Friday, May 29, 2009

Shepard Family Update, May 29, 2009

A happy family is but an earlier heaven.
-- John Bowring

Hello Shepard Family and Friends,

Cindy and I are enjoying the week with our mothers and my sister Barbara (the "Yayas"), and seeing the sights of San Diego. Where do these octogenarians get all this energy!? What a great week it has been with friendships renewed, as well as visits to major venues like Sea Port Village, Old Town, the Zoo, and Sea World. We also visited some other less glamorous, but equally important places like Greenwood cemetery, where a dozen red roses were just about enough to grace the graves of our dearly departed.

This first picture I am including was taken earlier this past week, and shows the four Yaya's who spent the week together with me as chaperone, security, and photographer, all wrapped into one. From left to right in the picture are Barbara and Maida Shepard from Anacortes, Washington, and Paula Harris and her daughter Cindy Shepard of San Diego. Barbara, Maida, Cindy and I are looking forward to being among those attending the family reunion this summer.

Speaking of family reunion, the time is drawing near for the event July 18 in Newcastle, Oklahoma. It will be a wonderful time to meet family far and near, and young and old, some of whom you may not have seen in a long time, if ever! As I have mentioned before, I solicit any pictures of your particular family group that I can include in a photo presentation I will be sharing at the reunion.

Also at the reunion Dane Shepard will offer a special presentation, which he says will show "the 'lighter side' of the William and Bura Shepard branch of the family. Come and see the 'real story' behind some of those old photos!" I am including a sample slide from that presentation that Dane sent to me. It includes several old pictures of family members. Some of the images are rather small, so you may want to click on the picture to see a larger view. If you can identify all the people in this collage, you are doing better than me!

The final word this week is a sad one. Last week we were saddened by the unexpected death of Cindy's younger brother Joe Paul Harris of a heart attack. Like Cindy, he grew up in San Diego, but for the last 18 years he has lived in the small town of Naknek, Alaska. Our prayers and best wishes are with Cindy and her mom Paula, and their entire family in this time of loss.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Shepard Family Update, May 22, 2009

The dispossessed were drawn west
from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico
...families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out.
Car-loads, caravans, homeless and hungry
...two hundred thousand.
They streamed over the mountains,
hungry and restless - restless as ants,
scurrying to find work to do
- to lift, to push, to pull, to pick, to cut
- anything, any burden to bear, for food."

John Steinbeck
(Grapes of Wrath, 1939)

Hello Shepard Family and Friends,

Greetings to all of you from beautiful Southern California where it feels like summertime and the living is easy. Our son Nathan has just returned -- yet again! -- safe and sound from Cambodia where he was with his fiance Chenda, continuing their (seemingly) never ending adventure to get her a Visa to come to the U.S.

This coming Tuesday is the birthday of Brandyn Boyd, teenage son of Darren and Vicki Boyd of Lakeside, California. Brandyn is the 17th Ggrandchild of Will and Bura Shepard. Pictured at left is Brandyn with his two sisters, Kori and Courtney. Dad Darren tells me that "Brandyn is doing good. He is about finished with his freshman year of high school. Baseball is about over and spring football starts next week." Happy Birthday, Brandyn!

This coming Thursday is the birthday of Rex Russell of Red Rock, Nevada, who is the first born grandchild of Will and Bura Shepard, and the son of Pauline and Bill Russell. Thursday is also the birthday of Rex's daughter-in-law Ruth Styer Russell. She has been a member of our family since she and Eric married in 1993. They live next to Rex in Red Rock. Happy Birthday to both Rex and Ruth!

Rex was born in Two Buttes, Colorado. He, his aunt Thelma, and his infant sister Beverly were young children who made the move to California from Southeast Colorado in 1940 with the others of the Shepard clan. The second picture I am including is a delightful picture of 7 year old Rex and his 4 year old sister Beverly, taken just 3 years after the family had moved to San Diego. Neither these two, nor the three above, look "dispossessed" by any stretch of the imagination! (see quote above.)

