loma Linda as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and Loma Linda where you agree to make a gift to Loma Linda and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

Personal Estate Planning Kit Request Form

Please provide the following information to view the materials for planning your estate.