Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day, May 26, 2014

Oh, tell me not that they are dead
that airy army of invisible heroes.
They hover as a cloud of witnesses
above this Nation.
~Henry Ward Beecher, 1863

Today we celebrate Memorial Day and remember those who have died in the service of our country. I would like to mention in this blog post 4 people -- that I have found so far in our family tree -- who died fighting in our nation's wars. One in the war of 1812, two in the Civil War, and one in World War I. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to them as we honor them on this Memorial Day.

John Williams Sr. (1782-1813) was a 31 year old husband and father of 4 when he died, most likely in the War of 1812. Born in Virginia he had been in Kentucky just long enough to marry Lydia Warford and have 4 children with her when his life ended in the service of the nation. John left a modest estate that enabled his widow Lydia and her children to move to Spencer, Indiana where they
settled and where his GG Granddaughter Bura Davis (my Grandmother) was born.

David Reid Shannon (1821-1864), my GG Grandfather, was in his 40s living in Louisiana with his wife and 7 children when he was called to serve in the Confederate Army late in the war. After not hearing a word from him for a year, his wife Peggy finally got the news indirectly that David had died and was buried with other Civil War soldiers in Chalmette National Cemetery in New Orleans. His needy widow and 7 children were rescued by Peggy's father and brothers who moved them to Stone County, Arkansas. Select this link to visit his grave online.

William Shepard (1835-1862) of Wabash, Indiana was a young Union soldier of just 26 when he was injured at Bowling Green, Kentucky in what may have been the very first battle of his Indiana Regiment.
He languished in a hospital for 5 months before he died in July, 1862 in Evansville, Indiana, leaving a young wife and an infant son (my Great Grandfather). After a very difficult couple of years for the two of them, his widow remarried and settled into a new life. Select this link to visit his grave online.

Lloyd W. Gower (1896-1918) of Newnata, Arkansas, brother of my Grandfather Leroy Gower, was a single man of 22 when he was killed in 1918 in Cheppy, Lorraine, France during World War I. He is buried in Cooper Hill Cemetery near his home outside Mountain View, Arkansas (see picture of his grave) and is memorialized on a plaque in Mountain View's town square. Select this link to visit his grave online.

These four -- John, David, William and Lloyd -- are among that great "cloud of witnesses", in the words of Henry Ward Beecher, that hover above our nation. And not only our nation, but on this Memorial Day, in a special way, they also also hover over us, their descendants, their families, who owe them much more than we can ever repay.

That Was Then, This Is Now. Today, May 26 also happens to be the 21st birthday of Brandyn Boyd, grandson of Thelma Shepard Boyd of Blue Springs, Missouri. Brandyn, the son of Darren Boyd and Victoria Boyd, is a graduate of Santana High School in Santee and lives in San Diego.
He is one of the Great Grandchildren of William and Bura Davis Shepard.

This coming Wednesday, May 28 is the birthday of Ruthie Styer Russell of Red Rock, Nevada. She is the daughter-in-law of my late cousin Rex Russell, whose birthday was also on May 28. Rex was the first grandchild of William and Bura Shepard, and the son of Bill and Pauline Shepard Russell. The picture above shows Rex Russell and daughter-in-law Ruthie in a picture taken a few years ago in San Diego, with the bay and the Coronado Bridge in the background. Happy Birthday to Ruthie!

This coming Thursday, May 29, is the birthday of my cousin Michael Harrell, who lives with his wife Carole in Zionsville, Indiana. Mike is one of the grandchildren of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower and the son of Vicki Gower Johnston of Oak Harbor, Washington. 

Mike and Carole lived in California for many years but now live in Indiana and have settled right in to Hoosier life. They are shown here at an NFL playoff game earlier this year in Indianapolis wearing Andrew Luck jerseys. Best wishes to Mike for a very happy birthday.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, May 19, 2014

An Informal Wartime Wedding, May 19, 2014

The purpose of memory
is not simply to preserve the past,
it is to protect the future.
~Barack Obama

69 years ago this coming Saturday -- on May 24, 1945 -- my parents, Maida Gower and Eugene Shepard, were married here in San Diego. Their union brought together in marriage the Gowers and the Shepards for the first time and has resulted in a clan that today includes at least 36 people and is growing. (At least 2 more births in this clan are expected this year!) It was the first California wedding for a member of either the Gowers or the Shepards.

Few pictures exist of Gene and Maida from the time of their wedding, and none of the wedding itself. The two I am including shows them about 1945, the first one includes Gene's brother Elmer Shepard on the right.

At the time they married, Gene's parents had recently moved to San Diego with their 4 children and their first 2 grandchildren. Maida's parents had also recently relocated in San Diego with their 3 children.

