Thursday, April 27, 2017

Important Memories, April 27, 2017

Families are made in the heart.
~C. Joybell C.

Three very memorable celebrations in our family occur this week.

Beverly Russell Wilk. Today, April 27, is the 78th anniversary of the birth of Beverly Russell Wilk, my cousin who died in 1974 of a brain aneurysm at just 35 years old. Born in Two Buttes, Colorado in 1939. Bev was just a year old when her family moved from Colorado to San Diego in 1940. Her parents Bill Russell and Pauline Shepard Russell, and her grandparents William Shepard and Bura Davis Shepard with their children, were the first members of our family to move to San Diego.

Ever since 1940 -- 77 years ago -- some descendants of Will and Bura Shepard have lived in San Diego. As best I can tell, that is longer than any place that our Shepard ancestors have lived.

Tomorrow, April 28, is the birthday of my father Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) and my grandmother Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004).

The first picture I am including today shows my dad Gene Shepard with his niece Beverly Russell Wilk in the 1950s, alongside the El Cajon Blvd Church of Christ in San Diego, which was the family's church at the time.

Dad was born in 1921 in rural Logan in Beaver County, Oklahoma, the third of the four children of William Shepard and Bura Davis Shepard. Just before World War II he and his family moved to San Diego, where he lived the longest part of his life, nearly 40 years. In 1978 he and wife Maida retired to Anacortes, Washington where they made their home until his death in 2003.

Gene and his mother-in-law Nola Shannon Gower were born on the same day of the year, 18 years apart. Interestingly, the other birthday person this week, Beverly Russell Wilk, was born 18 years after my dad Eugene, almost to the day.

Nola Shannon Gower was born April 28, 1903, the last of the 9 children of Sam and Finetta Shannon. In 1925 she and husband Leroy Gower moved to Okemah, Oklahoma. Then in 1942 they moved with their three children to San Diego, just two years after the Shepards had also moved to San Diego from Oklahoma. It wasn't until the Shepards and the Gowers had settled in California that they met each other. That occurred in 1943 when my mom and dad, Maida Gower and Gene Shepard, met each other and were married in 1945.

The second picture was taken in 1962 at the Gower home on Lynne Street in East San Diego. From left to right are Leroy and Nola Gower, Maida (holding son Russell) and Eugene Shepard. In front is Starlene Gower next to Barbara and Darrell Shepard.

This week of the birthdays of these three -- Beverly Wilk, Gene Shepard, and Nola Gower -- is a time to celebrate three well loved and much respected people in our family tree. I am thankful for the life and family legacy of all three of them.

In a special way, I celebrate my father and my grandmother today in the very place they spent the last years of their lives. At the Shepard home on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes, Washington.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Spencer Connection, April 24, 2017

The family --
that dear octopus
from whose tentacles
we never quite escape,
nor ever quite wish to.
~Dodie Smith

Greetings to all of you, family and friends! The Shepard's Crook is coming to you today from Anacortes, Washington where I happen to be this week while visiting family here. In particular I am catching up with my siblings Gary and Barbara, and my mom Maida Shepard, the senior member of our Shepard clan.

I received an email recently from my cousin Kim Boyd Clark who said that she and her husband Jeff visited Spencer, Indiana last weekend with her mother Thelma Shepard Boyd. They were there ostensibly to do some shopping, but they also chose to make it something of a genealogical trek. 

I am reminded of how important that little town is in the history of our family, in particular the Davis part of our family. My grandmother Bura Davis Shepard was born there in 1896 and lived there for the first 16 years of her life until her family moved to Beaver County, Oklahoma in 1913. Her Davis family had been settled in Indiana since about 1850 when her Great Grandparents Alexander and Jane Davis migrated from Monroe County, Ohio to Morgan County, Indiana.

