Tuesday, July 10, 2018

All American Owens Heritage, July 10, 2018

To forget one’s ancestors
is to be a brook without a source,
a tree without a root.
~Chinese Proverb

Elvira Owens Shepard and her Owens Heritage. The first of July was the 155th anniversary of the birth of my Great Grandmother Elvira Owens Shepard (1863-1931). She was the wife of William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915).  Elvira has always held special interest for me because she is the connection to our Owens family heritage. My Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard had run away from his Indiana home as a teen in the 1880s and started a new life in Southwest Illinois. That's where he met Elvira. After marrying her in 1886 and having two children with her (Sadie and William), this young family moved westward and settled in Beaver County, Oklahoma in 1905. Some of their descendants eventually made it all the way to California and settled in San Diego, where a few of their descendants live to this day.

Elvira Owens Shepard 
with grandchildren Elmer and Pauline Shepard
about 1919 in Oklahoma 
Because of Elvira we have Owens roots that can be traced back to the very beginning of our nation. Her Great Grandfather Edmond Owens Sr. (1762-1821), was from rural Sussex County, Virginia and was a young teen when the USA came into being in 1776.

Elvira's Grandfather Edmond Owens Jr. (1795-1864) was actually born in South Carolina after his family had moved there from Virginia. But the Owenses were not in South Carolina very long. With his wife Sara Rives, Edmond Jr. migrated farther west to Davidson County, Tennessee where their son Payton Owens (1826-1872) was born. Payton moved on westward to Illinois as a young man. When just 19 he married another teenager Mary Wheeless in Washington County, Illinois, not far from Saint Louis. In 1865, near the end of the Civil War, Payton and Mary, living in Madison County, Illinois, gave birth to my Great Grandmother Elvira, the 7th of their 8 children.

So our Owens roots trace from Sussex County, Virginia to South Carolina to Davidson County, Tennessee to Madison County, Illinois. That's where Elvira Owen married my Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard.

Edmond Owens Jr. about 1850
Edmond Owens Jr. One of the most colorful characters in this Owens history was GGG Grandfather Edmond Owens Jr. As a child, he had moved with his parents from North Carolina to Davidson County, Tennessee, where his parents became farmers. Edmond was still a teen when war broke out again with Great Britain. Edmond was one of the first to enlist for the American cause, just like his Grandfather Benjamin Owens, who served under Frances Marion, “The Swamp Fox”, during the Revolutionary War.

Edmond was part of the Western Tennessee Militia in this second War with Great Britain, also known as the War of 1812. He fought with Andrew Jackson in the famous Battle of New Orleans in January, 1815. He was part of a very diverse group of American soldiers who served together: Tennessee farmers, former Haitian slaves, frontiersmen, outlaws and pirates.

When Edmond and his ragtag group of soldiers first arrived in New Orleans to fight with Andrew Jackson, they did not make a good impression. They were not trained soldiers. They were pioneers and farmers. They wore woolen hunting shirts and dyed pantaloons, raccoon skin caps, and belts of untanned deerskin with hunting knives and tomahawks. They had long unkempt hair and were unshaven. They might be right at home in New Orleans today, but 200 years ago they would have appeared undisciplined and unfit to take on the invaders from across the Atlantic. The second picture of this post shows Edmond Owens later in life, probably about 1850, looking much neater and cleaner than in those earlier days of battle when fighting the British. 

Edmond Owens Land Grant, 1851
(click on picture for larger view)
Regardless of their appearance Edmond and his comrades routed the British in 1815. One eye witness officer said, "the redcoats fell like blades of grass beneath the scythe." Their victory was a huge boost to the morale of the still young United States. Edmond and the other Tennessee Volunteers became legendary for their service to their county. After the war, Edmond Owens Jr. and his family yielded to call of the American frontier. They left Tennessee in 1838 and settled 300 miles northwest, in Madison County, Illinois, where he received a land grant in 1851 for his service with the West Tennessee Militia (see image).

We are indebted to Great Grandmother Elvira Owens Shepard for this Owens heritage that we can be proud of. They are one more part of the great American tapestry that is the history of our family.

