Robert J. Shepfer dead at 96

September 21, 2016

Robert J. Shepfer, 96, of Indianapolis, Indiana, died May 26. Born July 25, 1919, in Defiance, Ohio, he attended Wittenberg College, now University, Springfield, Ohio, and the American Conservatory of Music, Chicago, Illinois. At Wittenberg, he studied with E. Arne Hovdesven, and at American with Frank Van Dusen. He met and studied with Marcel Dupré during the latter’s visits to Detroit, Michigan, in 1957 and 1961, and studied again with him in Paris in 1962 and 1964. As a recitalist, he performed throughout the Midwest and the East Coast.

He was organist-choirmaster for Forest Park United Methodist Church of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and the First Presbyterian Church of Royal Oak, Michigan. From 1966 until 1996, he served as organist-choirmaster for Second Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis. At Second Church, he developed an extensive choir school program, with many ensembles having a waiting list to participate. The choirs frequently traveled the Midwest to present workshops and clinics. Early in his tenure, the Aeolian-Skinner Organ Co. installed its Opus 1490, a four-manual instrument in the church, finished in 1968. In 1974, Casavant Frères, Limitée, installed its Opus 3239, a two-manual organ in the chapel.

Robert Shepfer is survived by his wife of 66 years, Rosa Dene Shepfer, his daughter Susan David, son Graham Shepfer, and granddaughter Rosa Dene David. A memorial service was held August 6 at Second Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis.