Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Celebrations All Around, February 26, 2014

Don’t lament getting older.
It is a privilege many have been denied.
~author unknown

Happy Birthday Darrell! Happy Birthday tomorrow to my brother Darrell Shepard, who is the second one in our family this month to join the ranks of the sexagenarians among us, the other being his sister-in-law Cindy Shepard of Oak Harbor, Washington. Darrell was born and raised in San Diego but lives today with his wife Mary in Kirkland, Washington. 

Darrell tells me that he has no profound snippets of wisdom to share having reached this life milestone of 60 other than the quote at the top of this post. The first picture shows Darrell with Jackson, the family dog, and one of the more intelligent creatures you'll ever meet.

Darrell and Mary continue to bask in the wonderful birth of their grandson Logan Joseph Shepard. After a difficult birth last summer, Logan continues to struggle with medical issues. He is 7 months old and is home now after a recent stay in the hospital. Logan and his parents Patrick and Nicole live in Bothell, Washington. The second picture shows Patrick sharing a moment with his son Logan.

Congratulations to Amanda and Justin! Congratulations on the wedding this past Saturday of Amanda Ortiz to Justin Davis. Amanda is the daughter of Kim Boyd Clark and the granddaughter of Thelma Shepard Boyd. Amanda and Justin had a destination wedding, being married in Las Vegas, Nevada this past weekend with a number of family and friends in attendance. Congratulations and best wishes to them and their family!

The third picture shows the new bride and groom, Amanda and Justin, during a warm and happy moment in front of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas with some of the wedding party as supporting cast in the background.

Darrell and Amanda have as common ancestors William and Bura Davis Shepard, Darrell being a grandson, and Amanda being a great granddaughter. By the way, Amanda has told me that there seems to be no obvious connection between her new husband's Davis lineage and her own great grandmother's Davis family. But it is bit of a convenient anomaly that the Davis last name has returned to an unexpected part of our family.
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Steve Shepard

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Wonderful Era, February 19, 2014

Our history begins before we are born.
We represent the hereditary influences of our race,
and our ancestors virtually live in us.
~James Nasmyth

Happy Birthday today to Hershell Gower. Originally from San Diego, Hershell and his wife Shelly have lived for several years now in Bullhead City, Arizona. Hershell is the oldest of my 12 Gower cousins, and the first of the grandchildren of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower.

Hershell was born in the early 1940s, not long after the Shepards and the Gowers had moved from Colorado and Oklahoma to San Diego. He was the first in either of those families to be born in California. Today Hershell is mostly retired and enjoying life along the Colorado River. He tells me in an email that he, Shelly and the dogs are doing fine.

The first picture, taken in 1946, shows Hershell on the right at three years old, with his brother Jim on the left and his cousin Gary Shepard in the middle. These were the only grandchildren of Leroy and Nola Gower at the time.

The second picture, taken in San Diego about 1943, shows Hershell's mother Starlene Bass Gower on the left standing next to my mom Maida Gower, dressed in their Sunday finest.

A Wonderful Era. The early 1940s, when Hershell was born, was a very unique time in the life of both the Shepard and Gower families who had just moved to California. World War II was in full swing, these two Okie families were getting new jobs, marrying off their children, adjusting to life in a big West Coast city, and finding themselves a part of the population boom that resulted in the Baby Boomer generation.

To our great advantage today, it was also time when these families were taking lots of family pictures -- all in black and white, of course. They took pictures while cavorting at the beach, while relaxing at neighborhood parks, while visting in nearby Tijuana. (See the third picture of my dad Eugene Shepard at about 21 years old, with a friend named Johnnie Coronado, at Mission Beach about 1942.) They took pictures of new homes and new cars, new loves and new babies, pregnant women, military men, and proud grandparents. All these pictures indicate a family happy with itself and pleased with its new life in exciting California.

It was the beginning of a wonderful era in the life of our families. For the next 30+ years both families and almost all their children and grandchildren lived in San Diego, got together often, and enjoyed themselves as part of the post-war generation with it's economic prosperity and population growth. Later in the 20th century things changed and many family members either died or moved away. Today only a few of our Gower and Shepard descendants live in San Diego. But for a full generation or more our people lived in close proximity while our family life was strong and happy and full of vitality.