Remembering Paula Harris. I mentioned in my last post that my mother in law Paula Harris passed away in early June. Select this link to view a video that honors her life and family. This was part of the Memorial Service we had for her on June 23. We are grateful to God for the wonderful life of Paula Harris (1923-2018).
- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, June 09, 2018

A Tribute to Paula Harris (1923-2018), June 9, 2018

Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his saints.
~Psalm 116:15

My mother-in-law Paula Harris passed away last Saturday night, just two months short of her 95th birthday. She died of a heart attack at her home on Burgundy Street in San Diego. I have known Paula for over 50 years. As my wife Cindy's mother, she has been an integral part of my family life for over half a century. 

Paula (left) with sister Juanita, 1940s
Paula and her late husband Joe Harris, were very much like my own parents: transplanted Okies who had come to California in the mid 20th century and raised their family in San Diego. Also like my family, they were devout Church of Christ folks who had a strong connection to the El Cajon Blvd Church of Christ in San Diego, where Paula's memorial service will be conducted in two weeks.

Her husband Joe Harris died 19 years ago, but Paula did well on her own these last two decades, with her sister Juanita as a housemate. The house on Burgundy Street in San Diego had been Paula's home for 61 years. She and husband Joe were a young couple in 1957, with two grade school kids, Cindy and Joe Paul, when they bought their house in the new San Diego Community of Allied Gardens.

Paula was one of the most independent seniors I have ever known. Especially in recent years she wanted her and sister Juanita to manage on their own. She did her own shopping, visited friends and drove her own car as long as she was physically able. She attended church regularly until she was in her 90s. And she took care of her yard and garden longer than one would have expected. She was tough and self assured, and exhibited an independent streak that worked well for her, especially after the death of husband Joe. But Paula knew her limitations and acted accordingly, adjusting gracefully to the life changes that came to her as they come to all of us as we grow older.

Recent months were difficult for her health-wise. She had dealt with heart issues for years. But after a heart attack this past January, her health concerns increased. She made several visits to the hospital in the weeks before her death. When she eventually passed away last Saturday night, she was in her own home, in her own bed, with close family members at her side.

Paula with daughter Cindy on her 94th birthday last summer.
Paulena Hicks was born in Durant, Oklahoma in August of 1923. She was proud of her Native American heritage that she inherited from her full blooded Chickasaw Grandmother. She remained an active part of the Chickasaw Nation her whole life. After graduating High School she attended Southeastern Oklahoma State University for a year. She then responded to the call of service and entered the military, serving for two years in the Army during World War II, along with her sister Juanita. After the war, she married fellow veteran Joe Harris in September, 1945.

Paula leaves a daughter: Cindy Harris Shepard, 4 Grandchildren: Nathan, Cadence, Jared and Charles, and 8 Great Grandchildren. The family home on Burgundy Street will never be the same without her. Later this summer Paula will be laid to rest alongside her son Joe Paul Harris in the relatively new Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Celebrating My Grandparents, June 2, 2018

A wedding anniversary is the celebration
of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity.
The order varies for any given year.
Paul Sweeny

William and Bura. 103 years ago today my grandparents William Shepard and Bura Emerald Davis were married in Beaver County, Oklahoma. She was a teen of 18; he was 8 years older. They were both from farming families who had migrated a few years earlier from Indiana and Illinois. They went on to have 4 children, 12 grandchildren, and a large assortment of other descendants who today are scattered around the Western US. 

William and Bura Shepard, 1950s San Diego
Their youngest child, Thelma Shepard Boyd is the last surviving member of the original family. She lives with her daughter and husband Kim and Jeff Clark who are traveling the U.S. these days in their RV. Will and Bura's 2 youngest descendants, both born in 2015, are Camryn Slaughter (daughter of Courtney Boyd Slaughter) of San Diego, and Finley Shepard (daughter of Chris Shepard) of Seattle.

Will and Bura were married in the spring of 1915 in the country home of their Church's minister in rural Beaver County, Oklahoma. In 1928 they moved their family to Southeast Colorado, then on to San Diego in 1940 where they lived the largest part of their lives. I am grateful for these two who are an important part of our rich family history. It was 103 years ago that they were married but their influence continues to be felt every day, in numerous obvious and subtle ways.

Anacortes Shepard Family, Memorial Day 2018
Gary and Cindy. Today is also the wedding anniversary of my brother Gary and his wife Cindy Ann Shepard, of Oak Harbor, Washington. They were married 39 years ago in the backyard of our home in Los Alamitos, California. I spent last weekend with family in Washington and caught up with a number of my relatives in Western Washington, included Gary and Cindy. Our Memorial Day gathering was an enjoyable time of being with family and some family friends at the Anacortes home of our mother Maida Shepard.

