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Diane Shafer-Graham spoke about her father, the late Gov. Raymond P. Shafer, during a tribute held for him commemorating the 40th anniversary of his inaguration.

Jane Shafer, former first lady of Pennsylvania and widow of the late Raymond P. Shafer, danced the night away 40 years ago on Jan. 17, 1967, celebrating the inauguration of her husband that day as the state’s governor.

Shafer, who lived in Meadville, was the first governor from northwestern Pennsylvania and served from 1967 to 1971. He was lieutenant governor for Gov. William Scranton for four years prior to that.

Mrs. Shafer was joined by approximately 130 friends and supporters Tuesday night for a tribute in honor of that occasion at the Patricia Tippie Bush Alumni Center at Allegheny College.

Sitting in a wheelchair, she was escorted to view the several displays of gowns she wore as the first lady as well as other memorabilia from her days of politics.

She didn’t recall much about the gowns or the music at the inaugural ball, but remembered the governor’s mansion in detail. The Shafers were the first to live in the new governor’s mansion. “It was very nice,” she said.

Responding to a comment of appreciation for the tribute to the couple for all the work they had done, she said, “It’s for all the other people too,” noting it wasn’t just she and her husband who did things.

Asked if she would change anything about her life, she thought for a minute and responded, “I don’t think so.”

Pianist Jeff Youngs played background music as the guests took a trip down memory lane — stopping to view the gowns of Mrs. Shafer and local women who were among the 400 Crawford County residents who made the trip to Harrisburg for the inauguration. Other items on display included political buttons, newspaper clippings and other memorabilia.

Many stopped to shake the hand of a life-size paper cutout of Gov. Shafer, laughing as they recalled the days of friendship.

The tribute came about after the Crawford County Historical Society was advised that Mrs. Shafer wanted to donate her three gowns to the society, according to Carolyn Turnbull, co-chairman of the event.

She said when her sister, Joyce Minnis, who is archivist for the society, received the notice, she wanted to do something special. “Will you help me do it?” she asked her sister. From there, the idea became a reality.

Mrs. Shafer’s inaugural dress was on loan from the State Historical Museum. It was insured for $5,000 and when it was delivered to the society, the instructions were that two people had to be present to receive it.

It was a wonderful idea, according to many of the guests. “I was there,” said Jeannette Williams, as she stopped to look at the gowns. “Ray and my husband, Bill, were good friends. Jane and I were sorority sisters,” she added. “It was fun celebrating with all our friends.”

Meadville architect Bill Douglass recalled the inaugural dinner cost $100. “I thought, ‘holy mackerel,’ ” he laughed, adding quickly, “but the food was good and we had a good time.”

Dr. David Kirkpatrick recalled traveling with friends to the event. “I had never been to an inauguration before,” he said. Retired businessman Bob Thomas remembered the “high school band coming down the street.”

Minnis, too, remembered the band. In fact, the uniform she wore as one of the band front members was on display. She recalled the band from the governor’s hometown was to lead the parade, but the band had no band front, only a show corps. Band director Paul McCandless recruited six or seven girls and they quickly gathered skirts from cheerleaders and other uniform parts from the band to wear. “We were a motley crew,” she laughed, but it was an historical occasion. “He was our hero.”

Lila Mercatoris recalled having her gown made by a local dressmaker after she bought the material in San Fransisco. “We were in Jane’s bridge club,” she said of a group of friends who attended. After the inauguration, the group went to a hotel where they had rented a suite. “We changed clothes before going to the ball and there was lots of hilarity in between.”

“He was a giving person,” city controller Dick Stephenson said of Shafer. “He touched every sector of the community, the state and in the nation.”

The Shafers’ daughter, Diane Shafer Graham, expressed appreciation to all as a video of her father’s inaugural speech was on a screen. Her voice cracking with emotions at times, she said her father knew about the tribute and expected to attend. “That did not happen,” she said, alluding to his death Dec. 12. Among his last words to her were “I did it,” she added.

Although Shafer wasn’t there in person, he was there on video, he was there in photographs, and he was there in memories of those who experienced his journey where his accomplishments as governor touched the lives of people everywhere.

And, he was there in the hearts of those who loved him. A longtime friend, Ellie Davies, watched the video intently. Her eyes filled with unshed tears and she said simply, “He was so real. He was not like a politician. He should have been president.”

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