Thelma Boyd, Kim Clark
When Kim, Jeff and Thelma visited Spencer recently, they went to the New Union Cemetery just outside Spencer. That Cemetery is next to the location where the New Union Church of Christ once stood, the home church for dozens of our Davis and Spear kinfolk in the second half of the 19th century. Indeed some of our kinfolk were members of that congregation until 1957 when the church finally closed its doors.

The first picture shows Thelma and Kim in the New Union Cemetery at the grave of Alexander Davis and his daughter Elizabeth Davis Carter. Six years ago several of you who are readers of this blog shared in an effort to replace the 144 year old headstones for Alexander and Elizabeth. The remnants of those headstones are on either side of Thelma and Kim. Select this link to read more about the new headstones.

This picture also shows that headstone that honors Alexander and Elizabeth Davis, who were among our first ancestors in Morgan County, Indiana and among the founding members of the New Union Church.

Many thanks to Thelma, Kim and Jeff for sharing this picture of their visit to Spencer and being a reminder of how important this little town is to the history of our family.

Bud Davis and sisters
Speaking of Davis kinfolk, I also heard recently from Bud Davis, a first cousin of my late father Gene Shepard. Bud's father Jesse Davis was the brother of my Grandmother Bura Davis. Bud recently posted on Facebook a picture of him and his 4 sisters. There was a fifth sister, Becky Davis, who passed away a few years ago.

Bud identified his sisters for me: Front row, left to right, are Jessie Bushong, Charlotte Taylor, and Nordeen Cochran.  Kathy Villanueva is in the back with Bud. All the sisters live in Bartlesville, Oklahoma except Nordeen who lives in Spearman, Texas.

Thanks so much to Bud for this picture. Select this link to view a wonderful Davis family video that Bud put together recently which includes a number of historic images.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, April 10, 2017

Happy Sibling's Day! April 10, 2017

Siblings are the people we practice on,
the people who teach us about fairness
and cooperation and kindness and caring, 
quite often the hard way.
~Pamela Dugdale

Today is Sibling's Day. Sibling relationships are usually the longest relationships a person will have in their entire life, often longer than the relationship a person will share with either of their parents. My relationship with my older brother Gary has lasted the entire 68 years of my life. And when it is all said and done that relationship will probably be the longest lasting relationship of my life.

I am grateful for the siblings with whom I have shared life for all these many years. This first picture shows me and my 4 sibings in a photo from 1983. From left to right are Barbara, Russell, Darrell, me and Gary. This picture was taken in front of our parents' home on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes. 

With my mother's advancing age and growing health concerns, the past year has been more difficult that any other in the life of my siblings and me. The challenges have been many as we have made our way through the struggles that have resulted from our mother's advanced years and the need to care for her in the best way possible. It has drawn us together, but it has also tested our mettle as siblings. Through it all I remain humbly grateful for the brothers and sisters I have been blessed with.

Jerry Clark. I am also grateful today for Jerry Clark of Lubbock, Texas. For one short year long ago, he was married to my late sister Linda (1950-1971). But for 46 years now he has remained a brother in heart within our family. Last Saturday was the 11th anniversary of Jerry and his wife Cathrina Clark. Best wishes and "Happy Anniversary!" to both of them.

Rachel Shepard. Happy 30th Birthday this Friday to my niece Rachel Shepard of Bothell, Washington! Rachel is the daughter of my sibling #3, Darrell Shepard and his wife Mary. This second picture taken a few months ago, shows Rachel with her son Kellan.

A Fascinating Pair of Siblings. One of the most interesting pairs of siblings in our family was William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915) and his brother Frank J. Shepherd (1860-1950). They were the only children of our Great Great Grandparents William and Mary (Sprague) Shepherd. 

The father of these siblings, William Shepherd, died in the Civil War in 1862 when Frank was just 1 1/2 years old and the younger William was just 5 months old. Mary Shepherd, after just 3 years of widowhood, married a fellow by the name of William Ragsdale, in Montgomery County, Indiana where she had been raised. 

