Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Embedded On Our Hearts For Life, May 24, 2016

The past beats inside me like a second heart. 
~John Banville

My mom and dad, Maida Gower Shepard and Eugene Shepard, were married in San Diego on May 24, 1945. Today marks 71 years since they tied the knot all those long years ago. It was a very simple ceremony that took place on a weekday afternoon in a minister's parsonage behind the El Cajon Blvd Church. It was the beginning of a significant 58 year marriage, that ended when dad died in Washington 13 years ago. A growing family of several dozen members has resulted from that World War II love affair in Southern California.  

Maida and Eugene, 1946
The Gower family and Shepard family had only been in San Diego for a few years when Maida and Eugene said their vows. My mom's Gower family had moved to San Diego barely 2 years earlier from Oklahoma, in December, 1942. My dad's Shepard family had came to San Diego from Two Buttes, Colorado in September, 1940. These two families had a lot in common, but did not know each other until Maida and Eugene hooked up in 1944. Their wedding was the first marriage within either family since they became Californians.

In the Spring of 1945, when my mom and dad were married, one of the youngest family members was Maida's young sister Vicki. At the time "Melva", as she was known then, was an 11 year old school girl, attending Garfield Elementary in the Gowers' North Park neighborhood. As a pre-adolescent, she must have been thrilled when her 20 year old sister Maida fell in love with Navy man Eugene and then chose to marry him.

It was a time of heightened emotion on so many levels. These families were still just beginning their adjustment to life in the big city after their lives in small town America. The Second World War was winding down but not yet finished, with San Diego being critical to the war effort. Eugene and Maida had a long distance romance for most of their courtship and for the early months of their marriage. Vicki, Maida, Eugene and their parents and siblings were all experiencing tremendous transitions in their own ways.

Paula, me and Vicki
That 11 year old school girl -- now my aunt Vicki Johnston -- is today an octogenarian who lives in Chandler, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. I had the privilege of visiting her this past week in Arizona. Cindy and I had lunch with Vicki and her daughter Paula Tuzzolino who lives near her mother and is her primary caregiver. As we chatted I brought up with Vicki the subject of her sister's wedding 71 years ago. Her face immediately lit up as she recounted those happy moments of what seems like a lifetime ago. She had indeed been excited about all the events surrounding the relationship of sister Maida and soldier Eugene and then their marriage. Little sister even remembered spying mischievously on the newlyweds who lived for a time in the Gower home on Arizona Street around the corner from the church where they were married.

The years have a way of softening the thrill of young love and family joy. But there is no forgetting the happiness that comes from recalling events like this one from so long ago, events that have a way of embedding themselves on our hearts for life.

This second picture was taken last Friday in the home of Paula and her husband Frank Tuzzolino. It shows me sandwiched between daughter Paula Tuzzolino on the left and her mom Vicki Gower Johnston on the right. Thanks to Cindy for taking this picture.
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Steve Shepard 

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