This second picture was taken last Monday and shows Gary and Cindy, along with the others who enjoyed our afternoon Barbeque. Seated in the middle of this picture is our mother Maida Gower Shepard. At 93 she is the senior member of our Gower and Shepard families. Behind her is her oldest son Gary, with his wife Cindy kneeling on the left. Kneeling on the right is granddaughter Linda. Across the back, right to left, are me, Russell, Steven Paul, Pam, Barbara, and family friends Vicki and Virgil.

Also worthy of note as this month of June commences, are the following:
  • Today is the 148th anniversary of the birth of James Brooks Davis (1870-1928), father of my grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. On his 45th birthday his oldest daughter Bura was married.
  • Yesterday was the 16th wedding anniversary of Jeremy and Desiree Ortiz. Jeremy is the great grandson of Will and Bura Shepard.
  • This past Tuesday was the 63rd birthday of my cousin Michael Harrell, grandchild of Leroy and Nola Gower and oldest son of Vicki Gower Johnston. Michael and wife Carole live in Tokyo and would love to welcome any of us if we happen to be visiting Japan. 
Best wishes to all these folks as they celebrate these important milestones!
- - -
Steve Shepard

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Celebrating Elmer Shepard, May 20, 2018

An ounce of blood is worth more
than a pound of friendship.
~Spanish Proverb

Celebrating the 100th birthday of the late Elmer James Shepard (1918-2012).


Elmer Shepard with his sister Thelma Shepard Boyd, 2009
100 years ago today my uncle Elmer James Shepard was born in Logan, Oklahoma. The second child of William and Bura Shepard, Elmer had one older sibling, a sister Pauline, two years his senior. His younger brother Eugene (my father) was born three years later. Elmer's last sibling, Thelma, was born 18 years after him. When Elmer was born the Shepards lived on a farm in the sparsely populated community of Logan in Beaver County, in the panhandle of Oklahoma. Will and Bura were still a young couple at 29 and 21 years old, and had been married less than three years.

Elmer's maternal grandparents, James Brooks Davis and Callie Davis, were also dirt farmers and lived nearby. His widowed paternal grandmother, Elvira Owens Shepard, also lived in close proximity. 1918, the year Elmer was born, she married Cal Williams, a neighbor and church friend 17 years younger than her. (Read more about that conflicted tale here.)

Elmer James Shepard probably believed he was named after his grandfather James Brooks Davis (1870-1928). But little did he know that among his Shepard ancestors, James was also a common name. Elmer's Great Grandfather (who he probably never knew about) was named James Cross Sheppard, Jr. (1813-1887), as was his Great Great Grandfather James Cross Sheppard, Sr. (1775-1843).
Elmer Shepard, 1940s

Elmer was raised on a farm in Oklahoma and then in Southeast Colorado where his family moved when he was 10 years old. His father had several different jobs during those depression years of Elmer's youth and was away from home for periods of time. Elmer became the man of the house and did a good job of being responsible for the family. He came to adulthood just in time for World War II and was a pilot during the war. That conflict was one factor in the family's 1940 move to San Diego where Elmer and his wife Beryl Swinney Shepard lived for 30 years. In San Diego during the 1950s their two children, Dane and Joan were born and raised.


Dane emailed me a few days ago with the following comments:

Thanks for your continuing efforts in chronicling our family's past and your consideration of my father. I have a few comments to offer regarding Elmer.

As many who were born early in the last century, he saw and experienced great and life-altering changes. From the humble beginning of dry-dirt farming in the panhandle of Oklahoma, he never dreamed of co-piloting a B-17 and being an aircraft examiner in the civil service in San Diego, California, specializing in helicopters. He was one who accepted responsibility willingly, and being the oldest son, he found himself walking behind a team of plow horses at an early age. In fact, he missed a year of elementary schooling working the farm in his father's absence. Fortunately, he had already skipped a grade so he remained on track. His love of farming remained with him as he enjoyed growing various kinds of fruit trees and plants on our terraced property in Lakeside. When he and Beryl moved to east Texas on his retirement, he purchased a tractor and continued to farm there as well. His willingness to serve and his devotion to God was seen in his role as a deacon/treasurer and elder for the church of Christ for around 40 years. He was a good provider to the family in many ways, and I will always be thankful for his dedicated, willing service to us and others. For myself, growing up and working in southern California for 55 years, I never dreamed I would now be residing in Oklahoma! We must grow where we are planted as we have seen in many who were before us.

