DJ 'Doc' Shey

With Dr. DJ “Doc” Shey, there was a right way to do just about everything: How to carry a scissors (blade down); how to clean the kitchen (fast); how to end an evening during Lent (with the rosary in the tv room); how to exit the supper table (may I please be excused?); and how to treat the elderly (with respect).

There was a right way to live a life, too: be a benefit for others. Over and over through the course of Dr. Shey’s life, that’s what he did.

Daniel Jeremiah “Jerry” Shey was born during a blizzard on Easter Sunday, April 17, 1927, to Daniel Edward and Bertha Cruise Shey in Atlantic. His mother entered him in the Iowa State Fair Babies’ Health Contest (Entry #319). He grew up in Montgomery County, the oldest of four boys, and attended country school. His parents encouraged him to work hard. By age 10, he started helping the neighbors. As a young boy, whenever he heard an airplane overhead, he’d run outside to find it in the sky. Jerry looked forward to trapping season. He targeted skunks, 'possum and civet cats. One of his regrets in life was not learning to trap coyotes at age 75 instead of 85. After graduating from Red Oak High School in 1945, he joined the U.S. Navy. He served on a destroyer, part of the Fifth Fleet in Japan.

During many summers, he worked from Oklahoma to the Canadian border of Montana, shocking, threshing and running a combine that harvested small grain. In September 1947, when he was tiring of the work, his mother sent a telegram to him in Scoby, Mont.: Why don’t you think about going to school? Some of the guys are doing that here on the GI Bill.

He hitchhiked home and enrolled at Iowa State University (1948-1954) on the GI Bill.

Dr. Shey moved to Algona in 1954. Dr. Winkel hired him out of veterinary school and gave him the best piece of advice: “Save a dollar a day.” On December 17, 1955, a misty, windy, blustery day, Dr. Shey married West Bend native Jean Lois Balgeman at St. Cecelia’s Catholic Church. The couple raised their six children on a cattle, corn and bean farm. The family loved taking drives together in the countryside with Dr. Shey as their guide. Childhood stories from southern Iowa and anecdotes of veterinary calls were a part of the Shey household. He once announced, "A tree ran into my pickup today. Son of a gun."

His wife stopped and stared. "Jerry. Honestly."

He chuckled. “I feel awfully sorry for that tree.”

Another windshield cracked on his red pickup.

It was not unlike Dr. Shey to work pancake dinners, to sweep floors at the KC Hall, to drop off a box of meat for a grieving family, to visit an elderly farmer, to send a few dollars to a mission in Nome, Alaska. He made time for people. He never minded someone dropping by. Dr. Shey liked "wrassling" (wrestling), coconut cream pie, strawberry milkshakes, reading the Wall Street Journal, and his wife’s cooking. He, along with his wife, helped found the Camp Algona POW Museum. Dr. Shey practiced veterinary medicine for 39 years. He never foresaw the industrialization of the hog industry.

Dr. Shey was known as an optimist, an encourager of people, a giver. To the boys at the sale barn, he’d say, “That’s OK, boys, it could be worse.” To anyone at his table, “Eat up; it won’t be any good next week.” Understanding the relative importance of things, he’d comment, “In 20 years, it won’t make a difference” and the family favorite, “The only thing constant is change.”

A week before he died, Dr. Shey declined his chocolate milkshake until Ed Elbert, his former hired hand, was given half. The two men, milkshakes in hand, ate their Easter Sunday dessert on the front porch in silence. Then, Dr. Shey and his wife took a drive in the countryside he knew so well.

Dr. Shey died on Saturday, April 27, 2019, a day of sleet and snow, in Algona. It was his home for 65 years. He is survived by his wife, three daughters, three sons, six grandsons and three granddaughters. He was preceded in death by three brothers.

Looking back at his life, Dr. Shey was most proud of his family.

“Try to keep in mind,” he said about adversities, “that there is a God, and he’s good to all of us.”

A funeral Mass was held Wednesday, May 1, at St. Cecelia Catholic Church, Algona. Burial was in Calvary Cemetery with full military honors conducted. Oakcrest Funeral Services of Algona is in charge of arrangements.

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