Pastors' Memoirs

Richard Howard Shapland, 1902-1987

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Richard Howard Shapland, the youngest of four children and an only son, was born to Walter H. and Ethel W. Shapland, May 5, 1902 in Amelia County, Virginia.

At a young age Richard moved with his family to Richmond. He received his early education in the Richmond City public schools; however, he dropped out of high school and enlisted in the United States Army Cavalry. At the completion of his enlistment, he returned to Richmond and worked in a local bank.

During his bank employment he received his call to the ministry. Undoubtedly, he was influenced by the life of his grandfather, Richard Howard Shapland, who had served as minister of a sod church on the plains of Nebraska.

Undaunted by his lack of a high school diploma, Richard applied for admission to Randolph-Macon College and was accepted. The lack of finances forced him to drop out with only one semester remaining.

Richard married Annie L. Swann of Richmond on September 6, 1927. Together the newlyweds arrived at their first appointment in Franklin County amid rumors that the new parson was 19 and his bride only 14. Throughout the next 40 years they traveled the length and breadth of the Virginia Annual Conference.

Their first daughter, Frances, arrived with the help of a country doctor in the parsonage in rural Essex County in the early 1930s. The 1930s included tenures in Mathews County where they enjoyed fresh seafood from the scenic Chesapeake Bay, and historic Appomattox County. While in Bedford County in the early 1940s, Richard completed his degree requirements and graduated from Randolph-Macon College, June 9, 1941, the day before their second daughter, Iva, arrived on the scene. From Bedford, the Shapland family moved on to Pittsylvania County. While there, Richard was prevailed upon to accept a long-term substitute teaching position in mathematics in order to fill a void exacerbated by World War II.

A six-point circuit in Dinwiddie and Prince George counties was sandwiched between two appointments at opposite ends of Pittsylvania County. Ann, their third daughter, joined the family during their second term of service in Pittsylvania.

In 1948 the family took up residence in Southampton County, home of some of Virginia's best ham. They continued enjoying ham when they moved on to an Isle of Wight circuit with its parsonage in Smithfield. From Smithfield there was a return trip to Mathews County. They enjoyed the decade of the '60s among the stately James River plantations in Charles City County and in the hills of Covington and Roanoke.

In 1968 Richard officially retired; however, he was not quite ready to quit. He accepted a retired supply appointment at Oilville in Goochland County. The 43-year nomadic lifestyle ended in 1970 when Richard and Annie moved into their first home of their very own in Richmond. However, for the next 15 years, Richard remained very active by filling pulpits for vacationing or ill ministers.

It should be noted that for more than 50 years, Richard attended every annual conference. He was saddened to have to give up the pleasure of meeting with old friends and colleagues when the infirmities of advancing years began to take their toll.

Those who knew him well, both friend and even foe, will remember him for many qualities: his sense of humor, his integrity, his powerful pulpit delivery, his immense energy, his tenacity, his fierce sense of independence, and that which he personally classified as intestinal fortitude.

-lva S. Brown



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