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Friday, September 1, 2017

William George Shuster, Aug. 23, 1946, - Aug. 30, 2017


People in the watch and jewelry industry knew Bill Shuster as someone who never accepted a gift from a watch brand. People who were closer to him knew him for his overwhelming generosity. 

What people are less likely to talk about was his passion, because it was such a part of his entire being. This makes his integrity as a professional journalist and his overall goodness sound less like a cliché and more like someone who is rare in this world. 

Bill and I worked together for nine years at JCK magazine and then kept in touch as he was passionate at keeping all former and current JCK employees in the loop with emails and phone calls and in his prayers. He was deeply religious. 

His integrity and dedication as a journalist could never be questioned. I worked with plenty of reporters who went to the proper schools and thought they were something special. They could never hold a candle to Bill. We worked in a cube farm so we could often hear one another and we were always amazed at how many ways Bill would ask a question until he was able to pry the proper answer out of the person. And he could do it in English, German and French—although he's insist that he wasn’t fluent in French—which is another trademark of Bill: His overwhelming modesty. But he did like to publicly acknowledge others. 

We occasionally shared the same flight to trade shows. Once leaving the airport together in Las Vegas I noticed he was carrying a small vintage American Airlines bag over his shoulder while pulling a large blue hard-shell suitcase. I was admiring his carry-on bag when he nonchalantly mentioned that it contained all his clothes (for a weeklong tradeshow) and the big blue suitcase was empty. It was dedicated for press kits. I have no doubt as he left Las Vegas that blue suitcase was bursting at the seams. I’m also sure he read all the materials and stored it somewhere in his house, which was overwhelmed with his research. I know this because his cubical in our King of Prussia office was packed to the brim with stuff. When our office moved to New York instead of tossing his books, magazines, files and whatever he collected, he took it all home. 

Yes he gave gifts and cards on special occasions. My wife, Maria, and I always looked forward to the authentic German strudel he would send by mail on Christmas. But what he was most generous with was his knowledge; and it was encyclopedic on just about any subject imaginable. He loved movies and art and literature and history and travel, and could spend hours passionately discussing the most obscure references on these topics. If I was working on a story and asked Bill a quick question about it, his answer would take 15 minutes discussing every aspect of the problem. Once I wanted quick help on how to phrase a question, and he shot back 30 different ways to approach it in a minute. Then we had another conversation that lasted for 15 minutes. 

We found ourselves seatmates on a flight to Frankfurt, Germany, a few years ago and we talked the entire time—no sleep and no regrets. 

He was proud of his German heritage and blamed his Scottish blood for being frugal and he was frugal. We would try to meet and have dinner each year at the Baselworld trade fair. We went through great pains to find a place that suited his budget in one of the most expensive countries in the world at one of the most expensive times. We finally found a cafeteria-type place about a mile from the fair. 

His frugality and his integrity as a journalist could be summed up in this story. He covered the luxury watch world and the only watch that he ever owned (to the best of my knowledge) was a Mickey Mouse watch. One time a CEO of a Swiss luxury brand offered to give him a proper timepiece, no strings attached. He refused. 

My favorite Bill Shuster story was the time he was attacked by a goose. It was almost tragic but it turned out to be costly, inconvenient and in the end, humorous. For reasons unknown a goose decided that the best place to have her nest was at the parking lot of our office building. To protect her eggs she would occasionally confront random cars in the parking lot as they were coming and going. Bill was well known as a speed demon. Leaving work he tore out of the parking space as he always did and before getting to the road the goose attacked his car. He was startled, veered off the road and rode up a curb and embankment. He damaged the front axle and underside of the car. He told the story while smiling the entire time.

Bill struggled with diabetes for as long as I’ve known him but he never complained. His illness in recent years was affecting his eyesight but still I don’t think anyone knew how sick he was and he was the kind of person who wouldn’t want anyone to worry about him. He lived with and was devoted to his mother who died just few years earlier in her nineties. 

Recently he critiqued a story I wrote suggesting that I may overstated a position. He then started translating Swiss newspapers, sending them to me, providing more information on the story as it was still unfolding. It was a lot of work on his part and he continued doing it even though I told him I couldn’t follow up on this. He said he liked doing it and wanted me to have it. 

Bill was a lot of things. He was a first-rate journalist. He was deeply religious. He was erudite. He was modest. He was persistent and insistent at times. He was eccentric. He loved to travel. He had great warmth and a sense of humor. He was a fast driver. He had health issues. He was much more complex than I could ever express. All of this was enhanced by his great passion for life. 

Most of all, he was generous. He gave more of himself to us than any of us ever gave to him. 

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