Monday, February 27, 2012

Most of Life Is Who You Live It With, February 27, 2012

Most of life is who you live it with.
~Robert and Barbara Mesle

Hello Family and Friends,

My Cousin Jimmie. Best wishes to my cousin Jimmie Gower and his wife Cheryl Hazard Gower of Ft. Mohave, Arizona who celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary this past Tuesday on Feb 21. Click here for a picture of them celebrating their anniversary last year.

Cheryl has had some health concerns in the last few months as a result of a growth her doctor discovered last October. Cheryl: "Thank you for your good wishes. For our 43rd anniversary, Jim went golfing for the first time in a couple years and found out that he isn't as limber as he once was. I have to stay home because I'm undergoing precautionary chemotherapy. I don't know what I'd do without my wonderful husband, who has been a saint thru all the aches and nausea. I've lost all my hair, and at the moment look like an owlet that's just getting it's first downy fluff. A real looker!!"

Jim is the second grandchild of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower and the younger brother of Hershell Gower whose birthday was remembered in my last post. After that post I heard from my aunt Thelma Shepard Boyd (on the other side of the family). She wrote that, with a smile, she remembered babysitting Hershell and Jimmie when they were little. (I will leave it to you to figure out how long ago that was!)

My Other Brother Darrell. Happy Birthday today to my younger brother Darrell Shepard. Darrell and his wife Mary Medina Shepard live in Kirkland, Washington near their kids Christopher, Rachel and Patrick. The excitement in their family these days in the upcoming wedding of their son Patrick and his fiance Nicole Haw. The whole family is traveling to Cancun, Mexico next month for a "destination wedding" to celebrate!

The first picture is an oldie taken in San Diego about 1960 and shows my brother Darrell on the right with me on the left. The second picture was taken last month and shows Darrell on the left with their older son Christopher.

Darrell: We are all doing fine for the most part. January and February in Seattle always wear me down -- the absence of sunlight. It actually creates a type of stress in my body and mind. Like a knot in my stomach. For that reason I for one am looking forward to Mexico -- sunshine, blue skies and warm weather. It can't come soon enough.

The performing business is moving right along. Every gig goes well. I just need more of them. Like any new business it takes time to get the word out. It has been an amazing experience playing songs from the "Great American Songbook" for "The Greatest Generation." At every show, when they hear these songs from the 40's they are transported to another time and place. And it brings them such joy -- a testimony to the power of music. So it really strikes me how music holds the key to our past, to memories that have long been dormant in our minds.

After every show I hear comments like, "Those songs brought back such memories..." and they proceed to tell me their stories of where they were when that particular song was popular. And every story is interesting. Stories they haven't thought of in years. Decades! Yes, I believe music is powerful magic.
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Monday, February 20, 2012

Smiling (Or Not) As the Years Go By, February 20, 2012

There is nothing in all the earth
that you and I can do for the Dead...
They do not need us,
but forever and forever more
we need them.
~President James Garfield

Hello Family and Friends,

Greetings to all of you, wherever you may be, from San Diego California on this President's Day holiday.

Yesterday was the birthday of my cousin Hershell Gower, the oldest grandchild of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower.

His parents are the late Hendrix Gower and Starlene Bass Gower. Of my 6 cousins on the Gower side of the family, Hershell is the first born. He came along during the second World War, just about a year after the first of the Gowers moved to San Diego from Oklahoma, a move that took place in 1942.

I have not been in touch with Hersh much in many years, so I was pleased to run into his son Shaun on Facebook recently and get his father's phone number. In a phone conversation with Hersh the other day, he told me that he has lived in Bullhead City, Arizona for about 3 years now. He keeps busy working a few jobs each week and enjoys the warm dry weather of Arizona and the laid back lifestyle with his wife Shelly.

The first picture (above) shows Hershell at 60 years old on the right with his father Hank Gower in the middle and his grand mother Nola Shannon Gower on the left. This picture was taken in 2003 on the occasion of Nola Gower's 100th birthday celebration in Anacortes, Washington. How often does a 60 year old have the opportunity to celebrate with their GRANDmother on her birthday?

The second picture was taken in San Diego in 1951 and shows a young Hershell on the right with his young grandmother Nola Gower. The other two in this picture are also grandchildren of Nola Gower: my brother Gary Shepard is on the left; my sister Linda Shepard is the baby in the middle.

Today, February 20, is the birthday of my uncle Terry Boyd of Gallup, New Mexico. He has been a member of our family ever since he and my aunt Thelma Shepard were married back in 1958. After a number of years living in San Diego, they moved to Gallup, New Mexico where they live today.

