Friday, December 26, 2014

A Christmas Birth, December 26, 2014

Joy to the world
the Lord has come,
Let earth receive her king.
~Isaac Watts

Remembering William Shepard. Yesterday, Christmas Day 2014, was the 126th anniversary of the birth of my late Grandfather William Shepard, who was born on December 25, 1888.

Granddad was a unique individual, with endless stories to tell his 12 grand-kids about life in the Midwest and then the Southwest in the early 20th century. He was quite the story teller later in his life -- much more so than any of his children, including my own father -- and loved to recall events from his early years. Whenever he had the opportunity he would reminisce about everything from the spectacular Saint Louis World's Fair of 1904, to the ugly racial conflicts of the Saint Louis area where he was raised, to chasing the renegade Indian Cochise in New Mexico, to making the 1,200 mile journey from Colorado to California in pre-World War II days. He lived a remarkable life, being quite a rambler at times, in ways that made life difficult as a young family man. But he found grounding and direction from his wife Bura to whom he was married for 61 years.

He was the first born child of William Elmer Shepard and Elvira Owens Shepard of Alton, Illinois. Granddad did not know a lot about his Shepard family since his own father had been estranged from his Indiana family since the days of his youth. His mother's Owens family was well established in Madison County, Illinois and there is plenty of information about their place in the history of that particular part of Western Illinois.

As a youth of about 16 Granddad's family moved from Madison County, Illinois to Beaver County, Oklahoma where he met and married Bura Davis with whom he had 4 children, including my father Eugene Shepard. In 1928 William and Bura moved their family to Colorado, and then in 1940 on to San Diego. That's where William's family grew and flourished, and where he died in 1976 just a few weeks short of his 88th birthday. He is buried with his wife Bura in Greenwood Cemetery here in San Diego, alongside several other family members, including their oldest daughter Pauline Shepard Russell. (See first picture of William and daughter Pauline from 1958.)

Pauline Shepard Russell. Speaking of Pauline, this Sunday, December 28, is the 98th anniversary of her birth. She was William and Bura Shepard's oldest child, born in Oklahoma in 1916. She and her husband Bill Russell were my aunt and uncle and were wonderful people who contributed much to the happiness of our family life here in San Diego from the time the Shepards arrived in 1940. Pauline died in the San Diego area 60 years after settling here, and just a few years after uncle Bill. Their direct descendants today are Eric Russell of Red Rock, Nevada, and Shannon and Emma Wilk of Atchison, Kansas.

A 46th Anniversary. Tomorrow, December 27, is the 46th wedding anniversary of Cindy and me. We were married here in San Diego in 1968 by Edwin Kilpatrick, the minister of the Linda Vista Church of Christ, to which my family belonged. Edwin was the logical choice since his family and my grandmother Davis' family had had close ties for several generations, both in Oklahoma and here in California. (By the way, that family connection continues. Earlier this month I bumped into one of Edwin's cousins Richard Indermill who -- surprise! -- lives about a mile from us and who I had not seen in several decades.)

It has been quite a 46 year journey for Cindy and me, from San Diego to Lubbock and then Abilene, Texas and then back to California where we have lived in a variety of places including Los Alamitos, Palo Alto, Dorrington and now San Diego again. I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to have such a wonderful life partner with whom I have shared all these years. Life has never been better for us, with our son Nathan, his wife Chenda and their 3 children close by.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, December 19, 2014

Being Family Is an Instinct, Dec 19, 2014

My mother used to tell me that 
when push comes to shove, 
you always know who to turn to. 
That being a family
isn't a social construct 
but an instinct.
~Jodi Picoult

In my last post I mentioned the birth of our newest family member Mason Michael Shepard, son of my nephew Patrick and his wife Nicole Shepard of Bothell, Washington. In this first week of his life, little Mason has gotten to meet many of his family, including his Great Grandmother Maida Gower Shepard of Anacortes, Washington. Below are two pictures of Maida with newborn Mason. Thanks to Mason's aunt Rachel Shepard for these pictures!

The Homesman. Cindy and I recently viewed the film "The Homesman," starring Tommy Lee Jones and Hillary Swank, which is about the difficulty of life on the American frontier. In particular it the story of 3 women who were simply unable to keep it together mentally as mothers and wives on the lonely, dusty plains of the Nebraska Territory. This is not a "feel good" movie. The ability of Tommy Lee Jones to dance a jig is somewhat amusing, and brought to mind a few times my Grandfather Shepard attempted a soft shoe routine in the style of turn of the century America. But in large part the film is starkly realistic. It is an eye opener in regard to the toll that was exacted on the mental health of families who participated in the westward movement to settle America. Interestingly the country churches that figure into the story receive positive treatment for the way they responded to the plight of women with mental health issues.   

While watching it I was reminded of some of our ancestors' stories of incredible hardships as they made their way westward across the American continent. I could not help but think of my 4X Great Grandmother Lydia Williams (her lineage: Lydia Warford Williams / John Pouty Williams / Margaret Williams Spear / Callie Spear Davis / Bura Davis Shepard / Eugene Shepard / Steve Shepard).

I have written about Lydia before in this blog. In 1813 when a young mother of 4 children (3, 5, 7 and 9 years old), her husband died, probably in the War of 1812 while they were living in a small town in Western Kentucky. Lydia sold their home and the 5 of them moved to the new state of Indiana where they settled. One can only imagine how difficult it was for the widow Lydia amidst the Indians, the wilderness, and the raw frontier they had to negotiate to make a life for themselves in the area around Spencer, Indiana.

