This World War II Veteran’s Honor Flight was Canceled. So His Union Did This.

Chuck Shuff sitting outside in wheelchair holding American flag

By Jessica Swarner

May 11, 2020

“They started coming down the street and I thought, ‘Oh my God, what’s going on here?’ I still didn’t realize that they were for me…I was in tears, and I still am.” 

Chalmer “Chuck” Shuff is a World War II veteran and longtime member of his union, UA Plumbers and Pipefitters 469

The 96-year-old was set to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., this March as part of an Honor Flight. But the nonprofit that organizes the trips canceled all flights through June 30 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Shuff’s union members wanted to find a way to honor their brother, who has been with the organization for over 70 years. 

Aaron Butler, the union’s business manager, said they came up with the idea for an “Honor Drive” when the group was planning a move and found a memento featuring Shuff. Butler then reached out to the Glendale Fire Department, veterans’ motorcycle groups, and fellow union members to get participants on board. 

The planning process culminated Saturday morning as Shuff’s longtime friends Ed and Eleanor Miller went to Shuff’s residence for what they told him was a regular visit. 

But then, as Shuff came to sit outside, about 75 vehicles and hundreds of people began driving past him

At first Shuff didn’t understand that the long line of honking cars was there in his honor.

“They started coming down the street and I thought, ‘Oh my God, what’s going on here?’ I still didn’t realize that they were for me,” he told The Copper Courier. “I was in tears, and I still am.” 

“This is probably the biggest point in my life,” Shuff added. 

A Life of Service

Shuff was born in Indiana and became the oldest of 18 siblings. He joined the Navy when he was 19 and helped the nation transport troops and other people back and forth between countries involved in the war. 

In the decades after the war, Shuff spent time working on various construction projects around the Southwest and volunteering for his local Veterans Affairs hospital. 

Shuff has also cared deeply for the people in his personal life. While he and his wife, who died years ago, had no children, the Millers said they feel like his adopted kids.

“He’s a nice man. He’s one of the most honorable people,” Eleanor Miller said. “His sense of right and wrong is right there.” 

Butler added that Shuff has touched many people in the union, especially with his longtime commitment. 

truck with window that says "Thank you Chuck World War II vet"
UA Local 469 Plumbers and Pipefitters Photo

“[The Honor Drive] was important so that our locals still have the opportunity to pay our respects to him,” Butler said. “He’s our oldest-surviving World War II veteran.” 

“[Shuff] kept telling me he didn’t deserve this,” Butler added. “He’s a very humble man, always has been.” 

More to Do

Last year, Shuff had wanted to go on an Honor Flight, but he didn’t feel well enough to go. Although the pandemic disrupted his plans this year, he plans to try to schedule a trip again. 

Shuff–known for his ambitious goals–decided a few years ago he wanted either to skydive or ride in a helicopter. After Shuff’s doctor said no to jumping out of a plane, Miller organized a helicopter ride for Shuff’s birthday.

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After completing that bucket list item, Shuff has said he has another mission – he wants to receive his 75-year union pin the same year he turns 100. 

“I feel pretty proud. I’ve got my 65-year certificate and my 70-year certificate hanging in my room here,” he said.

But for right now, he’s going to revel in how the parade made him feel.

“There’s no way to explain it,” he said. “Just fantastic. And I probably won’t be able to sleep tonight, thinking about it.”

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  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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