Former Meramec student shares journey of homelessness

Posted on 10 December 2015 by admin

For him, chess is more than a game

Staff Writer


Intelligence is often associated with beauty, but beauty so many times relates to the wealthy, successful or prominent. Beauty and a beautiful mind comes in the form of an 83-year-old homeless man named Garry Shaffer, who goes by “Lyov.”Homeless Meramec man

His life is on display on a chessboard. The value of this beauty, this beautiful mind, does not come in the form of fancy clothes or expensive accessories. It comes in the form of moving a pawn to H5, a knight to F6; the value is in its simplicity. This simplicity is the way he copes with a very troubled life, he said.

“Chess is a puzzle, a hobby and what I love to do,” Shaffer said. The former Meramec student sleeps on cardboard, rides a broken-down bike and carries every possession he owns with him. Yet, regardless of the circumstances, chess stays his constant, Shaffer said. People come and go, but to him, chess

always stays the same.

His appearance and lifestyle are not an accurate indication of the story he has.

Shaffer wears a faded black leather jacket on top of a light gray sweatshirt, showing his support for the Chicago White Sox. His long white hair falls next to an unshaven face. One minute, he speaks rapidly whereas moments later he may shut down and focus his attention solely on the chess board. Shaffer’s days and nights revolve around chess, leading him to stay up for days on end.

Homelessness was not always the way things were with Shaffer, he said.

In his prime, he was a basketball player at the University of Missouri-Columbia, also known as Mizzou, before the NBA was created, according to Lyov. He was playing against future pros that would become the building blocks of the NBA, Loyv said. He was born and raised in South St. Louis and was one of the most sought after recruits in the area.

“I was the best shooting guard in St. Louis out of high school,” Shaffer said.

During Shaffer’s time at Mizzou, he entered the Army’s ROTC program, while getting his Bachelor of Science in theoretical statistics.

“The degree that the duds got,” Shaffer said.

He also served as an artillery spotter while he was stationed in Germany during the Korean War. That point in his life is when things began to change.

Shaffer was dishonorably discharged from the Army after assaulting an officer. He was in his early twenties at the time. After that, he spent time doing a number of different jobs and living in different places around the country, Shaffer said. It was not until the 1980’s that Shaffer started to really find Chess.

After that, it became his everything, Shaffer said.

He made friends and acquaintances through the years when attending tournaments around the country. His mind was not enough to save him from homelessness. He sold his home in Brentwood in 2005 and has been homeless for the past decade.

“I am free to come and go and a lot of people envy that,” Shaffer said.


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