While watching "The Homesman" I was also reminded of my Great Great Grandmother Peggy Shannon (her lineage: Peggy Gray Shannon / Samuel Pickens Shannon / Nola Shannon Gower / Maida Gower Shepard / Steve Shepard). I have also written before about Peggy and her husband David Shannon. They lived near New Orleans, Louisiana when husband David was called to serve in the Civil War in 1864. After not hearing a word about him for a year, she made inquiries and discovered that he had died 7 months earlier. Suddenly she was alone with 7 children (from 2 to 16 years old), far from any family, trying to make ends meet on a small country farm in rural Louisiana. Fortunately her brothers and father heard of her desperate plight and took her to live with them in Arkansas. We don't know the depth of the anguish and despair she must have felt, but we know that with help she survived. And her story is now a part of our family's historical drama.

These and other family stories came to my mind because of the film "The Homesman". Somehow amidst all the adversity, they survived and are part of the our rich family heritage. A reminder of the challenges they faced makes us appreciate more the lives we live and the debt of gratitude we owe those who have gone before.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Joy! December 12, 2014

Before you speak to me about your religion,
first show it to me in how you treat other people.
~Cory Booker

Christmas Joy! Congratulations to Patrick and Nicole Haw Shepard of Bothell, Washington on the birth of their second child earlier today. At about 10 a.m. this morning Mason Michael Shepard was born in Kirkland Washington at 7 lbs. 6 oz. and 20 inches long. The birth went just fine with no complications and everyone in the family is relieved and in a celebrative mood.

Mason is the third grandchild born to my brother Darrell and his wife Mary Shepard in the last 17 months. I thought our 3 grandchildren, who arrived over a period of just 28 months, were born in rapid succession. But 17 months is breakneck speed in grandchildren years! Best wishes to Mason's whole family, including his Great Grandmother Maida Gower Shepard, who was there to welcome Mason as her 10th Great Grandchild.

This first picture shows Mason and was taken just a few hours ago, shortly after his birth.

More "Christmas Joy!" Stanley Guy of Dallas, Texas is a second cousin of mine, a few branches over on the family tree. We are both descended from Charles Davis (1848-1926) and Malinda Wright Davis (1847-1820). I have never met Stan in person, nor his husband David, but we have corresponded many times by email and on Facebook. Stan is an accomplished musician and, with four fellow harpists, has recently released a Christmas CD.

Being an afficianado of Christmas music, as well as interested in noteworthy accomplishments of family members, I obtained a copy of the CD. Titled "Christmas Joy" it says it is "beautiful Christmas classics performed by the Harp Essence quintet," of which Stan is a member.
This second picture is from the cover of the CD, and shows Stan on the far left with the other 4 members of the group.

Although I find myself interested in a wide variety of holiday tunes, my favorite Christmas music is contemporary, rousing, and religiously oriented. So I must admit that I was not expecting too much from a Christmas harp collection. But in truth, I found it to be a fine collection of 12 pieces of holiday music that range from "Angels We Have Heard on High" to "Greensleeves" to "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

My favorite piece on the CD is the traditional English folk tune "Greensleeves." That particular melody seems to work very well when interpreted by the strings of the harp. In this collection it is beautifully done, carrying with it all the peace and beauty of Jesus' birth story. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed their interpretation of the french Christmas carol "O Holy Night." That is such a big song I could not imagine harps giving it nearly enough power and dynamic contrast to do it justice. Yet Harp Essence accomplished something special, and with a unique flair was able to make this piece about the night of Jesus' arrival an emotional and satisfying experience.

I found "Christmas Joy" to be just that, a joyful holiday celebration worth listening to, and have gladly added it to my Christmas collection. Kudos to cousin Stan and the Harp Essence Quintet for a job well done.

Stan says, "I'm just proud to be sharing the Davis musical heritage. Music has given me a great deal of joy all my life and I think music lessons were the greatest material gift my parents gave me... People can get information on ordering "Christmas Joy!" from the CD page at our website"
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Something Steady in a Confusing World, December 4, 2014

Family traditions counter alienation and confusion.
They help us define who we are;
they provide something steady, reliable
and safe in a confusing world.
~Susan Lieberman

Tomorrow, December 5, is the 24th birthday of my nephew Patrick Shepard who lives with his wife Nicole and son Logan in Bothell, Washington. Patrick is the son of my brother Darrell and his wife Mary Shepard. Pat is the Administrator of a Health Care facility in the Seattle area. 

He and his wife Nicole are scheduled to welcome their second son into the world next Friday, December 12 at Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland, Washington. Their older son is Logan Joseph Shepard who was born in July of last year. Needless to say Pat and Nicole are staying very busy these days with Pat's full time job, a 16 month old son, and another son due in a matter of days. Happy Birthday and best wishes to Pat and his family!

The first picture, taken this fall, shows Pat with his wife Nicole and their son Logan in costume, as well as one of the family chickens.

Remembering Hank Gower. This coming Monday, December 8 is the anniversary of the birth of my uncle Hendrix "Hank" Gower, who was born in 1922 in Mountain View, Arkansas. He is the brother of my mother Maida Gower Shepard and her sister Vicki Gower Johnston. The second picture shows Hank (in the blue shirt), with his second wife Aurora. Also in this picture are his niece Heather Robson, his sister Vicki and his brother-in-law Gene Shepard. This picture was taken in Anacortes, Washington in 1990 on the top of Mount Erie, with picturesque Mount Baker in the background.

The first of the 3 children of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower, Hank was a young man when he migrated from Oklahoma in 1942 with his family to San Diego which is where he lived the rest of his life and where he died 10 years ago. He was a young child when his parents moved in 1925 to Okemah, Oklahoma where he was raised and where he met and married Starlene Bass. Their two sons Hershell and Jimmie Gower were born after their move to San Diego during World War II.

