Afton Rose (Hjelm) Schafer

June 21, 1925 - July 12, 2020


Afton Schafer of Tacoma, Washington, passed away peacefully at Swedish Hospital in Seattle on July 12, 2020.  She was born in Firth, Idaho on June 21, 1925, the daughter of Gustav Henry and Dolphia Cecilia (Peterson) Hjelm.

Afton grew up on the family farm in rural Idaho, and attended school in Firth, from where she graduated in 1943. That same year she was baptised at the Lutheran Church in Firth.  During Afton’s years in high school, her talent as a musician was nurtured by experiences singing in the high school and church choirs as well as playing clarinet in the school band.  Upon her graduation, she moved to Seattle to live with relatives and work at the Boeing factory to support the wartime effort of building planes for the U.S. military during World War II.  In 1944 she enrolled in Pacific Lutheran College (PLC) to study music and education.  Wonderful memories of her time at PLC included her singing in the Choir of the West, under the direction of Gunnar Malmin, as well as being selected for the Girls Trio.

At PLC she met the love of her life, Delbert (Del) Schafer, and they married on June 5, 1948 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Parkland. Their three sons, Brad, Craig, and Kevin, were raised in the Midland/Parkland area where Afton and Del served as educators in the Franklin Pierce School District.  In addition to raising three young boys, Afton taught music, kindergarten and Grade 6.   Her former students at Midland School recall her care, commitment, and determination for them to succeed. Throughout her years in education she continued to support musical activities by serving as the director of the Junior Choir at Trinity Lutheran Church.  Afton was also a dedicated supporter of the many  Franklin Pierce High School basketball teams that were coached by her husband Del.  After retiring from teaching, she enjoyed attending activities at church and traveling to places around the world including visits to her relatives in Sweden.  She enjoyed volunteering to support activities at her alma mater Pacific Lutheran University and to assist with local charities.  

Afton loved family time with her husband Del and three boys at their Midland home, as well as summer days at Hidden Cove on Hood Canal where many of their close friends also summered. As an active member of Trinity Lutheran Church for 70 years, she was able to regularly connect with her friends, former colleagues, and the PLU community,

From humble beginnings on a farm in rural Idaho during the Great Depression to participating as a student musician at PLC, and thereafter as a dedicated educator, she always believed in the potential of others, especially her students and her own sons. She was passionate about life and always kept strong, with hope, through her Christian faith.

Afton was preceded in death by her parents, brothers Russell, Rex and Henry (Hank), and husband Delbert (d. November, 2019).   She is survived by her sons Bradford of Bend, Oregon; Craig (Lisa, and grandchildren Talia and Torin) of Seattle; and Kevin of Muscat, Oman; sister Joanne Fielding of Idaho Falls; and numerous nieces and nephews.

A private graveside service will be held on Tuesday, July 21, at 10:00 a.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church Cemetery, 13600 – 8th Ave South in Tacoma (Parkland).

Memorial donations may be made to Trinity Lutheran Church, Parkland, 12115 Park Ave S, Tacoma, WA 98444.


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Al Pfiffner Recent comment authors
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Al Pfiffner
Al Pfiffner

Afton is in my thoughts often. As a first year teacher at Midland in 1971, she help me find my way. I always will remember her for her help and understanding during those times. We spent 11 years as partners and I will always appreciate the fact that treated me as an equal. Please know that she and Del and the rest of the Schafer family are in my prayers.