The final picture, also taken in San Diego in the early 1940s, shows Will and Bura Shepard on the left at a local park (Balboa Park?) with several members of their family: Thelma, Eugene (in uniform), Elmer and the only 2 Shepard grandchildren at the time, Rex and Beverly Russell. The woman on the right with her back to the camera may have been Eloise, a family friend.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day Tomorrow! February 13, 2014

A family can develop
only with a loving woman
at its center.
~Karl Schlegel

Gloria Watson. Today is the birthday of my cousin Gloria Watson of Knoxville, Tennessee. Gloria was born and raised in San Diego, even though she was a military brat for some of her growing up years and lived in Japan and elsewhere for various periods of time. Gloria is one of the four children of my aunt Vicki Gower Johnston and one of the 12 grandchildren of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. Happy Birthday to Gloria! The first picture shows Gloria with her grandmother Nola Shannon Gower, taken back in the 1990s in Tennessee.

Happy Valentines Day Tomorrow! Best wishes to all of you for a great day of celebrating family love. Our family tree is filled with young (and old) lovers whose love is worth remembering and honoring. Two memorable Valentines of note in our tree are my GGGgrandparents, Alexander Davis and Jane Buskirk Davis.

Valentines of Note. Alexander and Jane were both originally from Ohio where they fell in love and married in 1843 in Monroe County. At the time he was just 24 and she was only 20. Over the next 24 years their love resulted in the births of 10 children. After their first 4, they took a 3 year break from having kids and, like countless other Americans, heard the call to move westward. They became the first in that part of our family to settle near Spencer, Indiana. With primitive roads, covered wagons and thick wilderness, it was a very difficult move for this family with 4 young ones, traveling these 400 miles from Eastern Ohio to Indiana. 

Some 15 years later, after 6 more children were born to them, their love -- and their baby making --- was cut short. During Jane's last pregnancy, Alexander died at just 48 years old. Suddenly she was a young widow with 8 children, most of whom were still at home, and one more on the way! But her love was strong and she finished raising their children in Indiana by herself. 

At 70 years old, Jane left Indiana with their youngest son, 26 year old William Alexander Davis, and "ran for land" in the Cherokee Strip of Oklahoma in 1893. They staked a claim and settled in what eventually became Helena, in Alfalfa County, Oklahoma. Jane died just two years later in 1895, surely with warm memories of her beloved valentine Alexander still in her heart. 

One has to admire the courage and determination of this remarkable woman to carry on and make the most of things after the love of her life was taken from her in an early death. Alexander and Jane are Valentines to be remembered and honored for their strong love and devotion that endured so much.

A Celebration of Family Love

Jane and Alexander Davis belong in the photo collection above, but unfortunately no picture of them exists. This Valentine's Day presentation -- version 2014 -- with music by Sarah Brightman, includes old and new images of family members and friends smooching or otherwise cuddling up to each other. May it contribute to your Valentine's Day celebration.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, February 07, 2014

A Century Later, February 7, 2014

Family is like branches on a tree.
We all grow in different directions
yet our roots remain as one.

Happy Birthday, Paula. Happy Birthday today to my cousin Paula Harrell Tuzzolino. With her husband Frank, Paula splits her time between their home in Oak Harbor, Washington, and their home in Sun Lakes, Arizona, near Phoenix. Paula's major concern for the last few months has been for her mother Vicki Gower Johnston who has been in poor health. Paula is one of Vicki's 4 children and one of the 12 grandchildren of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower.

The first picture shows Paula and her mother Vicki in a picture that was taken in 1994 at a family reunion in Anacortes, Washington.

100 Years Ago... It is an interesting and insightful endeavor to look back 100 years in our family. 1914 was a significant time in the life of our ancestors. My Gower grandparents -- Nola Shannon Gower and Leroy Gower -- were young folks living just outside Mountain View, Arkansas. Grandma Nola Shannon Gower was just a 10 year old girl, living in the country home of her family, being the youngest of 9 children.

Grandpa Leroy Gower lived nearby and was child #2 of 7 in his family. 100 years ago he was a young teen just 14 years old. They both lived in the small farming community of Sylamore, Arkansas and undoubtedly knew each other, both being a part of the Baptist Church nearby. 7 years later they would marry and begin an life adventure that would take them to Oklahoma and eventually San Diego, California.