He was an integral part of our family life in San Diego throughout the second half of the 20th century. Hank retired from Railway Express in San Diego, in addition to owning a card room on University Avenue. He and his second wife Aurora Agnibene lived for many years with his mother Nola Gower in San Diego caring for her in her later years. One of his life long interests was fishing, hence this next picture taken in 1964, showing him at a scenic fishing location, probably somewhere in San Diego area.

Most of Hank's descendants still live in the Southern California area today, including two of his grandsons Shaun and Lloyd Gower and their families. Hank's sons Hershell and Jimmie Gower are retired and live with their spouses in Arizona along the Colorado River. Hank is buried today alongside a number of other Shepard and Gower family members in Greenwood Cemetery in San Diego.

One of my not so pleasant but very important families memories regarding Hank took place 10 years ago. Cindy and I were visiting in Anacortes, Washington where Nola Gower lived at the time, when the family got the news that Hank had died suddenly in San Diego. I had the task of telling Grandma Gower -- 102 years old at time -- that her only son Hank (81 at the time) had passed away. Her response was quick but very thoughtful: "We all have that debt to pay."
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving! November 27, 2014

Thank you for the food we eat,
thank you for the world so sweet,
thank you for the birds that sing,
thank you God for everything.
~a child's prayer

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! Of all the holidays, this for me is the one that is most family friendly. "What about Christmas," you say? We all love Christmas, of course. But Thanksgiving is so much less stressful that it becomes for me a family time that surpasses all others. I hope this day is an enjoyable one for you and a blessing for your family!

Happy Birthday this Saturday to my cousin Kim Boyd Ortiz-Clark of Blue Springs, Missouri. And to her grandson Damian Ortiz of San Diego. And to Kim's Great Grandmother Callie Spear Davis (1865-1951). The first picture shows the three of them side by side. Callie's picture was taken on her wedding day, January 1, 1896. Kim and Damian's pictures were both taken this past summer.

President Abraham Lincoln, like many presidents before him, issued a Thanksgiving proclamation in 1863, during some of the darkest days of the Civil War. Since Great Grandmother Callie Spear was born in the fall of 1865, she arrived a few days after just the third celebration after Lincoln's proclamation. Being the first child of William and Maggie Spear, Callie's birth must have come with great thanksgiving by her parents and family.

There was one other child in their family at the time, Callie's 2 year old half sister Isolena Spear, who was the child of William Spear and his first wife Caroline Williams Spear. This Caroline died in 1863 after the birth of her daughter Isolena, at just 23 years old. Clearly it was a time of great sorrow in the family: there was the Civil War with all its death and dying, there was the death of young Caroline Williams Spear, and there was the widower William Spear caring for his motherless baby daughter Isolena. Sad, hard times to be sure!

Then life turned a corner for these relatives of ours. The widower William married his dead wife's sister Maggie Spear -- a happy beginning in itself -- and then in 1865 the first of their many children was born, Great Grandmother Callie Spear (who was named after her aunt). Callie's birth must have been accompanied with humble gratitude that the sadness of the past was over and happier times were ahead. Ole Abe knew what he was doing to bring Thanksgiving to the forefront in the dark days of 1863.

So on this Thanksgiving Day, we remember Callie Spear Davis, who was born 149 years ago on November 29. This Saturday we also celebrate the birthday of Callie's Great Granddaughter Kim Boyd Ortiz-Clark, and Kim's grandson Damian Ortiz. Kim: "Things have really slowed down with our empty nest and most of our grandkids far away now. I won't be at Chucky Cheese this year for my birthday lol but it will be my first time not with Damian on our birthday. I'll celebrate my birthday with my mom, Jeff, Amanda and Justin, Casey and Kyler."

The second picture above, taken this past summer, shows Kim standing behind Damian in the middle in red. On the far right is Kim's daughter Amanda and granddaughter Ashlyn. On the far left is Kim's mother Thelma Shepard Boyd with Kim's granddaughter Ciara in front of her. Also in this picture, in yellow, is Kim's cousin Shannon Wilk with her daughter Emma in front.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanks for Family Past and Present! November 20, 2014

Let us be grateful
to the people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.
~Marcel Proust

On this week before Thanksgiving, I find myself very grateful for the family that Cindy and I have, in a special way for our son Nathan, his wife Chenda, and their children Preslea, Logan and William. I am also grateful for my siblings and their families and for our wonderful mother Maida Shepard, whose 90th birthday we joyfully celebrated earlier this month.

I am also grateful for babies who were born into our family this year: Kellan Shepard, son of Rachel Shepard and Brian Miller of Kirkland, Washington; and Karver Bearden, son of Lyndsey Aquiningoc and Colton Bearden. The picture shows recent images of Kellan (left) and Karver.

Furthermore, I am grateful for people who married into our family this year, in particular Justin Davis of Blue Springs, Mo. (husband of Amanda Ortiz), and Dee Shannon of Dixon, California (wife of Joan Shepard).

My gratitude also extends to the life Sou Penh of Kampong Speu, Cambodia, who died this year. He was the father of our daughter in law Chenda Shepard. He was known to only a few of us, but will always have a place in the hearts of Chenda and those of us who had met him, and his grandchildren, who never had the privilege of meeting him.

One of the unexpected benefits of doing family research is discovering ancestors who sacrificed so much during their lives, often in ways that contributed to the quality of life that we live yet today.
I am thinking in particular about the growing list of soldier ancestors who served in the various wars of our country, from the Revolutionary War, to the Civil War and conflicts of the 20th Century.