The only problem was the widower Ragsdale already had 9 children, which meant that suddenly brothers Frank and William had to share their mother with their 9 new step brothers and sisters. Their mother Mary then gave Mr. Ragsdale 3 more children, increasing the new blended family to a whopping 14 kids.

The following graphic is a snippet from the 1880 U.S. Census which lists siblings Frank and William Shepherd as step-sons in the household of William and Mary Ragsdale. It also lists 6 of the 12 step-siblings of Frank and William. 

Frank seemed to do pretty well growing up in this new living arrangement, but young William didn't. About 1880, when he was an older teen, he had had enough of his family -- his mother, his one biological brother, his 12 step siblings, his step-father, all of them -- and he left home in anger, never to see them again. We don't know what exactly caused him to leave. One family story has it that young William and his step father simply could not get along. So before they even reached adulthood, the brothers Frank and William were separated, at William's initiative, and were never reunited. 

Frank ended up settling in Marshall County in Northeast Indiana, where he became a long time US Mail Carrier, and died in 1950. William Elmer went to Illinois, where he married Elvira Owen and with her had two children, William (my Grandfather) and Sadie. In 1905, with his new family, William Elmer moved on to Beaver County, Oklahoma where he lived the rest of his life. He died in 1915 and is buried in Beaver County's Sophia Cemetery.

For some reason, as the years went by, Frank used the spelling "Shepherd" for his last name, while his brother William used the spelling "Shepard." Why would these two brothers -- children of the same parents, who grew up together -- choose different spellings for their last name?

It's a very curious question that may never be answered. The fact of the matter is that Shepard and Shepherd were commonly used variations of their last name. In the mid 19th century attention to correct spelling was simply not as common as it is today. The Civil War record of the father of Frank and William shows his last name as Shepard, but on the same form it lists Shepherd as a possible alternate. And remember this: from the time they were babies Frank and William were the only ones in their entire family who had the last name Shepard or Shepherd. Even their mother Mary used her second husband's last name Ragsdale for the rest of her life. 

The time came in each of the boys' life when they had to choose for themselves how they wanted to spell their last name. It is possible that young William Elmer, when he angrily left his family, deliberately chose the spelling "Shepard" as a way of distinguishing himself from his Indiana kinfolk, and in particular his brother Frank. What we know for sure is that Frank consistently used the spelling "Shepherd" for the rest of his life, while his brother William consistently used the spelling "Shepard". The latter is, of course, the way the last 6 generations have consistently spelled our last name, ever since 1880 when young William separated from his family in Indiana.

Frank and William's curious story is filled with adversity and sadness but also hope. They were a unique pair of siblings in our family and are worth remembering on this "Siblings Day 2017."
- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Day The Lord Created Hope, April 3, 2017

The day the Lord created hope
was probably the same day
he created Spring.
~Bernard Williams

Nathan Shepard's Birthday. Today, April 3, is the birthday of our son Nathan Shepard, who was born in San Diego on this day 40 years ago! He lives today in San Diego and works for Wells Fargo Bank. He is the father of Preslea, Logan and William. 

For Nate's birthday this year I decided to do something a little different photo-wise. Since daughter Preslea's birthday was just 8 days ago, the above YouTube photo presentation consists entirely of pictures of Nathan and Preslea, which span the last 7 years. Best wishes to Nathan for a very happy birthday!

Happy Birthday Ciara! Tomorrow, April 4 is the birthday of Ciara Ortiz. Ciara is the oldest of the 5 children of Jeremy and Desiree Ortiz of El Cajon, California. She is also the oldest grandchild of my cousin Kim Boyd Clark who lives with husband Jeff in Grain Valley, Missouri.

This second picture was taken several months ago and shows birthday girl Ciara Ortiz on the right with her younger sister Ashlyn. Best wishes for a very happy 15th birthday to Ciara and her entire family as they celebrate with her!

