SDPD 10/01/1942 - 11/21/1970
11/09/1915 - 02/19/2002
San Diego Union-Tribune, The (CA) - February 22, 2002

Deceased Name: William Shewbert, 86 spent 53 years in law enforcement 

Even after a 53-year law enforcement career, William J. Shewbert Jr. remained linked to the profession -- by handcuffs.

Each day, after retiring as a U.S. marshal in 1995, he could be found in his Clairemont garage, making handcuff keys as a hobby.

The hobby turned into a full-time job and he provided keys for agencies worldwide.

"It was his love," said daughter Diane Tackett. "It kept his hands right in the middle of law enforcement. Every day, somebody from law enforcement could come by to pick up handcuff keys or just to visit."

Mr. Shewbert, who began his law enforcement career as a San Diego police officer in 1942, died in his sleep Tuesday at his home. He was 86.

A former truck driver and city schools custodian, he passed a civil service test for the police department. Soon, he was assigned to patrol duty.

"You better go out and get a uniform. You're starting tonight at 11," he remembered his interviewer telling him.

His first night -- a shift from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. with two other officers -- was marked by the arrest of a man who was found with eight marijuana cigarettes.

"He got three years. That was big news," Mr. Shewbert told The San Diego Union in 1989.

During the 1940s, Mr. Shewbert led a Boy Scout troop in Mission Beach, developing relationships with youngsters that would last a lifetime.

"He kind of raised us during the war," remembered Seth Aldridge, who grew up near Mr. Shewbert when he was living in north Mission Beach. "Our parents were off making bombers or something, and he and his wife, Margaret, invited us into their home and sort of trained us to keep our mouths clean and be good kids.

"He was a role model. There were a whole bunch of kids he mentored in the '40s and a whole bunch later when he worked with the school safety patrol."

Assigned to the San Diego School Safety Patrol in 1969, Mr. Shewbert developed a bicycle safety program by recruiting students in scholastic key and lettermen clubs to help train younger kids.

He retired in 1970, after working under five police chiefs, and began a second career with the U.S. Marshal Service.

His assignments included distributing and arranging the sale of items confiscated by law enforcement agencies, as well as transporting prisoners.

When he found tools that had been seized by the agencies, he bought boxes for them and distributed them to high school auto shops.

"He also would have signs made and posted at area schools warning kids not to drink and drive," Tackett said.

"In 25 years with the marshal service, he received 18 certificates for special accomplishment."

Mr. Shewbert, a San Diego resident since 1918, was born in rural Texhoma, Okla. He grew up in East San Diego and East Village and delivered the Evening Tribune on Broadway as a youth.

In 1936, two years after graduating from San Diego High School, he married. He and Margaret were married 60 years.

The couple became major supporters of Children's Hospital, donating money on the birthdays of friends, on holidays and in memory of friends who died.

Margaret Shewbert, who died in 1996, was honored with a plaque on the hospital's wall. A place for a similar plaque has been reserved next to hers for Mr. Shewbert, Tackett said.

In addition to his daughter, a San Diego resident, Mr. Shewbert is survived by sons, Bill of Portland, Ore., and Jim of South Lake Tahoe; three grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

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