The second picture shows Eugene Shepard and brother Elmer Shepard who served during World War II. With them in this picture are the only 3 children that were in the Shepard family in February, 1945 at the time of this picture: their sister Thelma Shepard, and their niece and nephew Beverly Russell and Rex Russell.

All the following soldiers I have written about in the posts of this blog over the last few years. They are all persons to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude, not only as Thanksgiving 2014 approaches, but always. Those with asterisks by their names died in the service of their country.

Revolutionary War:
  • Marmaduke Davis (1760-1855) 
  • Andrew Pickens (1739-1817)
  • Robert McKnight (1732-1818)
War of 1812:
  • *John Williams Sr. (1782-1813)
Civil War:
  • *William Shepard (1835-1862)
  • *David Reid Shannon (1821-1864)
  • Jackson William Gower (1831-1902)
  • Gus Dearien (1814-1900)
World War I:
  • *Lloyd W. Gower (1896-1918)
  • Benjamin Davis (1888-1963)
World War II:
  • Elmer Shepard (1918-2012)
  • Gene Shepard (1921-2003)
  • Beryl Swinney Shepard (1923-1994)
  • Paula Harris (b. 1923)
  • Juanita Eeds (b. 1921)
For the dedication and sacrifice of the foregoing, our hearts are filled with gratitude. A prayer this coming week in thankfulness for their lives would be most appropriate.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hints and Echoes From the Life Behind, November 13, 2014

The great eventful Present
hides the Past;
but through the din 
Of its loud life
hints and echoes
from the life behind steal in.
~John Greenleaf Whittier

At the end of my last post I mentioned the anniversary of the birth of my Grandmother Bura Davis in Indiana 118 years ago this month. This caused me to notice how a whole series of events occurred almost exactly 100 years ago, events that were of great significance to both my Shepard grandparents and their families.

In the fall of 1914 Bura Davis and her family lived on a farm in Beaver County, Oklahoma, having moved there from Spencer, Indiana the previous year. Their farm was not far from where her future husband William Shepard and his family lived. The Shepards had moved to Oklahoma from Illinois almost 10 years earlier. We don't know exactly when Bura and William met -- probably in 1913 -- but we do know that in 1914 this 17 year old teenager and her 25 year old boyfriend began dating and became serious about one another.

In November of 1914 Bura turned 18, a common age at that time for women to marry. Not long after Bura's birthday, William proposed marriage, and Bura readily and gladly accepted. (See wedding picture from June 2, 1915 of William at 26 and Bura at 18.) But as often happens in life, the joy we experience is soon tempered with sadness. Also in the fall of 1914, William's father, William Elmer Shepard, was diagnosed with stomach cancer.

I am not sure which of these events -- the marriage proposal or the cancer diagnosis -- came first. It may have been the life threatening illness of his father that led to William's concern for his own future and his desire to marry Bura.

Also during this period of time, William's father (and possibly his mother Elvira) joined the South Flat Church of Christ in Beaver County, the congregation to which Bura and her Davis family already belonged. Again I am not sure which of these events came first -- his cancer or his decision to join the church. A cancer diagnosis would certainly bring many of us closer to God. In any case, this was the very first instance of one of our Shepard ancestors belonging to a Church of Christ congregation.

Fast forward 60 years: In 1975 William and Bura Shepard were living in San Diego and attending the El Cajon Blvd Church of Christ, the family's church for most of the 20th century. (See second picture of William and Bura in 1975.) At a special church function, William was recorded reminiscing about family events that transpired in Oklahoma in late 1914. Thanks to my cousin Dane Shepard, we have copies of that recording and a few other recordings of Grandad not long before he died in 1976. In those recordings William discussed, among other things, his proposal to Bura, and his father's cancer.

William said that they were unsure of the precise cause of the cancer. Grandad William attributed it to his father's habit of chewing tobacco. He said that some years later his father-in-law James Davis had died of the same thing, stomach cancer, because of his habit of chewing tobacco. William said in one of the recordings, however, that his father believed his own cancer was caused by something different. William Elmer had suffered a severe injury from a mule kick to his midsection not long before his cancer developed, and went to his grave in February, 1915 believing that was the cause.

In the 1975 Church recording, at 86 years old William got choked up as he recalled how his father, on his death bed, told his son that he wanted William to join the church before he died. How can one not honor a request like that from a dying parent? Shortly thereafter Grandad William "obeyed the gospel", as Grandmother Bura would say, and joined the South Flat Church.

In a matter of weeks several things happened in rapid succession that fall a century ago: my Grandmother Bura came of age, my Grandfather William proposed to her and then joined their church, his father William Elmer became a Christian and then fell deathly ill. Late 1914 was an eventful time for our family, highlighted by decisions and occurrances with lasting consequences that are felt even today, 100 years later.

Are there "hints and echoes" from these historical events that, in the words of John Greenleaf Whittier, "steal in" to our lives today?
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Celebrating, Remembering and Looking Ahead, November 6, 2014

Family.... They don't mean
to get on your nerves.
They don't even mean
to be your family; 
they just are.
~Marsha Norman

Happy 90th Birthday! Those of us who attended my mother Maida Shepard's 90th birthday party in Anacortes, Washington last Saturday are still feeling the positive effects of a marvelous family celebration. Nearly 60 friends and family met to usher mom into her 90s in an event that she enjoyed thoroughly, even after a fairly serious health setback last month. All her children, many of her Grandchildren, a number of Great Grandchildren, and numerous church friends were on hand to enjoy a delightful gathering.

The first picture, taken last Saturday, the day of the party, shows Maida in the middle, flanked by her oldest son Gary and his wife Cindy. Gary and Cindy were the key planners of the party.