He was in the Navy at the time and stationed at Los Alamitos Naval Air Station in Orange County. She was just a couple years out of High School when she and Gene were married at the El Cajon Blvd Church of Christ during the final stages of World War II. They were married on a Thursday evening in a quiet, private ceremony at the home of the minister who lived behind the church. Whatever time they had to honeymoon was squeezed into the few days of leave that Gene had from his Navy assignment 100 miles up the highway.

He put lots of miles on his new '41 Ford going back and forth from San Diego to Los Alamitos, as he and Maida dated. His commute continued for several months even after they married. Those were the days of the scenic and slow Pacific Coast Highway that went through all the coast towns, long before the wide and spacious Interstate 5 that today carries probably 10 times the amount of traffic along that same popular corridor.

In the first year after their wedding, the war ended, Gene moved to San Diego full-time, they had their first child Gary (#1 of 6), his civilian career at the Naval Supply Depot began, and they set up their first home together in San Diego. It was an amazing time of new beginnings not only for our nation and our world, but for this new family. Many years have passed since that informal wartime wedding in the preacher's home, but it remains a seminal event that many of us look back on with interest, gratitude and deep appreciation.

Happy Birthday, Jason! Yesterday was the 42nd birthday of my nephew Jason Shepard of Fort Worth, Texas. Born in San Diego to my brother Gary and his first wife Jackie Enderle, Jason is the first Grandson of Gene and Maida Shepard.  

Happy Birthday, Ashlyn! Today is the birthday of Ashlyn Ortiz of Blue Springs, Missouri, one of the Great Great Grandchildren of William and Bura Davis Shepard. Ashlyn is the daughter of Jeremy and Desiree Ortiz. 

Desiree: "Here is a picture of Ashlyn at her birthday party with her cakes. She is celebrating her 9th birthday with a sleep over at our home. We have 9 girls sleeping over! I guess 9 is the magic number, lol. Ashlyn has really grown to be such a sweet loving little girl and makes everyday a happy day for everyone around her. We are so proud of the young girl she has become."
- - -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Many Leaves, One Tree, May 14, 2014

Ronin: "Many leaves, one tree."
M.K.: "What does that mean?"
Ronin: "We are all individuals
but we're all connected.
It's what we live by."
~from the film "Epic"

This week is a time to celebrate the truth that we are many leaves but one tree. In the next few days the San Diego contingency of our family celebrates several birthdays, yet those are not all the celebrations for family members around the country this week.

Today is the rare occasion when three birthdays in our family appear on the calendar: Thelma Boyd, her granddaughter Courtney Boyd, and Christopher Shepard.

My aunt Thelma lives in Blue Springs, Missouri and is the youngest (and last remaining) child of my late grandparents Will and Bura Davis Shepard. The first picture shows Thelma with her daughter Kim Boyd Clark.

Thelma's granddaughter, 24 year old Courtney Boyd was also born on May 14, but she was raised here in Southern California. Courtney tells me that she and her daughter Carsyn and boyfriend Cody still live in the east county of San Diego. "I just finished school this past February to be a medical assistant, so I'm just busy job hunting and being a mommy. [Our daughter] Carsyn is doing well, walking and talking more everyday. She is 16 months now... so big." Courtney is the daughter of Darren Boyd of Coronado, California whose birthday will be on Friday of this week. Happy Birthday to Thelma, Courtney and Darren!

Today is also the birthday of my nephew Christopher Shepard of Seattle, Washington. Chris -- 30 years old today! -- is the older son of my brother Darrell and his wife Mary Shepard. Chris and his girlfriend Jessica Bell just competed a trip to Hawaii. This second picture shows the two of them on a beach in Kauai.

Happy Birthday, Logan! Tomorrow is the birthday of our older grandson Logan Alexander Shepard of San Diego. At just 3 years old he is the older of the two Logan Shepards in our family, the other one being his second cousin Logan Joseph Shepard, the son of Patrick and Nicole Shepard of Bothell, Washington.

Logan Alexander Shepard is the middle child of the three children of Nathan and Chenda Shepard, who moved to San Diego just a few months ago. Logan's namesake in our family tree is Alexander Davis, his 5X Great Grandfather via my grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. Here is a lineage from Logan Alexander Shepard to Alexander Davis.
  • Logan Alexander Shepard (b. 2011)
  • Nathan Shepard (b. 1977) - wife Chenda Sou
  • Steve Shepard (b. 1948) - wife Cindy Harris
  • Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) - wife Maida Gower
  • Bura Davis Shepard (1896-1986) - husband William Shepard
  • James Brooks Davis (1870-1928) - wife Carolyn Spear
  • Charles Edward Davis (1849-1926) - wife Malinda Wright
  • Alexander Davis (1819-1866) - wife Jane Buskirk
 The following photo presentation celebrates Logan's 3rd birthday tomorrow.


- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Happy Mother's Day Tomorrow, May 10, 2014

I remember my mother's prayers;
they have always followed me.
They have clung to me all my life.
~Abraham Lincoln

Happy Mother's Day tomorrow to all moms in our midst! May it be a special occasion to remember the importance of moms who have passed away as well as a time to honor those who are with us.

