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Hingham's Pete Shaw recounts a life of service

Posted by dinouye  August 9, 2011 10:41 AM

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Eugene “Pete’’ Shaw and his wife, Betty, are well known around Hingham, where they’ve lived for many years and worked for such causes as the Lions Club. But many people may not know about Pete’s long and storied history of medical research in the name of his country and in the private sector.

Now they can, since Shaw has released a book about his life, “Up Through the Ranks,’’ detailing his service in the Army, which included seeing action as a medic in the Battle of the Bulge, and his later work helping develop a test for bacterial infection in infants.

He’s not making a lot of money selling the book, because, he said with a laugh, “I’ve been giving most of them away.’’ But whatever the volume does make will be directed toward the Lions Club’s activities, such as its annual funding of the town’s Fourth of July fireworks, and to the local Veterans of Foreign Wars club.

Shaw, who recently celebrated his 86th birthday, grew up in Iowa, and met Betty O’Brien, a Hingham native, when he worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where she was an occupational therapist. They have been married for 55 years.

Shaw worked his way up through the Army ranks, eventually becoming a lieutenant colonel, and spent many years in the medical research profession there. He said he saw the inside of the Kremlin three times during his career, and did hepatitis research at Walter Reed, working alongside colleagues who would eventually become Nobel Prize winners.

He helped free concentration camp prisoners in Germany at the end of World War II, served as a medic in Korea, and in civilian life worked for Johnson & Johnson and Carter Wallace, a pharmaceutical company in New Jersey.

Shaw also worked with state Senator Robert Hedlund to create the Massachusetts Medal of Liberty, awarded to the next of kin of anyone in the military from the state who was killed in action, or died from injuries received in battle.

“It was his idea, he came to me with it,’’ said Hedlund, who as a boy delivered papers to Shaw’s house. “He’s been very dedicated to veteran issues, and active in his community in all ways.’’

And all of it is in his book. Shaw is in the process of writing another, which he joked “will be much shorter, around 25 pages,’’ about his part in helping nine research scientists escape from behind the Iron Curtain.

There is no marketing push for the book, Shaw said, which is not available in bookstores. For a copy, call him at 781-749-2491.

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