Happy Birthday Havilah! Today is the birthday of Havilah Colgain Wardle, one of the Great Grandchildren of Will and Bura Davis Shepard, and the Granddaughter of the late Elmer and Beryl Shepard. Havilah lives in Victoria, Texas, and has spent several months getting her and husband Kevin's Texas house fixed up and ready to sell so she can make her way back to Utah to be with husband and friends.

The second picture shows Havilah on the right with her mom Joan Shepard, who is standing in front of Joan's partner Dee Shannon. This picture was taken on the occasion of Joan and Dee's wedding this past July. Also in this picture are Dee's sons Ryan (left) and Tim. Best wishes to Havilah for a wonderful birthday!

Happy Birthday, Shaun! This Saturday, November 8, is the birthday of my cousin Shaun Gower, the first Great Grandchild of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. Shaun is the older son of my first cousin Hershell Gower and his late wife Janet. Hershell lives today in Bullhead City, California. Shaun and girlfriend Tracy live in Escondido, California, north of San Diego. Shaun was born in England when his father was in the military there, but came to the US with his parents when just a few months old and has lived most of his life here in Southern California.

The third picture, taken about 1985, is an oldie and shows Shaun with his Great Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower in their Sunday best. This was taken in front of the Gower home on Lynne Street in San Diego, which was the hub of Gower family life for the entire second half of the 20th century. It holds many wonderful memories for all us Gower Grandkids and Great Grandkids.

Remembering Bura Davis Shepard. I cannot let this weekend come and go without mentioning my other Grandmother, 
Bura Davis Shepard. This Saturday, November 8, is the 118th Anniversary of her birth in Spencer, Indiana. She and Grandad William Shepard met and were married in Beaver County, Oklahoma 99 years ago, but migrated with their kids to San Diego during World War II. It was a move that resulted in most of our Shepard family being settled in Southern California for many years.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, November 01, 2014

90 Years Young And Going Strong, November 1, 2014

So even to old age and grey hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might
to all the generations to come.
~Psalm 71.18

Today is the 90th Birthday of my mother Maida Gower Shepard. I have always considered it beautifully appropriate that she was born on All Saints Day, since she is the closest thing to a saint that our family has to offer. A milestone birthday like this deserves a special celebration and that is what we are having today in Anacortes, Washington where Maida lives with her daughter Barbara and grandson Steven. This afternoon upwards of 60 friends and family will gather at a local restaurant to honor this milestone and usher her into the world of nanogenarians.

Maida was born in Mountain View, Arkansas in 1924 but moved at an early age with her family to Okemah, Oklahoma before moving on westward during World War II, to San Diego. That's where she met navyman Eugene Shepard at the El Cajon Blvd Church of Christ. In San Diego is also where she and Gene were married 69 years ago (see first picture) and then where they raised their 6 children: Gary, me, Linda, Darrell, Barbara and Russell. 36 years ago Maida and Gene retired to Anacortes, Washington, to be near some family and friends, and to support the young Church of Christ in Anacortes, a congregation that Maida still faithfully supports today. Eugene passed away 11 summers ago, but Maida and most of her children still live in Western Washington.

Maida is the senior member of our Shepard and Gower clans. She has one surviving sibling, a younger sister, Vicki Gower Johnston, who lives nearby in Oak Harbor, Washington. She is also the oldest member of the family into which she married in 1945, the family of Will and Bura Davis Shepard. Their youngest child, Thelma Shepard Boyd lives today in Blue Springs, Missouri.

We joyfully celebrate today the first 90 years of this woman who means so much to all her family and friends. (See second picture of Maida taken earlier this year in San Diego with Preslea Shepard, one of her 9 Great Grandchildren.) She is in the process of bouncing back from some health issues that had her in the hospital just two weeks ago, so she may not be partying heartily all afternoon. But we are grateful for the progress she has made and are thankful to God as she strides into the 10th decade of her life.

As a part of Maida's birthday celebration today in Anacortes, I compiled a photo presentation honoring her on this milestone. Below is essentially the same presentation for those of you who were unable to attend the party.


- - - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Life's No Fun Without a Good Scare, Oct 25, 2014

Halloween! Halloween!
Tender lumplings everywhere
Life's no fun without a good scare.
That's our job, but we're not mean
In our town of Halloween.
~Danny Elfman

Hello to all of you on this week leading up to the great American holiday Halloween!

Happy Birthday Mandi! Tomorrow, October 26, is the 22nd birthday of my grand niece Mandi Aquiningoc of Millsap, Texas. Mandi is the daughter of Kerri Aquiningoc and the sister of Lyndsey Aquiningoc of Weatherford, Texas. Mandi is the proud mother of Kambree Kay Bowman, who was born just last year. Here is Kambree and Mandi's lineage for the last 6 generations:

-Kambree Kay Bowman
-Mandi Aquiningoc and Steven Bowman
-Kerri Shepard Aquiningoc and Manuel Aquiningoc
-Gary Shepard and Jackie Enderle Perry
-Eugene and Maida Gower Shepard
-Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower

Mandi is the 2nd of the 17 Great Great Grandchildren of William and Bura Davis Shepard, and the 4th of the 15 Great Great Grandchildren of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. Kambree has the distinction of being the first Great Great Grandchild of Maida Shepard of Anacortes, Washington.

The foregoing is quite an impressive pedigree, all of which is simply to say... Happy Birthday, Mandi!

In related news... Mandi's sister Lyndsey Aquiningoc recently announced that she and Colton Bearden are now engaged to be married. Congratulations to Lyndsey and Colton!

