Twenty-two times, Walter Scheffe took the controls of his plane, the Yokohama Yo-yo, and flew it over World War II China, Burma, India and Japan. His crew’s job was to photograph enemy positions on the ground below, and on Scheffe’s 23rd and final mission, they photographed an event that would change the world.
Under enemy fire, Scheffe and the 10 crew members of his B-29 photographed Hiroshima, Japan, just moments after the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb on the city. As instructed, Scheffe circled the still-looming mushroom cloud, careful to avoid it and the debris field around it. The images they gathered that day provided the world its first pictures of nuclear war and its aftermath.
For many years, Scheffe kept his war stories to himself. Instead, he focused building a career as a pharmacist and enriching his hometown of Enid, Okla.
When he died earlier this year, Scheffe continued that legacy of giving with a bequest of $500,000 to the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. Scheff also left gifts to the Cimarron Council of Boy Scouts, the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy and Enid’s First Presbyterian Church.
“Mr. Scheffe witnessed an event unlike any the world had ever seen,” said OMRF Vice President of Development Penny Voss. “Before his death, he talked about seeing the shadows of the people of Hiroshima as they stood on the ground below him. That scene tugged at his heart. His deep love for people led him to give generously to those in his community as well as those he would never know.”
At 15, Scheffe pedaled his bicycle around Enid delivering prescriptions for the local pharmacy. The job prompted him to pursue a career as a pharmacist. After his military service, he returned to Enid in 1946 and opened the first of what would grow to three Scheffe Prescription Shops, where he personally filled prescriptions for Enid residents more than 60 years. On Wednesday, the city of Enid celebrated the 65th anniversary of the opening of the first Scheffe Prescription Shop with a barbecue at the Cherokee Strip Museum, paying homage to Scheffe and his influence on their community.
“He was a genuine and modest man—the very stereotype of an officer and a gentleman,” said Peggy Rackley, Scheffe’s stepdaughter. “As a pharmacist, he saw many people suffering from illness and especially empathized with those being treated for cancer. He gave generously to the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation because he knew that research was the only way for cancer treatment methods to improve.”
At Scheffe’s urging, the Garfield County medical community held the first mass oral polio vaccine inoculations in 1962. The event was so successful that the model was adopted nationwide.
A longtime supporter of the Boy Scouts, Scheffe donated the building where the current Cimarron Council Service Center stands in Enid. He was awarded the Silver Beaver Award, scouting’s highest volunteer honor, in 1990. Scheffe served on boards of the United Way, the YMCA, Phillips University and the Enid Higher Education Foundation and was named Enid’s Outstanding Citizen of the Year in 1988.
Scheffe also received many awards and special recognitions from professional pharmacy organizations and served on the advisory council for the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy. He was past president of the Oklahoma Pharmacists’ Association and the American College of Apothecaries.
Even when Scheffe retired in 2007, he remained an active member of the community. “Mr. Scheffe was highly respected in Enid, and his passion for helping others was clear, both during his life and after,” said OMRF’s Voss. “It’s wonderful to know that his compassion for people will live on in discoveries for better health for everyone.”