When Rex was born, one of our nation's worst natural disasters was taking place in and around Oklahoma and Southeast Colorado -- the severe drought of the 1930s. During a time when 1 in 3 Americans lived on farms -- including most of our ancestors -- the drought was one of the worst in history, and it had a significant impact on our people.

Becky Davis, youngest daughter of my great aunt Milded Davis, shared with me some memories her mother recounted recently regarding a catastrophic dust storm resulting from the drought. The events of this story -- as told by Becky but originating with Mildred -- were experienced by Mildred herself when she was in her early 20s.

In 1934 the "Dust Bowl", as it was called, was underway. My aunt Myra (Davis) and her husband William Kilpatrick and their 3 children decided to leave Two Buttes, Colorado, where the family lived, and go to Chowchilla (in the Central Valley of California), because William had relatives there. My dad Jesse Davis had asthma, and since the blowing dust made his condition worse, he and my mom Mildred went from Oklahoma to Colorado to go with the Kilpatricks to California.

They built a 'house' on the back of a truck. In that 'house', William, Myra, their 3 children, Mom, Dad and their daughter Jessie, plus Grandmother Callie Davis, and an 18 year old neighbor of William's, ate and slept and rode to California. When they arrived, they set the house in the yard of their relatives in Chowchilla, while Dad and William used the truck to do hauling to make some money.
The following May, mom was heavy with their second child. So Dad bought a car and they returned to Oklahoma. One week later Oklahoma was hit with the worst of the dust storms, on what came to be known as 'Black Sunday'. Mom and Dad (Mildred and Jesse) had gone home with aunt Esther and her husband Perry after church that day at the South Flat Church of Christ. When the storm hit, they all took shelter in the basement. Esther thought the world was coming to an end and started crying, which made all the children cry. The world did not end, of course. Instead, just a few weeks later, my sister Charlotte was born.

This next image is from an old family photo. On the back is written: "April, 1935, Two Buttes, Colorado." It shows the ominous look of an approaching dust storm.

The Dust Bowl prompted the largest migration in the history of the United States. Several hundred thousand people fled the economic disaster it created and moved to California, the (supposed) land of opportunity at the time. It prompted the writing of John Steinbeck's classic novel The Grapes of Wrath. The migration was such that for several months in the mid 1930s, the Los Angeles police department sent officers to the state border to turn away Oklahoma migrants. For a period of time the situation was not unlike the Mexico-U.S. border problem today!

Will and Bura Shepard were among the many Oklahoma families ("Okies") who became Californians. But as Mildred's story reminds us, they were not the first to move to the west coast, even among our own relatives. Were it not for the economic conditions created by the Dust Bowl, the Shepards' might never have moved to San Diego in 1940. And many of us who are now native Californians, might be living in Oklahoma or Colorado or Texas. Interestingly, a number of our family, after 50+ years, have migrated BACK to Oklahoma and Texas, in some instances for the very same reasons that some of our people left there in the first place: in search of a better life.

Speaking of going back to Oklahoma... are you making your plans for our family reunion July 18 in Newcastle, Oklahoma? We hope many of you will be able to join us!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Shepard Family Update, May 15, 2009

Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere
where individual differences are appreciated,
mistakes are tolerated,
communication is open,
and rules are flexible --
the kind of atmosphere that is found
in a nurturing family.

-- Virginia Satir

Hello Shepard Family and Friends,

This is such a busy birthday time for our family that I am having trouble keeping them all straight! I mentioned last week that Jason Shepard's birthday was yesterday, but I was mistaken. Jason's birthday is actually this coming Monday, May 18. Happy birthday, Jason!

Instead YESTERDAY was the 25th Birthday of Christopher Robert Shepard and deserves special mention. Chris is the 10th Ggrandchild of Will and Bura, and is Darrell and Mary Shepard's first born. He lives in Kenmore, Washington, a suburb of Seattle.