Thelma tells me that Terry is dealing with a number of health concerns these days, including diabetes and C.O.P.D., as well as the need for knee replacement surgery. They are going back and forth from Gallup to the V.A. in Albuquerque for his various treatments and doctor's appointments. Terry's daughter Kim Clark tells me that Terry can't walk too well so they don't get out much, but he is feeling a lot better since they got 60 lbs of fluid off of him. In other news from Kim's part of the family, she tells me that her daughter-in-law Desiree is feeling a little better. She is now 5 months pregnant with their twins, who are still doing just fine and growing as they should.

The third picture shows Terry Boyd on the right, with his daughter Kim Clark in the middle, and Kim's father-in-law Gabriel Ortiz on the left. Thanks to Kim for this picture which was taken in April, 2011.
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Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Valentines Day! February 13, 2012

In family life,
love is the oil that eases friction,
the cement that binds closer together,
and the music that brings harmony.
~Eva Burrows

Hello Family and Friends,

Greetings to all of you on the eve of Valentine's Day. Tomorrow will be a day to remind us that love is what families are all about, at least when we are at our best. In the back of our minds we know that families are sometimes less than loving, but we celebrate love nonetheless, if for no other reason than to remind us what we strive to be.

Today is the birthday of my cousin Gloria Harrell Watson of Knoxville, Tennessee. Gloria is the sister of Michael and David Harrell, as well as Paula Tuzzolino, whose birthday we celebrated last week. She is also the granddaughter of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. Her mother is Vicki Gower Johnston of Oak Harbor, Washington.

Gloria was born and raised in San Diego, where she graduated from Hoover High School. San Diego is where all my Shepard and Gower cousins were raised back in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Gloria moved to Tennessee over 30 years ago and has lived there ever since.

The first picture shows Gloria with her grandmother Nola Shannon Gower. Gloria: "Thank you so much for the picture because it means a lot to me! You are correct that it was taken in the early 90's, in Knoxville, Tenn. in the house Bill and I owned. We were on my back patio and the dog's name was Cookie. Grandma, Bill and myself had just come back from having dinner at the Red Lobster. Marge (Grandma's friend) drove her from San Diego to Tennessee and dropped her off for a visit with us. Thank you for such a precious memory."

Happy Valentine's Day tomorrow! The following family photo presentation for Valentine's Day is an updated version from the one I shared with you last year. It includes people of all ages from various parts of our family, all of whom seem to really like each other! (If the following does not play correctly, select this link.)

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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Gower Family Now and Then, February 7, 2012

Family means
nobody gets left behind,
or forgotten.

~from the movie "Lilo and Stitch"

Hello Family and Friends,

Greetings to all of you from Alameda, California where Cindy and I are visiting with our kids Nathan and Chenda and our grandkids Preslea and Logan.

Today is the birthday of my cousin Paula Harrell Tuzzolino, who, with her husband Frank Tuzzolino, lives in Sun Lakes, Arizona. At least they live there at this time of the year. In the warmer months they spend most of their time at their home in Oak Harbor, Washington. Paula's mother is my aunt Vicki Gower Johnston of Oak Harbor. Happy Birthday to Paula!

Paula has one daughter, Heather, who, with her husband Sean Cotton, live in San Antonio, Texas. They are the proud parents of Paula's two granddaughters, Victoria and Alexandria. I mentioned in this blog a few months ago that Alexandria ("Lexi") was born just this past September and is the newest Gower descendant.

Speaking of the descendants of my grandparents Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower, I made a terrific find online while researching my Gower ancestors. I came across the picture of, and information about, the grandparents of Paula's (and my) grandfather Leroy Gower. Also named Leroy Gower (1854-1909), he and his wife-to-be Ellen Taylor (1855-1906) were children during the Civil War, and then married as teenagers in Arkansas in 1872. Leroy was originally from Izard, Arkansas, while Ellen Taylor was originally from Alabama. 

For most of their married lives they lived in the area around Mountain View in Stone County, Arkansas (just south of Izard - but you knew that, right?). Stone County is where they raised their family, including sons George William Gower, who was my great grandpa, and his brother Leroy Monroe "Babe" Gower (yet another Leroy). Stone County is also where most of our Gower ancestors lived for several generations. My grandparents Leroy Ertin Gower and Nola Shannon were born in Mountain View at the turn of the 20th century, but left as young adults in 1925 for Oklahoma, and then moved on to San Diego, California in 1942.

The second picture I am including shows my GGgrandparents Leroy Gower and Ellen Taylor. The source from whom I received this picture claims that "this is the oldest known picture of any Gower in Arkansas." The looks in their eyes, their clothing, the quality of this image, and the setting all suggest a very old photograph. I could find no date for this remarkable photo, but both these folks died in their early 50s in 1906 and 1909, respectively. A good guess as to when it was taken would be sometime in the 1890s, perhaps earlier.