The second picture was taken in the 1920s, probably near Mountain View, Arkansas. On the far left is a young Nola Shannon (Paula's grandmother and Vicki's mother). Also with Nola is her mother Finetta Dearien Shannon and two of Nola's sisters.

In 1914 my other grandparents William Shepard and Bura Davis were also just getting to know each other. They had met just the year before when Bura's family migrated from Indiana to Beaver County, Oklahoma where William's family had already been living for 8 years. 1914 was surely the year that 17 year old Bura and 25 year old William got to know each other well, and was probably the year they fell in love. They married in June of the following year and the adventure of their life together began that would eventually take them to San Diego as well.

1914 was also the year that my grandfather William Shepard, and his father William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915), both became members of the South Flat Church of Christ in Beaver County, Oklahoma, a congregation that, to my knowledge, still exists today. It was the first time that any of our ancestors with the last name Shepard became part of the Stone-Campbell movement (also known as the Restoration Movement), the religious group to which many of the readers of this blog still belong. The family of my grandmother Bura Davis Shepard has been a part of that religious movement since at least the 1850s, originally in Indiana.

Furthermore it was late in 1914 that my Ggrandfather William Elmer Shepard became gravely ill, leading not only to his decision to join the church, but also leading to his death just a few months later in February, 1915. Much of this story I have on an audio recording made by my grandfather William Shepard in 1975. In it he tells of how the South Flat Church folks carefully carried William Elmer to a water filled horse trough for immersion by baptism. That December event (these were hearty folks!) completed his "obedience to the gospel" and his entry into the church.

1914 was a significant year for our ancestors. As we continue through 2014, there will be opportunities to notice other important milestones that the view from a century later will bring.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Happy Ground Hog Day! February 2, 2014

The first half of our lives
is ruined by our parents,
the second half by our children.
~Clarence Darrow

Happy Ground Hog Day! And Happy Birthday to my sister-in-law Cindy Dillon Shepard. A long time resident of San Diego, she has lived for the last 11 years in Oak Harbor, Washington with her husband, my brother Gary Shepard. Today is a milestone birthday for Cindy and we wish her the very best. Welcome to the delightful world of sexagenarians!

The first picture shows Cindy with her daughter Michele McGauran and her husband Gary on the left. This picture was taken in San Diego in 1992 at a family reunion.

William Elmer Shepard. My Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard was born on this day 152 years ago in Wabash, Indiana during the Civil War. His father was away in the War at the time and tragically never made it home to see his new son.

As a young man William Elmer made his way to Madison County, Illinois where he met the woman who would become his wife, Elvira Owens. With two children in tow, including a teenage son William Shepard (who would later become my grandfather) William Elmer and Elvira moved in 1905 to the Oklahoma panhandle where they lived the rest of their lives. They are both buried in Sophia Cemetery in Beaver County, Oklahoma. He died in 1915; she in 1931.

The second picture shows my father Eugene William Shepard (1921-2003) with his hand on the headstone of his grandfather William Elmer Shepard. The marker on the right is the grave of William Elmer's wife Elvira Owens Shepard, who is buried with her second husband Cal Williams. Also in this picture is my dad's aunt, Esther Davis Jenkins (1905-1997). This picture was taken when dad and I made a trip from California to Oklahoma to visit family in the summer of 1989.

William Elmer's headstone is interesting for a couple of reasons. This type of marker, which looks like a section of a tree trunk, was not uncommon. Without branches, it suggests a life cut short, which may have been its meaning here, since William Elmer died at just 53 years old. It may also indicate that William was member of Woodmen of the World, a fraternal organization whose members, until the late 1920s, regularly were buried with this style headstone.

It was not the least expensive marker the family could have placed here, suggesting that William Elmer was a man of some means when he died. He preceeded his wife Elvira in death by 16 years, and left her a handsome, though modest inheritance. When she died, there was a family squabble over who would inherit the estate, a case of some notoriety which eventually was heard by the Oklahoma Supreme Court before being settled. You can read about it here.
- - -
Steve Shepard