Pam's Birthday. This coming Thursday is a milestone birthday for Pamela Engan Shepard, the mother of Linda Shepard and Steven Paul Shepard, all of Anacortes, Washington, where Pam was born and has lived her entire life. The second picture was taken earlier this year and shows a smiling Pam. Happy Birthday this week to Pam!

In Celebration of Halloween! The following is a family photo presentation in celebration of Halloween, the most secular and gory of all our cherished holidays. It includes family members from all corners of our extended family with an emphasis on children, and those adults among us who think of ourselves as children sometimes!

I have discovered that most mobile devices are not equipped to view and hear Photoshows, the format in which this presentation is made. So if you are not able to hear it and view it, try it on your favorite MAC or PC.


- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Our Most Basic Instinct, October 18, 2014

Our most basic instinct
is not for survival
but for family.
~Paul Pearshall

Cindy and I have returned from our South American adventure and are now back at home in San Diego. But not for long. In just a couple of weeks we will be traveling to Washington State to celebrate the 90th birthday of my mom Maida Shepard in Anacortes. I know that many of you are also making your plans to be there.

If others of you are interested in this celebration, please contact the Shepards in Anacortes, or anyone else who may have details of the event. Maida has had some serious health issues in the last week or so, but at this point it appears that the party is still on as planned. My brother Gary and his wife Cindy are taking the lead in making the plans.

The first picture was taken on our recent trip to Peru and shows Cindy and me with our traveling companions Linda and Barbara. It was taken high above the ancient Incan capital city of Cusco, Peru, in the Plaza San Cristobal. Behind us is the Church of San Cristobal and on the left is part of the spectacular view of the city that we had from this vantage point.  

Happy Birthday to Vicki Gower Johnston! Today is the 81st birthday of my aunt Vicki Gower Johnston, who lives in Oak Harbor, Washington with her husband Duke Johnston.

Vicki is the youngest child of the late Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. She was born in Oklahoma, but lived in San Diego for many years before moving to Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound of Washington State, almost 40 years ago. Vicki has four children: Paula Tuzzolino, Gloria Watson, Michael Harrell and David Harrell.

This past August, a number of her family met in Oak Harbor for a special gathering. The second picture was taken in Vicki and Duke's living room during that family gathering. It shows Vicki in the middle with her daughter Paula of Sun Lakes, Arizona over her right shoulder, and her granddaughter Heather Cotten of San Antonio, Texas over her left shoulder. Also in the picture are Vicki's great granddaughters Tori Cotten on the left, and Lexi Cotten on the right.

Happy Birthday to Korilyn Boyd! Korilyn, who turns 17 today, is one of the Great Grandchildren of William and Bura Davis Shepard. She lives in Coronado, California and attends Coronado High School.

The third picture was taken this past summer in June when Korilyn was spending some time with her extended family back in the mid-west. This particular picture shows Korilyn with her Grandmother Thelma Shepard Boyd of Blue Springs, Missouri, who is the youngest child of the late William and Bura Davis Shepard.

The fourth picture was also taken this past summer and shows many of the family who were together, including Kori and her Grandmother. 

This particular picture shows Korilyn (3rd from right) with her grandmother Thelma next to her. Just to the left of Kori is her cousin Jeremy Ortiz with his wife Desiree and their 5 children (Ciara, Ashlyn, Damian, Dominic and Isaac). In the middle, holding one of her grandsons, is Jeremy's mother Kim Boyd Clark with her husband Jeff Clark behind her. On the far left is Dane Shepard behind his niece Tamara, his son Nathan and daughter Kaylan. On the far right is Dane's wife Cindy Shepard.
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Steve Shepard

Friday, October 10, 2014

Each Family's Story, October 10, 2014

In each family a story is playing itself out,
and each family's story
embodies its hope and despair.
~Auguste Napier

Greetings to all of you once again from the beautiful South American country of Peru! Today we are in the ancient Inca town of Ollantaytambo in southern Peru, as we draw ever nearer to Machu Picchu, one of the great wonders of the world.
The first picture shows Cindy and me a few days ago when we visited the sacred Saqsaywaman ("sexy woman" is a close pronunciation) Incan Ruins and "The Temple of the Sun", above the city of Cusco, Peru.

Our Hoosier Roots. 145 years ago two of the most important people in our Davis heritage were married. On October 10, 1869 Charles Edward Davis and Malinda Wright tied the knot in Owen County, Indiana. Charles and Malinda were the grandparents of my paternal grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. 

Charles was one of the last of our Davis ancestors to be born in Ohio. Born in 1849, his parents Alexander and Jane Buskirk Davis, when they were about 30 years old, moved their small family from Adams in Monroe County, Ohio to Spencer, Indiana in the early 1850s. Before the Davises got there, the family of Malinda Wright had already settled in Indiana, which is where Malinda was born. Charles and Malinda met in the 1860s and were married in the fall of 1869.

Much of what we know about Charles and Malinda Davis in the 19th Century is because of the records of their church, the New Union Church of Christ near Spencer, Indiana. They and many of their relatives were active participants and founders of that congregation out on Rattlesnake Creek. Among the most important records is the baptism record of their granddaughter (my grandmother) Bura Emerald Davis in 1906.

Unfortunately I do not have a picture of Great Great Grandmother Malinda Wright Davis. The only picture I have of Charles Edward Davis is this second picture. It was probably taken sometime in the 1920s, after Malinda had died. It shows the widower Charles Edward Davis late in his life with a cane and a white beard. On the left is Charles and Malinda's firstborn James Brooks Davis, and on the right is another one of their 7 children, John Emery Davis.