Birthday wishes to Jimmie Gower. April 4 is also the birthday of my cousin Jimmie Gower. I have not been in touch with Jimmie much in recent years but I did have a conversation with him not long ago. He and his wife Cheryl are doing well and still happily retired in Fort Mojave, Arizona on the Colorado River, not far from his older brother Hershell Gower who lives in nearby Bullhead City. Jim was born in San Diego in 1944 and was raised here. He is the second of the 12 grandchildren of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. Best wishes to Jim for a very happy birthday.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Best Is Yet to Come, March 23, 2017

Forget the past;
look forward to the future,
for the best things are yet to come.

Happy Birthday to my brother Gary Shepard of Oak Harbor, Washington. Born in 1946, Gary is the first of the 6 children of Maida and Eugene Shepard. He was born and raised in San Diego and lived there until 2003 when he and his wife Cindy moved to Western Washington to be near our aging parents. Today Gary and Cindy live in Oak Harbor, Washington. He is one of the primary care givers for our mother Maida Shepard who lives in nearby Anacortes.

The first picture above was taken last week when I was in Washington visiting Mom and our family there. This particular photo was taken on the deck of Mom's house on Wildwood Lane, during a break in the spring rains we were having. Our mother Maida Shepard is on the left with three of her children: Gary, Barbara and me. Gary and Barbara are especially helpful in caring for mom at home these days.

Gary is the third of the 12 Grandchildren of our Grandparents Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. Interestingly he is also the third of the 12 Grandchildren of our other Grandparents William and Bura Davis Shepard.

The second picture is an oldie, taken in San Diego in 1980, 27 years ago. It shows Gary on the left, his wife Cindy on the right, and his Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower in the middle. This picture was taken at Grandma Gower's home on Lynne Street in East San Diego. She was 77 years old at the time, just a few years older than Gary is now.

Best wishes to Gary for a very happy birthday!
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!, March 17, 2017

May you have the hindsight to know where you've been,
The foresight to know where you are going,
And the insight to know when you have gone too far.
~Old Irish Blessing

Happy Saint Patrick's Day Today! Best wishes to those of you of Irish descent, which includes most who are in our family tree. The Irishness of us Shepards and Gowers is one of the best things about us!

Happy Birthday to Kaylan! Birthday wishes go out this Sunday, March 19, to Kaylan Shepard who turns 18 this month! Her picture is on the right. With her auburn hair, green coat and beautiful smile, she looks very Irish and could be our family's poster person for Saint Patrick's Day! 

Kaylan is the daughter of my cousin Dane Shepard and his wife Cindy of Blanchard, Oklahoma. Born in California in 1999, Kaylan has spent most of her life in Oklahoma. She is the last of the 21 Great Grandchildren of William and Bura Davis Shepard.

Finetta Dearien Shannon. One of the most important family strains of Irish descendants in our family tree is the lineage belonging to my Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004). I have written about Grandma Gower's celtic ancestry numerous times in this blog, including herehere and here.

Grandma Gower's mother Finetta Dearien Shannon was a native Arkansan who experienced a difficult past that has been remembered through the years and is still remembered today because it was so troubling. In view of the conflict we have been having in our family these days, it might be helpful to take a detailed look at this part of our family history. 

My Great Grandmother Finetta Dearien Shannon (1861-1960) was born 156 years ago this week. She was the child of Augustus Marvin Dearien and Mr. Dearien's own step-daughter, a teenager named Roena Norton. Finetta's father Augustus Dearien compounded his grave error by causing the disappearance of his step-daughter Roena after she had given birth to his child. 

Sam Shannon and Finetta Dearien Shannon

We don't know exactly what became of Roena. Not long after Finetta was born, Roena simply disappeared, never to be heard from again. One family legend has it that her step-father caused her death in some famous local caves, probably the nearby Blanchard Springs Caverns. Another legend says that she was simply taken away never to return. In recent years I have tried to locate Roena in the genealogical records available to me from the mid 19th century, but to no avail. 

