Willliam Robert Schaffner

February 29, 1936 ~ November 11, 2022 (age 86)


William Robert Schaffner, age 86, of Ovid, NY passed away at Cayuga Medical Center on Friday, November 11, 2022.

He is survived by his loving wife of 63 years Marianne, known to everyone as Mimi; their children, Donald (Kristin) Schaffner and David (Brigitt) Schaffner; grandchildren, Nathanial (Danielle) Schaffner, Zachary (Ashley) Schaffner and Emily Schaffner. Bill was preceded in death by his parents, and three half-brothers Edgar, Donald and Gordon Schaffner.

Bill was born on February 29, 1936 in Winthrop, MA and was the son of the late Charles and Lena (nee Bowker) Schaffner. As a young man he was an enthusiastic artist, photographer and builder of model aircraft.

He graduated from Winthrop High School in 1953 and worked several local jobs before serving his country in the US Coast Guard from 1954-1957. After leaving the Coast Guard, Bill enrolled in Houghton College and joined his parents who had retired to Fillmore, NY. It was there that he met Mimi, who was teaching First Grade at Fillmore Central School.

Bill and Mimi married in 1959 and moved to Glastonbury CT in 1961 where Bill continued his education at the University of Hartford.

Bill graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Hartford with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1964. He began graduate studies at Cornell University in 1964 and was elected to the Phi Kappa Phi honor society of Cornell University in 1966. Bill was awarded a MS degree (1966) and PhD degree (1971) from Cornell University where he studied with Dr. John P. Barlow.

Bill spent his career at Cornell working as a Lecturer and Research Associate where he taught limnology and studied the zooplankton and phytoplankton in ponds and lakes of NY state. He held appointments in the Department of Natural Resources, the Section of Ecology and Systematics, and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology throughout his career.

Bill was an expert in the taxonomic identification of zooplankton and phytoplankton. Although he retired from Cornell in 1998, he had a microscope at his house and continued to count zooplankton and phytoplankton in water samples for colleagues at Cornell.

After retirement Bill volunteered on the board of the Interlaken Historical Society. He loved doing crossword puzzles and sudoku. He was a keen bird watcher and kept up his counting skills by counting boats, cars and bicycles as they passed by his porch.

Bill had a lifelong interest in boats and was a sustaining member of the Nautical Research Guild.

Bill was an avid stamp collector and was a member of the American Philatelic Society for more than 50 years.

A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions in Bill’s memory be made to the SPCA of Tompkins Co., 1640 Hanshaw Road, Ithaca, NY 14850. The family would also like to express their appreciation to the staff at Cayuga Medical Center for taking such good care of Bill in his final days.

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