Charles and his family were trailblazers in many ways. Simply getting from Eastern Ohio to Southern Indiana in the 1850s (with a couple of children!) took great stamina and fortitude. Indiana was still frontier to a great extent in these pre-Civil War years, and establishing a place to live took hard work. By the end of the 19th Century many of our Davis ancestors began to move westward to Oklahoma. The 1910 US Census shows Charles and Malinda living in Logan, in Beaver County, Oklahoma. They are both laid to rest in Beaver County.

Because of Charles and Malinda, we have deep roots in Ohio, Indiana and Okla- homa that will always be reminders of the kind of people we have come from. 21st Century America is, of course, far removed from life in the 19th Century mid-west, but we will always be connected to these pioneers and have a strong bond with them.

Scary Days Ahead. Halloween is just a few weeks away, and again this year I plan to put together a slide show of family halloween pictures. If you have a recent or old halloween picture, of a youngster or an oldster, that you would like for me to include, please send it my way.
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Steve Shepard

Friday, October 03, 2014

In The Eyes of a Child, October 3, 2014

In the eyes of a child
there is joy, there is laughter,
there is hope, there is trust,
a chance to shape the future.
~from a song by Air Supply

Greetings to all of you from the shores of Lake Titicaca in Southern Peru. We are in the city of Puno, at over 12,000', which is not too conducive for Cindy and me who are used to living at sea level. Two days ago, on our way here, we stopped at the highest point accessible by road in South America, 16,110', near Chivay, Peru. That roadside stop was over 1,500' higher than the top of Mt Whitney, which is the highest point in the contiguous 48 states. 

While we were there a few spring snow flurries gave some charm to the thin air and cold conditions. The first picture shows me and Cindy and Linda Tanner trying to keep warm during our brief stop there. Even though it is early spring here in Peru, our modest coats were no match for the high elevation and cold temperatures. Thanks to traveling partner Barbara Schwindt for taking this picture.

In recent days we have celebrated the arrival of two new baby boys in our family. The first arrival took place on September 23 in Weatherford, Texas, when Lyndsey Aquiningoc gave birth to Karver Ryan. Congratulations to Lyndsey and father Colton! The second picture shows Karver at just a week old.

Then just two days ago, on October 1, Rachel Shepard gave birth to Kellan Christopher Shepard in Seattle, Washington. She and father Bryan Miller are doing fine. Kellan is the grandchild of my brother Darrell and his wife Mary Shepard. Grandmother Mary says that Kellan, at "8 lbs, 15 oz, was born Oct 1 at 8:13 pm and all of us are thrilled and tired. Congratulations Rachel Shepard and Bryan Miller!"

It would be too cumbersome to mention all the proud relatives of these two boys, so just let me say that Kellan and Karver are Great Grandson and Great Great Grandson of my mother Maida Gower Shepard. They are the two newest descendants of Leroy and Nola Gower, and William and Bura Davis.

Do you notice anything unique about these boys? Perhaps it is the nature of newborns, but these two look surprisingly alike in these two pictures. They could pass for twins. We offer our best wishes to Karver and Kellan, as well as their parents and other proud family members. We welcome them with great joy to our family!
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Steve Shepard

Monday, September 29, 2014

Catching a Glimpse of the Ancestors, September 29, 2014

I grew up with six brothers.
That's how I learned to dance -
waiting for the bathroom.
~Bob Hope

Greetings to all of you from Peru where Cindy and I are enjoying ourselves with a couple friends. Today we are on our way to the scenic and lofty Colca Canyon (where we are staying at over 11,200' elevation) in the southern part of this beautiful, historic country. 

The first picture was taken a few days ago in front of the Basilica San Francisco in Lima, Peru and shows our traveling companion Linda with Cindy and me. We had just come up out of the sprawling catacombs beneath the church behind us, where we walked through a maze of dark, dank caves. All around us were thousands of ancestral bones. At one point we heard music and looked up to see a ventilation grate in the ceiling of the catacombs. Through the grate we caught a glimpse and heard the sounds of a worship service in progress in the Church over our heads. It was somewhat eeire, a little bit comforting, but all a part of this strange but memorable subterranean experience. Since then I have considered how that is what the Shepard's Crook is: a way of catching a glimpse of the lives and stories of our ancestors whom we seek to remember. Thanks to Barbara, our other travelling companion, for taking this picture.

George and Serena Gower. In this post I am offering a glimpse of my Great Grandparents George Gower and Serena Turner. On September 15, 1893, 121 years ago, they were married in Timbo, Arkansas, a little country town west of Mountain View. Interestingly, their son Leroy and his wife Nola were also married in that same little town, also in the month of September, but 28 years later. Timbo was, and still is, the only town of any size in the area known as Sylamore (in Stone County) where our Gower and Shannon ancestors were farmers.

Like many young adults in the 19th century, George and Serena were young when they married. He was 20 and she was just 17. George's grandfather Jackson William Gower had been among the first Gowers to settle in Stone County, Arkansas in the 1850s when it was very sparsely populated and a welcome place for homesteaders. 

Serena Turner's family was from Tennessee and came to Arkansas not long before she was born in 1876, and settled east of Mountain View on the White River. She never attended school or learned to read or write.

There were not too many options for young couples of farming families in late 19th century Arkansas, so George and Serena also became farmers. The 1900 Census, when he was just 27 and she was 23, shows that they owned their own Sylamore home and farm outright. 

On their farm they raised 6 children, the second one being my grandfather Leroy Gower. Their first child Lloyd W. Gower was killed in WWI in France, and is buried today in Stone County Arkansas. There is a marker in Mountain View's town square honoring him.

Farming in the hills of the Ozarks was not the most lucrative profession, so George and Serena, like others of their kin, moved westward into Oklahoma in the 1920s and settled in Okemah where they farmed and lived the rest of their lives. Serena died in 1931, George in 1944. 