Roena's daughter Finetta was raised by her Grandmother Elizabeth Mitchell Dearien and her unscrupulous father Augustus Dearien. It was an unpleasant situation that caused a great amount of contention, heartache and conflict and was one of the most embarrassing domestic developments ever in our family. 

The US Census records for the period from 1830 to 1880 tell an interesting story about Finetta and her incestuous father Augustus Dearien.

The 1830 US Census shows the family of 16 year old Augustus Dearien living in Virginia, in a household that reported owning 4 slaves. It may have been in that household that the teenager Augustus Dearien learned that some people were not to be valued, but were simply to serve the needs of the head of the household.

The 1860 US Census (taken 9 months before Finetta was born) lists Augustus and Elizabeth Dearien and their family living in Richwoods Township, Stone County, Arkansas. The child Roena J. is listed as being 20 years old (which may have been inaccurate). The Census was taken in September, 1860, just about the time Roena became pregnant with Finetta.

snippet from the 1870 U.S. Census

The 1870 US Census (a snippet from which is seen above) indicates that the Deariens were living in Sylamore Township in Stone County, Arkansas at the time. One of the children of this family is named "Mitchell Dearien" and was 8 years old, which would have been Finetta's age. This may be a reference to Finetta. The other family members are listed with their ages. Could it be the family gave 8 year old Finetta the name "Mitchell"? Mitchell was Finetta's Grandmother's maiden name, and was the last name given to Finetta in the 1880 Census, 10 years later (see next paragraph). 

snippet from the 1880 U.S. Census

The 1880 US Census (a snippet from which is seen above) shows the Deariens still living in Sylamore Township in Stone County, Arkansas. This listing only shows father Augustus M., mother Lucinda, and one child, 18 year old "Vinettie Mitchel." Vinettie is surely a reference to Finetta, whose grandmother's maiden name was Mitchell. The information given to the Census taker was that this 18 year old was not one of the children but was simply a "boarder." Finetta is not even afforded the privilege of being a member of the family!

It is a sordid and tragic story that comes together when looking at the history of Finetta and her incestuous father. It was a situation that made for conflict, unhappiness and embarrassment, much of which has continued through the years. But the good news is that the ill-born Finetta went on to make a good life for herself with husband Sam Shannon, in the very community where she was born and raised. The last of the 9 children born to Finetta and Sam was my grandmother Nola Shannon Gower. 

This historical survey in the last few posts of conflicts in our family has been interesting to say the least. Whether it helps in dealing with our present squabble remains to be seen. If nothing else it reminds us that we are all too human and susceptible to dissension. The fact of the matter is that conflicts sometime come our way, the important thing is how we choose to deal with them.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, March 10, 2017

An Inheritance Dispute, March 11, 2017

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.
~Albert Einstein

Birthday Wishes to Steve and Russ! Happy Birthday this coming Monday to my brother Russell Shepard and his son Steven Paul Shepard who were born on the same day of the year, March 13. Russ turns 55 and Steven turns 27 on Monday. Russ is originally from San Diego, while Steven Paul was born in Anacortes, Washington, which is where they both live today.

This first picture takes us back a few years. It was taken in the year 2000 and shows my brother Russ on the left next to his son Steven Paul at just 10 years old. On the right is Russ' father Eugene Shepard.

Happy Birthday Jerry! This coming Tuesday, March 14 is the birthday of Jerry Clark. Jerry and his wife Cathrina live in Lubbock, Texas. Jerry has been a part of our Shepard family ever since he and my sister Linda Shepard were married in 1970 when they were students at Lubbock Christian University. 

This second picture shows Jerry Clark with Linda on the left in August, 1970 when they were married. On the right is my wife Cindy and me. This picture was taken in San Diego in front of the Shepard family home on Armstrong Street.

An Inheritance Dispute. In my last post I made reference to a family dispute that occurred among our Shepard kinfolk some 140 years ago. Central to that particular crisis was my Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard. It was that same William Elmer Shepard who is tied to another conflicted time in our family several decades later, a squabble that has some surprisingly similarities to the problems we are encountering today. 