Special Mother's Day and Birthday wishes this weekend go to Cindy Saunders Shepard of New Castle, Oklahoma, and to Nicole Haw Shepard of Bothell, Washington. Tomorrow both of them are celebrating their birthday AND Mother's Day at the same time. The first picture shows Cindy with her children Nathan and Kaylan. Cindy's husband is my cousin Dane Shepard.

Nicole and husband Patrick Shepard, who live in Bothell, Washington, are the parents of little Logan Joseph Shepard, who was born last July. Unless someone else wants to claim the honor, I think Nicole is also the most recent mother in our entire family! The second picture shows Nicole with little Logan.

Nicole: This weekend is my birthday and my first Mother's Day! We are doing very well! Logan is healthy and becoming such a happy little guy, it's so much fun! :) We are having a bday/Mother's Day BBQ at our house this weekend with all our family. On another note, we are expecting Baby #2 in December! We are very excited!! Another exciting year in the Shepard house! :)

On the other end of the spectrum, tomorrow is my mom Maida Shepard's 69th Mother's Day. Even though I have only been around for 66 of them, I am convinced that that is quite an accomplishment, worthy of our praise and gratitude. A lot of mothering (and grandmothering) has been done in those years!

The following is a family photo presentation that celebrates Mother's Day and honors all the moms in our family - the youngest, the oldest, some who are no longer with us, and all those in between!


- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, May 05, 2014

Remarkable Mothers, May 5, 2014

Heaven is under our feet
as well as over our heads.
~Henry David Thoreau

Happy Anniversary! This Wednesday, May 7, is the first wedding anniversary for Lloyd Gower and his wife Tammy Turman Gower who live in San Marcos, Ca, north of San Diego. The first picture shows Lloyd and Tammy Gower. Happy Anniversary to them!

Remarkable Mothers in our Family. This coming Sunday is Mother's Day making this an appropriate time to remember remarkable mothers in the history of our family. I am thinking in particular about women who outlived their husbands, sometimes by many years. 

Nola Shannon GowerIn my last post I mentioned my grandmother Nola Shannon Gower who died 11 years ago and outlived her husband Leroy Gower by 30 years. Fortunately their children were grown when Leroy died (their youngest child Vicki was 41 at the time), therefore Nola's mothering skills were not missed as much as they might have been had she died at a young age.

Nola was just one in a line of women who outlived their husbands by many years. Nola's mother Finetta Dearien Shannon outlived her husband Sam Shannon also by 30 years. He died in 1930; she in 1960 when she was 99! (The picture below shows Finetta and husband Sam in the 1920s.) Nola's paternal grandmother, however, is one of the most remarkable mothers to be found in our entire family tree.

Peggy Gray Shannon was a Civil War widow who outlived her husband David Reid Shannon by 35 years. (Read more about their story here.) David died in the war at 42 years old when his wife Peggy was just 35 and the mother of 7 children between the ages of 2 and 16! (One of those 7 children was my G Grandfather Sam Shannon, shown in the picture below.)

How does a woman and her children survive something like that? They were simple, poor farming folk in the small town of Sugartown, Lousiana, which was already suffering the hardships of Civil War. When the conflict ended they were on the losing side, meaning government assistance of any kind was virtually nonexistent. Salvation for her and her children came in the form of Peggy's father Richard Gray and her brothers Jim, Sam and Lawson, who made the difficult trek to Louisiana from Stone County, Arkansas and took Peggy and her fatherless children back home with them. They made their home in Stone County where Peggy completed raising her 7 children.

If ever there was a woman whose mothering skills were desperately needed and whose parenting abilities were tested beyond measure, it was my GG grandmother Peggy Gray Shannon. This 35 year old young widow lived 35 more years and died in 1899 in Stone County, Arkansas. On this week leading up to Mother's Day, I can find no woman in all my family tree whose life as a mother deserves more praise and admiration than her. She outlived her husband by 35 long years -- a remarkable fact in itself --  but it only begins to tell the story of her life journey as a mother.

Mary Sprague Shepard RagsdaleIn terms of outliving one's husband, however, none can compare with another Civil War widow in our family, Mary Sprague Shepard (1840-1919), another GG grandmother of mine. She outlived her husband William Shepard by 57 years! He was 26 when he died in Indiana in the Civil War; she was a young 22 year old mother of one infant son. Fortunately she married a second time to a William Ragsdale and had several more children by him (and then outlived her second husband by 32 years!). (See picture of her grave in Indianapolis.)

This coming weekend will be a time to honor and appreciate the mothers in our midst. But we would do well to remember the legacy of remarkable mothers in our family history, women who lived through unimaginably difficult times. Their stories help us to appreciate even more those women who today give of themselves to the joys and responsibilities of being parents.
- - -
Steve Shepard