Happy Birthday this past Monday, May 11, to Jacinta (Cindy) Shepard. This Cindy Shepard -- one of 3 in our family! -- is Dane's wife, Nathan and Kaylan's mother, and a native Oklahoman who presently lives in Blanchard, Oklahoma with her family.

Happy Birthday TOMORROW to Darren Boyd of Lakeside, California, who is the youngest of Will and Bura's 12 grandchildren.

Birthday wishes also go to Darren's niece Ashlyn Ortiz of El Cajon, California, this coming Tuesday, May 19. Ashlyn is one of the Ggrandchildren of Terry and Thelma Boyd, and is one of that elite group of 8 GGgrandchildren of Will and Bura Shepard. Mother Desiree says, Ashlyn will be 4 years old. She is in pre-School, and loves it. She is a bright girl and a real "Girly Girl"! She loves to dress up and play with make-up. She is also a "shoe-aholic", lol! Every time we go into a store she needs -- I should say WANTS -- a new pair of shoes! Best wishes to Ashlyn.

The first of the two pictures I am including today (click on the picture to see a larger view) is a collage of images of the birthday folks I have just mentioned. Warm wishes to all of them and their individual families on their special days.

And finally, warm birthday greetings to Elmer Shepard, the elder statesman of our Shepard clan, who turns 92 this coming Wednesday, May 20. Dane emailed me last week and said that he took his dad Elmer recently to visit Elmer's AUNT Mildred (Beck) Davis in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. How often does a 92 year old get to pay a visit to his own aunt!? I hope it made him feel like something of a youngster. A few weeks ago I mentioned Mildred and included a picture of her and some of her family.

Here's what Dane said in his email to me: We had a good trip to Bartlesville. We had a surprise guest, [Aunt Margie's son] Arlen Millikan, who joined us along with Bud and Janet [Davis]. It was great to see Mildred and Dad together [see picture]. She is quite a cut-up and gave us a few laughs. [Mildred's daughters] Becky, Jessie, Charlotte, and Kathy fixed a great midday meal for us. Dad really enjoyed himself although the trip was an effort for him. He's not ready to tackle another one for a while.

Thanks to Dane for this email and for the picture of Mildred and Elmer.

Since I am dipping into my (e)mail bag, let me mention another. I received word recently from one of Elmer's granddaughters, Havilah Reynolds. Havilah is the daughter of Joan Shepard and Art Colgain, and the 8th of the 20 Ggrandchildren of Will and Bura. You may remember that Havilah's father, Art, lost his wife Jill in an auto accident last summer. Here is some of what Havilah said in her email:

Hi Steve, it's great to hear from you. I am living in West Valley City, Utah. My dad lives about 40 minutes down the freeway in Kaysville. He is very involved in the Kaysville Church of Christ. The congregation has been so supportive during this time of loss that I can't even begin to put into words how thankful I am for them.

As for me, my life is where I want it to be. I met my boyfriend Kevin out here in August and we have been together since the day we met. I have so much love and support from Kevin, and his family - it's so incredible. I currently work at a residential program for people with disabilities. I fell in love with the job and realized nursing is where I see myself. I am starting the CNA course this week, and then will be starting a nursing program this fall, if not this summer.

Kevin and I are rock hounds in our spare time. Utah is such a beautiful state and there are some awesome places to rock hound fairly close to us. Our last adventure was out to Topaz Mountain, where, true to its name, topaz can be found. I am setting up an art studio in our house for my painting and drawing. I also write poetry and short stories in my free time. I really love living out here in Salt Lake. It's great to hear from you and to get the family updates.

Thanks, Havilah, for the update on how you and your dad are doing.

