Clifton “Tony” Shepard, 60, will forever remain in the hearts and minds of his loved ones and the communities he served.

AFTON– The memory of Clifton “Tony” Shepard, 60, will forever remain in the hearts and minds of the Town of Afton and the surrounding communities.

Shepard passed away on Friday at Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa. He served as president of the Afton School Board, where he dedicated his life to education for approximately 10 years.

A native of Arkansas, Shepard graduated from Fairland High School in 1974. He attended Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College where he graduated with his associate's degree in 1977, then received his bachelor's degree from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater in 1979.

Shepard had worked as a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) County Executive Director (CED) for 33 years in both Ottawa and Delaware Counties. He was also a member of the Wesley Foundation Board, Ottawa County Health Board, the Federal Selective Services Board and was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Miami.

He married his wife Debbie France on Aug. 9, 2008, in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Survivors include his wife and his children Cristina Oakley, Abigail Stanford, Samuel Shepard of Tahlequah, Gerri Satterwhite, Janelle Cordray and Greg Giles. He had eight grandchildren: Gabe Satterwhite, DeeDee Satterwhite, Jaida Giles, Hudson Oakley, Cove Cordray, Haelyn Oakley, Gwinn Giles and Holden Oakley.

A visitation ceremony was held on Monday at the First United Methodist Church in Miami.

Afton Public Schools held services on Tuesday in the high school gym where Reverend Chuck Horton officiated. Interment followed at Mount Hope Cemetery in Afton.

The school has established a Tony Shepard Memorial Scholarship in his memory. The family has asked that memorial contributions be made to the Tony Shepard Memorial Scholarship Fund at First National Bank in Fairland or Miami, or in the care of Brown-Winters Funeral Home and Cremation Service in Miami.

Losing two fellow board members

The Afton Board of Education has taken an unfortunate hit in the past two years with the loss of Shepard and late board member Bill Jacobs, who had passed in October 2015.

Afton School Board clerk, Grant Victor, had known Shepard and Jacobs for several years and described the two men as “the greatest examples of how to serve our community and children.” Victor has served on the Afton BOE for approximately 19 years.

“Both (men) were always adamant that each child was served, whatever their activities and their backgrounds,” Victor said. “They didn't necessarily have to push that agenda, but it was always understood where they stood on those issues. Those two men never attended Afton Public Schools, but were passionate in their love and desire to serve.”

Victor had known Shepard since high school and regarded him as a good friend. He said that Shepard and Jacobs were the paradigms of how mankind should be.

After losing Jacobs to cancer a year before, hearing the news of Shepard's battle with the disease was devastating.

“At a regular board meeting, Tony confirmed that the rumor of having cancer was true, but it seemed that treatment was very manageable and he would be fine,” Victor said. “Tony seemed to be doing remarkably well with the treatments until we received the call that he was gone.

“I had lost two close friends that were so wonderful to their families, churches and communities,” he added. “But was it all lost? These two men have left such a wonderful stamp of what we men should be like and how we should serve others. Only God could take away something as great as these two men, but only provide us with an abundance of blessings. Thank you, Bill and Tony, for your friendship and your service to all.”

Afton superintendent Randy Gardner said that Shepard's death came as a shock to everyone. Shepard and Gardner had known each other since childhood.

Gardner contacted the school board members the morning of his passing.

“We didn’t expect this,” Gardner said. “He was doing really well and going through chemo. Family and doctors were in shock.”

“He was so optimistic about everything,” he added. “At the school’s Christmas program, he told me that there weren’t any signs of cancer cells. They said he started getting sick the day before he passed. I think it just took a turn for the worst.”

Despite his diminishing health, Shepard made an effort to be present at a majority of the school board meetings.

“He was pretty dedicated to his position there,” Gardner said. “He had slowed down, but that’s a matter of not feeling well, but when you looked at him, you couldn’t tell anything was wrong with him.”

Gardner said that Shepard had a friendly personality that will never be forgotten.

“He would crack jokes and was very personable,” Gardner said. “He was a long time FFA Officer in Miami, and he was the head of it for quite a few years before he retired. He had a lot of contacts in the rural area and throughout the community and surrounding areas. He was just a good man.”