The following is a lineage that includes Leroy and Ellen Gower and continues through Paula Tuzzolino and our youngest Gower descendant Alexandria Cotton.
  • Abell Gower (from Gloucester, England, dates and wife unknown), the father of...
  • Abell Gower (1640-1689) who married Jane Hatcher (1640-1710), the parents of...
  • Abel Gower (1690-1780) who married Mary (unknown maiden name), the parents of...
  • John Gower (1721-1800) who married Rosemond Fielding (1699-1759), the parents of...
  • Thomas Gower (1741-1815) who married Mary Robertson (1730-1816), the parents of...
  • Matthew Gower (1762-1853) who married Susannah (unknown maiden name), the parents of...
  • Abel Gower (1800-1870), who married Rachel Rebecca Lay (1800-1860), the parents of...
  • Jackson W. Gower (1831-1902), who married Mary Anderson (1832-1912), the parents of...
  • Leroy Gower (1854-1909), who married Ellen Taylor (1855-1906), the parents of...
  • George Gower (1873-1944), who married Serena Turner (1876-1931), the parents of...
  • Leroy Ertin Gower (1899-1974), who married Nola Shannon (1903-2004), the parents of...
  • Victoria Gower (b. 1933), who married Jerry Kerr (b. 1930), the parents of...
  • Paula Harrell (b. 1951), who married Bruce Robson (b. 1949), the parents of...
  • Heather Robson (b. 1976) who married Sean Cotton, the parents of...
  • Alexandria Cotton (b. 2011)
This 15 generation lineage is the longest lineage that I can conjure up anywhere in our family tree. 14 of these generations are American born folks, which I find truly remarkable.
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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

In The Bleak Midwinter, February 1, 2012

This is my family.
I found it, all on my own.
It's little, and broken,
but still good. 
Yeah, still good.
~from the movie "Lilo and Stitch"

Hello Family and Friends,

Greetings to all of you from San Diego, California on the eve of Ground Hog Day! We have had unseasonably warm weather here, even for us. It may be bleak midwinter in some places, but temperatures near 80 degrees have been our lot in recent days. I know it has been quite a different story for some of you, as the following will attest.

Surgery for Cathrina Clark. Our love and warmest wishes go out to Jerry and Cathrina Clark. Just yesterday Cathrina had back surgery in Lubbock, Texas. Jerry tells me "the surgery went great. Many prayers were answered. She is in pain but in very good shape."

Cindy Shepard. Tomorrow, Feb. 2, is the birthday of Cindy Dillon Shepard, my brother Gary's wife. Cindy and Gary live in Western Washington, near the town of Oak Harbor. They have lived there since 2003 when Gary retired in San Diego and they moved to the great Northwest. After a fairly mild beginning to winter this year, they have recently seen lots of rain and wind and some ice and snow.

This has not been a healthy start to the new year for Cindy. A few weeks ago she was quite ill with Colitis, and was even hospitalized for a short time, requiring time off from her job. She has no sooner recovered and gone back to work, when she took a nasty fall on the ice and broke her arm and sprained her ankle. It was not a simple break, but a very painful one that will incapacitate her for some time. The doctor tells her she will be off work for at least a month, maybe two. In the midst of all that we wish her a speedy recovery and offer her Happy Birthday wishes!

The first picture shows Cindy with her husband Gary in a picture that was taken last summer at the Shepard Family Reunion in Anacortes, Washington. Some of the reunion attendees can be seen in the background, including Jerry, Darrell, Pat, Chris, Nicole, Linda, Logan and Maida.

Flashback 31 years for the second picture. It was taken in San Diego in 1981 at the home of grandma Nola Shannon Gower who is on the far left. In the middle are Gary and Cindy Shepard, with our son Nathan on her lap. That is me on the far right, back in the days of big hair and big glasses.

"Destiny of the Republic." I don't often review books in these blog posts, but I do want to recommend a book that I read recently. Many of us who have Shepard, Davis or Kilpatrick blood also have a connection to the Church of Christ or the Christian Church. One of the most famous people of this religious tradition was our 20th President, James Garfield, who was assassinated early in his presidency, 130 years ago. Garfield was not just a member of what was called the "Restoration Movement", he was an active minister, as well as the President of one of our church colleges, before his call to politics. He was also from Ohio, the home of many of our Davis and Shepard ancestors.

"Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President" (2011) by Candice Millard, tells the story of Garfield's murder, its effect on our nation, and the unique time in history when it occurred. It is an excellent work of non-fiction that is at the same time heartwarming, heartbreaking and eye opening. The author's scholarship is remarkable to go along with her ability to write a work of history that reads like an exciting mystery novel. You don't have to share Garfield's religious affiliation to appreciate this astounding American story. Anyone with a love of family, a heart for America, or even a slight interest in history will find this a memorable read. I heartily recommend it.
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