Can you believe it? We are just two months from our family reunion July 18 in Newcastle, Oklahoma. We hope many of you will be able to make it, because we anticipate a great reunion! As I have mentioned before, I welcome any pictures of your particular family group that I can include in a photo presentation I will be making at the reunion.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Shepard Family Update, May 8, 2009

And so our mothers and grandmothers
have handed on the creative spark,
the seed of the flower
they themselves never hoped to see
-- or like a sealed letter they could not plainly read.
- Alice Walker

Hello Shepard Family and Friends,

Greetings to all of you on this beautiful weekend of Mother's Day! This coming Thursday is the birthday of Jason Shepard of Fort Worth, Texas, the son of Gary Shepard and the 3rd Ggrandchild of Will and Bura Shepard.

Jason shares a birthday with his second cousin Courtney Boyd (pictured on the right) of Lakeside, California who turns 19 this coming Thursday. She is the daughter of Darren and Vicki Boyd and the 14th Ggrandchild of Will and Bura. I received a note from Courtney recently who said... I'm doing well, and my family is well too. Yes I'm still a waitress going on three years now. I go to Grossmont College in La Mesa Monday- Friday and I'm going to school to be a nurse... someday. :) For now I just plan on staying in school and working and seeing where life takes me.

May 14 also happens to be the birthday of Courtney's grandmother Thelma Shepard Boyd of Gallup, New Mexico. Many happy returns of the day to each of them!

This is Mother's Day weekend! I am sure I speak for others in our family in saying to all our mothers that we love and appreciate you very much. Some of the mothers we are thinking about this weekend are no longer with us, of course, and we remember them with great affection, and honor them for the many ways they "handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves never hoped to see."

I am including a photo presentation of the mothers of our family. Click on the link below to see the presentation, or if that does not work you can select this link.

Family Reunion Update: Plans for our Family Reunion July 18 continue to take shape. Dane Shepard, our host for the event, wrote me recently with some new details.

First of all, this will be a great opportunity to meet members of the family for the very first time or to see dear ones we haven't seen in a long time (too long for some). It will be wonderful to renew memories of the past together and make new ones for the future.

This may also possibly be the last opportunity to see some of our family due to age or distance. The major reason I volunteered to host the reunion was because of my dad, Elmer, who will be 91 this May, Lord willing. Since he can't travel any great distance because of his health, this is a way for him to see everyone while he's still able. Also, some of the Davises will be joining us. Since many of them do not live too far away, this will be a chance to connect with them.

Will there be any entertainment? Yes, indeed! Along with Steve's presentations and slide show, the Shepard Quartet (Dane, Cindy, Nathan, and Kaylan) will perform two numbers in the Latin and Blue Grass styles (how's that for variety?). Also, I will be presenting a slide show of the "lighter side" of the William and Bura Shepard branch of the family. Come and see the "real story" behind some of those old photos! You never know who might be featured so we'd love to see you in person and not just in the pictures! In addition, there will be a short movie I made in 1969-70 featuring friends and family members. Kim Clark will have a game or two for us to join in, so there will be plenty of fun.

As for the food, a local BBQ restaurant will provide a choice of brisket or chicken with sides. Plenty of deserts and drinks will be available too. I appreciate everyone giving thought to coming. For those who can't make it, we will certainly understand and remember them.

Be sure and let Kim or Dane if you will be attending the reunion so we can plan for food and other arrangements. We hope everyone can make it!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Shepard Family Update, May 1, 2009

No matter what you've done
for yourself or for humanity,
if you can't look back
on having given love and attention
to your own family,
what have you really accomplished?

-- Elbert Hubbard

Hello Shepard Family and Friends,

A friend of mine recently shared the following story with me that I want to pass on to you.
At a restaurant a while back, I overheard a conversation between a mother and her children. They were getting ready to drive over the Sierra Nevada mountains to Tahoe for the first time.

“After lunch, we’ll have to stop and buy some chains,” the mother said, making conversation as they waited for their food.
“Why do we need chains?” her young son Andrew asked.
“We’ll have to put them on when we get into the snow.”
“Snow!” the little boy said, filled with excitement.
“Probably a lot of snow,” the mom reassured her delighted child.
But then the boy became curious. “But, why do we have to put on chains?”
“It’s the law, and it will make us safer.”
“Chains?" The young child was getting concerned. “Will it hurt?”
“No, of course not. We’ll have someone put them on for us.”
That still didn’t satisfy the young boy. He was struggling. There was silence.
Mom was starting to realize what was going on. “Andrew, do you understand that the chains will go on the tires of the car?”
“On the CAR?” A huge sense of relief came over the child.
“Yes, on the car.”