The first picture (above) shows their graves in Highland Cemetery, just north of Okemah. He has one of the most rustic looking headstones, with nothing but a rough "G" carved onto it, while hers is significantly more attractive (see the circular insets). Sometime after their deaths, their family erected a large headstone alongside their graves with simply "Gower" written on it.  

Happy Birthday to Alexandria Cotten. Today is the birthday of Alexandria Cotten, of San Antonio, Texas, one of the direct descendants of the aforementioned George and Serena Gower. Lexi is the younger daughter of Heather and Sean Cotten, and another one of the GG Grandchildren of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower.

The second picture, taken in August in Oak Harbor, Washington, shows Lexi with her Great Grandmother Vicki Gower Johnston. This picture was taken in the home of Vicki and her husband Duke.

Another Texas birthday. Today is also the birthday of Cathrina Helms Clark 
of Lubbock, Texas, the wife of Jerry Clark. The third picture, a selfie taken in Yosemite this past summer, shows Jerry and Cathrina enjoying the beautiful scenery of California alongside a stream in the Sierra Nevada.

Cathrina: Thank you for the birthday wishes! We have had a great year! My, how quickly the years pass! We took a road trip up Hwy 1 (north of LA) this past summer. What a beautiful drive. We also really enjoyed Yosemite! I truly understand why Yosemite is one of your and Cindy's favorite places. Death Valley was very interesting. I really enjoy working at the school and being on the same work schedule as Jerry. Our grandchildren are growing and all doing well!  All of our children are doing well. We have so much to be thankful for. So exited to hear about Maida's 90th Birthday party Nov 1 in Anacortes that Jerry will be attending.
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Steve Shepard

Monday, September 22, 2014

Celebrations That Run the Gamut, Sept 23, 2014

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

Happy Birthday Tori. Today, September 23, is the 7th birthday of Victoria Cotten, the daughter of Heather and Sean Cotten, and one of the GG Grandchildren of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. Tori lives with her family in San Antonio, Texas, a long way from the home of her Grandmother Paula Harrell Tuzzolino and Great Grandmother Vicki Gower Johnston, of Oak Harbor, Washington.

This past summer Tori and her family traveled to Oak Harbor to visit their family. This first picture shows Tori and her dad Sean, taken when they were in Washington just weeks ago.

Remembering a 93rd Anniversary. Later this month, September 29, is the wedding anniversary of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower, the GG Grandparents of Tori Cotten. In the last few posts I have referred to Nola while discussing her mother, grandmother and other family mambers and the dramatic story of their lives. So it only seems fitting to flow right into at least a brief telling of the life story of Nola and Leroy.

It might surprise some to learn how many members of our family today are too young to have known Nola and Leroy. My Grandmother Nola died just 10 years ago this summer, after living 101 years. So a large percentage of our family remembers her. But Grandpa Leroy has been gone now for 40 years, and most of their 44 direct descendants never had the opportunity to meet him.

Leroy Gower and Nola Shannon were good, decent, hardworking people who were both from poor farming families in Stone County, Arkansas. They were married in 1921 in Mountain View, Arkansas while living in the small country town of New Nata and were married for 53 years until Leroy's death in 1974. Their first child, Hendrix, was born in 1922, and their second, Maida, in 1924. The very next year, when baby Maida was old enough to travel, they moved to Okemah, Oklahoma where some other family members had already relocated. They settled there for 17 years, during which time their third child Vicki was born. In 1942, during World War II, like countless other American in search of jobs, they moved to San Diego, where they lived for almost all the rest of their lives.

I did not come along until 1948 so I have little first hand experience of their adjustment to life in the big city in Southern California. As best I can tell they adjusted surprisingly well, living happily for most of their California years in a small 2 bedroom, 1 bath house on Lynne Street in East San Diego.

The second composite picture from the 1970s, shows Nola and Leroy. She is enjoying a quiet, happy moment at home, while Leroy is proudly displaying a fish he had just caught on a deep sea fishing adventure off the coast of San Diego.

It was in the Gower home on Lynne Street that all 12 of us grandkids spent considerable family time and enjoyed the welcoming spirit of grandma and grandpa. We always knew there was a place for us in their home. It was where our grandparents taught us responsibility, honesty, hospitality, gardening, Christian charity and good citizenship. And discipline. The kind that came from a switch off a fruit tree in the backyard. As I think about it now, my rear never felt the impact of their switch, but the threat of it was enough to get my attention and alter my behavior. As I remember, other cousins were not so fortunate and had to bear the discomfort of the disciplinary switch.

It is interesting that I write this on the heels of the ongoing news story about Adrian Peterson of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. This high profile professional athlete has run into serious and very expensive problems because of his use of a switch off a tree to discipline his young son. Times have certainly changed. I am sure none of us cousins ever dreamed that what we accepted as "standard operating procedure" in the family would one day make the national news as unacceptable behavior, and possibly the ruin of a multimillion dollar career. I celebrate the fact that our society is much more aware of the dangers of child abuse and child endangerment. 

None of the foregoing takes away from the good memories I have of my grandparents Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower, who were married 93 years ago this month. I celebrate their lives and the values they instilled in us, even as those values are adjusted in this 21st century. 

Babies Are Ready To Arrive. Today, September 23, is the day two different women in our family are expecting to give birth. Rachel in Washington and Lyndsey in Texas. I just saw the news on Facebook (late Monday evening) via Lyndsey's aunt Kelly Sauvage that "Karver Ryan is finally here!" Best wishes to Lyndsey and father Colton. Grandma Kerri Aquiningoc says that he is 8lbs 2 oz. and that baby and moma are doing good.
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Steve Shepard