When William Elmer died in Oklahoma in 1915 after almost 30 years of marriage, his wife Elvira Owens Shepard (1865-1931) was just 49 years old and still had a lot of living to do. After just 3 years of widowhood, she married Calvin Williams, a handsome young neighbor in their farming community of Logan, Oklahoma. Cal was 17 years younger than Elvira, and just 6 years older than Elvira's SON William Shepard. 

Cal's family had come from Missouri around the turn of the 20th century and settled in Beaver County, Oklahoma and the county immediately to the south, Lipscomb County, Texas. Cal was a bit unusual. As a single man he farmed a parcel of land in Logan Township within Beaver County and made a good living for himself. He was a member of the South Flat Church of Christ in nearby Elmwood which was where he met the Shepard family, including Elvira. It was Cal's first marriage, when in 1918 at 37 years old he tied the knot with the widow Elvira, who was a 54 year old grandmother of 4 at the time.

Elvira spent the last 13 years of her life with Cal Williams. She died in 1931 at 66 years old when Cal was just 49. I have always found it a little odd that when Cal buried his wife Elvira he gave her a beautiful headstone, but he misspelled her first name, spelling it Alvira rather than Elvira. Click here to see a picture of her headstone. Interestingly, less than two years after Elvira's death, he married yet another older widow, Francis Pearl Huffman Phinney, and spent the rest of his life with her.

When it came time to settle Elvira's estate there was a question over who should inherit her property, her children William Shepard and Sadie Shepard Pruett who had lived on and worked the farm with their parents for many years, or Cal Williams, who had met and married her later in life. 

With this post is a picture, taken in Oklahoma in 1930, that shows what appears to be a happy Shepard and Davis family gathering, with the dapper Cal Williams on the far right, and his smiling wife Elvira Owens Shepard Williams the second from the left. Others pictured here include Elvira's son William Shepard, his wife Bura Davis Shepard, and other members of the Davis family.

Within a year or so of this picture being taken, Elvira died and the family splintered over the inheritance issue. It became a contentious and drawn out conflict, which was not settled until 1937, 6 years after Elvira's death, by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. They ended up ruling in favor of her second husband, the dapper Cal Williams. Clearly this did not settle well with her children William Shepard and Sadie Shepard Pruett who had initiated the lawsuit in the first place. (Click here for a website that details that historic case.) To them it must have appeared that Cal Williams took advantage of their older mother Elvira by marrying her simply to get her property.  

Some 50 years later, when my dad told me this story, it was still a matter than bothered him and caused him some consternation. It was yet one more family squabble that has been remembered for generations. It reminds us that conflict is nothing new in our family, even if the pain and disappointment seem to be novel and unique. Will we learn from our family's history or keep allowing family squabbles to take their toll? 

- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, March 03, 2017

The Runaway, March 2, 2017

Peace is not absence of conflict,
it is the ability to handle conflict
by peaceful means.
~Ronald Reagan

Happy Birthday Kerri! Today is the birthday of Kerri Shepard Aquiningoc of Weatherford, Texas. Kerri is the oldest child of my brother Gary Shepard and Jackie Enderle Perry. Kerri was the first grandchild of my parents Eugene and Maida Shepard. I still remember what a joy it was for my parents when Kerri was born. She actually came into the world in Walled Lake, Michigan where her parents were living at the time. But within months they moved back to San Diego where Kerri was raised. Kerri has two daughters, Lyndsey and Mandi, and two grandchildren, Kambree and Karver. Best wishes to Kerri as she enters the last year of her 40s! 

Lyndsey and Kerri Aquiningoc
The first picture shows Kerri Aquiningoc with her older daughter Lyndsey.