And with that, mom gave her child a big hug. The family had a laugh over it. All was okay. The trip could continue in a most delightful way. Without the youngster and the rest of his family having to wear chains.
Have you ever noticed that families are places where misunderstandings arise? Of course you have. I have too. And because of that, families -- at their best -- are also places where love and attention are given.

Speaking of misunderstandings, I received an email this past week which let me know how badly I misunderstood a family celebration that was held recently. The email was from Becky Davis, daughter of Mildred (Beck) Davis of Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Mildred (see a picture of her) is the sister-in-law of my grandmother Bura Davis Shepard, and the last surviving member of her generation within our family. Happy Birthday to Mildred, whose 98th (NOT 99th) birthday is today. Here's what Becky said in her email to me:

Good to hear from you, Steve. We enjoy reading your updates on family that we have lost touch with over the years. I remember when Beverly and her family and Will and Bura came to the farm when we lived in the Boise City, OK area and later Beverly and I corresponded for awhile. When we moved to Calif in '58 she came to see us in Tracy.
We had Mom's birthday celebration [last Saturday] on the 25th because we had conflicting plans for the next Saturday. She will only be 98 instead of 99 on May 1. I think she held up having 45 people around better than her daughters did. She was still ready to play chicken-foot that evening. Sunday morning she seemed to have as much energy as usual and attended services.
Daughters Jessie Bushong and I live here and care for Mom. Nordeen Cochran lives in Spearman, Texas and is here for a week. Charlotte Taylor lives about 2 miles from us, and Kathy Villanueva lives about 5 miles away. Her son Bud will be in and out for 2 weeks. Mom has enjoyed having all 6 of her children here.

Besides 6 children, Mom has 22 grandchildren, 50 great grands, and 25 great, great grands. Most live in Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas. We are all looking forward to the visit from Dane and Elmer on the 5th of May. Thanks, Steve for keeping memories alive. ...Becky Davis

The first picture I am including (above) is a picture of Dane Shepard with 4 of Mildred and Jesse Davis' children, taken recently when Dane was in Bartlesville for a visit. Standing, left to right are Jessie Bushong, Becky Davis, and Kathy Villanueva. Seated is Charlotte Taylor.

The second picture I am including was taken in 1968 and shows Bura Davis Shepard with her 6 siblings in front of the South Flat Church of Christ in Beaver County, Oklahoma. Upper left in the white hat is Bura Davis Shepard, and upper right is Mildred Davis' husband Jesse Robinson Davis, who died the following spring. Partially hidden in the back is Lawrence Davis. The other sisters are Winona, Myra, Margie and Esther.

These 7 children of James Brooks and Caroline Davis (see a picture of them) represent quite an impressive legacy today. Bura herself accounts for 44 direct descendants (of which I am one) with at least one more on the way. Brother Jesse, according to the numbers above, accounts for 103 descendants! If you add up the descendants of the other 5 children, God only knows what the total would be! 500 or more, I am guessing. (I've lived in towns smaller than that!) Actually, making a list of all the descendants of James and Callie would be a great project for someone. Who'd like to take it on? I wonder if it could be done by the time of our family reunion this July?

Speaking of the family reunion, it will take place Saturday, July 18 in Newcastle, Oklahoma, a few miles south of the OKC Airport. In next week's post Dane Shepard will give a detailed update on the planning so far. As I have mentioned before, I am putting together a Photo Presentation for the reunion and would like to have pictures of each family unit, including as many descendants of James and Caroline Davis as possible. Please email digital images to me, or, if you have photographs, send me an email and we can talk about what we might do.

In the meantime, have a wonderful May Day!