We've been having an unsettling family squabble in the Northwestern part of the family these days. As a result I have been thinking about other times when there was conflict in our family. In my lifetime we have been, for the most part, free from the kind of conflict that is troubling us today. And for that we can be grateful. But looking at the larger historical picture of our family there have been some doozies over the years when it come to squabbles in our midst. 

The Runaway William Elmer. We have clear evidence of a serious family conflict that took place over a century ago, during the years following the Civil War. It was more painful and destructive of our Shepard family back then than what we are dealing with now. 

My Great Great Grandfather William Shepard died in the Civil War in 1862, leaving a grief stricken wife Mary Shepard, and two young sons, Frank and William Elmer, both in diapers. Just three years later the widow Mary married a widower living in Montgomery County, Indiana. Her second husband was William Ragsdale, who was 23 older than her, and already had 9 children. Into that family Mary brought her two young sons who were just 3 and 4 years old. In the ensuing years she gave birth to three more children by Mr. Ragsdale. Frank and William Elmer Shepard were raised in the household of this blended family, but when they became teens conflict arose. Before even reaching adulthood William Elmer ran away from home never to return. 

We don't know the details of the problems that lead to William Elmer breaking the family apart. We do know that it was a difficult time socially and economically in the rebuilding years following the Civil War. We also know that it was challenging family to begin with: 14 total children from two different marriages, spread out over 35 years. Frank and William Elmer were the only two of those 14 who were not fathered by Mr. Ragsdale and therefore did not have his name. The grieving widow Mary Shepard was alone with her two baby sons after her husband died. When she married Mr. Ragsdale she was suddenly the mother of 9 other children, and in the following years she was pregnant three more times. Imagine the stress of that blended family situation! It must have been incredibly intense and difficult for her.

Bura and William Shepard, William Elmer's son

The family story my father told me was that William Elmer could not get along with his step father and felt the need to leave and stay away for the rest of his life. It is interesting to note that the teen William Elmer also had his differences with his own brother Frank, who chose the spelling "Shepherd" for his last name, while William Elmer chose the spelling "Shepard", which we all have unquestioningly used ever since the young man William Elmer separated from his Indiana family.

Mary Shepard Ragsdale outlived her runaway son William Elmer Shepard, who died in Beaver County, Oklahoma in 1915 at just 53 years old. She died in 1919 at 79 years old, in Indianapolis, Indiana where she lived the last 20 years of her life. Tragically there is no evidence they ever reunited after their separation in about 1880.

Family squabbles can lead to great heartbreak that lasts for many years. The fact of the matter is that families have long memories. Serious conflict is remembered for generations because of how much pain it brings. Here I am, almost 140 years later, recalling a conflicted family incident from the 19th century! Memories of this painful incident have been passed down all these years. 

Will we ever learn?

- - -
Steve Shepard

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentines Day! February 14, 2017

How did it happen that their lips came together?
How does it happen that birds sing, 
that snow melts, that the rose unfolds?
A kiss, and all was said.
~Victor Hugo

Happy Valentine's Day today! This is a day for wonderful celebrations of love when we lift up the joy of a simple kiss. This particular holiday could not be more appropriate for our Shepard family these days, because these are difficult times. I'm not talking about political drama. I am talking about life in our family in recent months.

The last year has been one of the most difficult years ever for us Shepards. All families go through periods of difficulty, times when things are tough, and when family relationships experience some strain. All of us can remember occasions when a particular family member was having a hard time, or when someone lost their job, or when a divorce occurred, or when some other stressful situation created strain on the entire family.

But this past year our family has been shaken like never before. My mom has developed some memory issues which have required some reordering of our family life, and it has been difficult as we have sought to adjust. It has led to some challenging conflicts within our ranks. For these reasons it seems appropriate to share the following video. We need this. It is about love and affection, which seem to be in short supply right now.

The video below includes some images you have seen before, but most of them are pictures you have probably never seen. The new pictures include a young couple in Texas, some youngsters smooching in Seattle, a grandmother in Oklahoma, lovers embracing in Paris, and much more. All these images show family members doing what they do best: loving one another. Thanks to all of you who made these pictures available and who had the joy of taking them!

As Time Goes By. Let this video be our reminder that Valentines Day holds the key to our future as a family. After all, choosing to love is our only hope. This YouTube video is set to the music of Queen Latifah and Rod Stewart, singing "As Time Goes By."


Show me the love. For the last couple of years I have given a "Show Me The Love" award on Valentine's Day to a member of our family from our past who exemplified love in their life. Yesterday was a day of remembrance for one of our family members who is no longer with us, my cousin Gloria Harrell Watson, who died 11 months ago. 
Gloria grew up in San Diego with the other 11 grandchildren of Leroy and Nola Gower. But she lived her adult life in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she died last March. 

Back in the late 1990s -- some 20 years ago -- when our Grandmother Nola Gower was in her 90s, she had knee replacement surgery. Gloria came to San Diego from Tennessee to be with Grandmother through her surgery. It was an act of love with which I was impressed. So this year the "Show Me The Love" award goes to Gloria, for her generosity of time and expense to travel all that way to be with Grandma Gower in her time of need. It was just one more act of kindness that led to her family's decision to bury Gloria in Greenwood Cemetery in San Diego alongside Grandma Gower.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

"Family Life: Full of Ups and Downs", February 7, 2017

Family life is full of ups and downs,
success and failure
and all kinds of characters...
It's difficult to imagine
anything more nourishing to the soul.
~Thomas More

Happy Birthday Paula. Today is the birthday of my cousin Paula Harrell Tuzzolino. Paula is one of the 12 grandchildren of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. She and husband Frank Tuzzolino live in Sun Lakes, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. Paula and Frank live just a short ways from her mom Vicki Gower Johnston, who lives in a senior group home in Chandler, Arizona. Paula has spent much of her time this winter in Oak Harbor, Washington where she lived for many years. Best wishes to Paula for a very happy birthday! 

This first family picture was taken just 2 years ago and shows Paula and her sister Gloria Watson in Oak Harbor, Washington at the home of their mother Vicki and her late husband Duke Johnston. This picture is also an opportunity to remember Gloria who passed away just 11 months ago, and whose birthday would be next week, the day before Valentines Day.

Phillip Wilk: 1935-2007. I am also remembering Phil Wilk, who was born 82 years ago this week. He was the parent of two young children in 1974 when his wife, my cousin Beverly Russell Wilk, died unexpectedly in San Diego. It was a tragic death that rocked the Shepard, Russell and Wilk families. Originally from Leavenworth, Kansas, Phil lived over 35 years in San Diego but spent his last years in Atchison, Kansas, which is where his partner Frank, his daughter Shannon, and his granddaughter Emma still live today. Phil died in Kansas 10 years ago.

His daughter Shannon told me a few years ago: "Dad LOVED to cook. Watching the cooking shows, and trying new stuff out on us! That's where I got my love of cooking. I also remember many of his stories. Once his oldest sister Paula was getting ready to go out, when silk stockings were in fashion, the kind with the line down the back of the leg. Due to the silk shortage, she would draw a line down her legs, to look like she was wearing them. Dad  would wait till she got half way done, then jump out and scare her, and she would have to start all over again. He would always laugh when he told that one. He had one of those voices that just drew you in and you would listen, calming in a way."

This second family picture was taken in Valley Center (a suburb of San Diego) in 1983, at the home of long time family friends Rod and Violet Ramirez. In the middle in the red shirt is Phil with his children Karl and Shannon in front of him. On the left are Gary and Cindy Shepard, and Bill and Pauline Russell. Cindy and I and Nathan are on the right with my cousin Dane Shepard.

Valentine's Day Pictures, Anyone? Next week I will include a Family Photo presentation for Valentine's Day. Do you have pictures of family members kissing or hugging? I invite you to email them to me so that I can include them in the presentation.
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Steve Shepard