Gratefully, Dane.

Elmer is just one part of our wonderful family history. I am grateful for his life on this the 100th anniversary of his birth. It is important to remember family members like Elmer so we can be reminded of those who went before us, people whose DNA we share, and whose lives and hardships, whose dreams and aspirations, continue to inspire us. They ground us in our values and customs and show us the way to quality living.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, May 14, 2018

New Adventures, May 14, 2018

Your brothers, your sisters,
your children, your parents....
Make no mistake your relationships
are the heaviest components in your life.
-Ryan Bingham

Happy Birthday Thelma and Courtney! Today is the birthday of my Aunt Thelma Shepard Boyd. It is also the birthday of Thelma's granddaughter Courtney Boyd Slaughter of San Diego. Best wishes to Thelma and Courtney for a very happy birthday! These days Thelma is a vagabond with her daughter Kim Boyd Clark and Kim's husband Jeff Clark, as they travel in their RV. Much of the time they find themselves in the San Diego area near the grandchildren and other family. I caught up with them a few weeks ago when we all had a wonderful lunch together at a favorite restaurant in San Diego.

Kim Boyd Clark
and her mom Thelma Shepard Boyd
Gluten Free RV. On a related note, my cousin Kim Boyd Clark tells me that as a part of the "New Adventure" that she and Jeff have started, she has begun a new blog. It is titled "Going Gluten-Free in My RV." The first picture I am sharing today shows Kim and Thelma in a recently picture. Kim shared these comments recently on Facebook:

We are loving our RV life. Since I have known about celiac disease for 3 year's now I thought it would be great to share with you some gluten free products and recipes that I like. Eating gluten free can be challenging at times. Please feel free to share any gluten free recipes or products you would like to. Also you can share any neat places you have camped at. I would love to hear about your discoveries also. My blog is brand new and I have never done this before but I am determined to get going and interesting. Let's have fun sharing our experiences.

Select this link to visit Kim's Blog.

Chris, Barbara, Finley and Maida Shepard
Happy Birthday Christopher Shepard! Today is also the birthday of my nephew Christopher Shepard. Chris is the oldest child of Mary and Darrell Shepard of Bothell, Washington. Chris and Jessica and little Finley live in Seattle, Washington. Chris works at a Senior Health Care facility in Seattle and enjoys spending time with Jessica and Finley. This second picture shows Chris with his Aunt Barbara, Grandmother Maida and daughter Finley when they were visiting Maida and Barbara in Anacortes, Washington a few weeks ago. Thanks to Jessica for taking this picture. Best wishes for a very happy birthday to Christopher!

Happy Birthday Logan! Tomorrow is the 7th birthday of our Grandson Logan! Born in San Francisco, Logan is the son of Nathan and Chenda and one of Cindy's and my grandchildren. He is a happy first grader and looking forward to a trip to LEGOLAND for his special day. Select the link below for a YouTube video celebrating Logan's birthday.



- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Powerful Influence of Mothers, May 12, 2018

To describe my mother
would be to write about a hurricane
in its perfect power.
~ Maya Angelou

Happy Mother's Day Weekend 2018!

This weekend is an opportunity to honor all mothers. I am grateful for every one of the moms and grandmothers in our larger family, whether they are still with us or have passed away. In particular I am thinking of these moms: my wife Cindy, my mother Maida and my Grandmothers Nola and Bura. Whoever the important moms are in your life, make this a special day for them.

My Mother Maida. Fortunately my mom Maida Gower Shepard is still with us. She lives in Anacortes, Washington with several family members who are helping to care for her in these last years of her life. At 93 the aging process is taking its toll, but her family is doing their best to respond to her many needs.

40 years ago this spring, my Mom and Dad decided to leave San Diego, where they had lived for over 35 years. Two years earlier, at 55 years old, Dad had retired from Civil Service work at the Naval Supply Depot on San Diego Bay. He and Mom, a spry 53 year old at the time, were nearly finished getting their 6 children to adulthood. The time seemed right, so they decided to move to Western Washington. Mom's sister Vicki had moved to Western Washington a few years earlier, and my parents had some friends who also lived in Anacortes, so they settled there. Mom still lives in the home on Wildwood Lane that she and Dad bought in the summer of 1978, the first year they were in Skagit County, Washington. Their home has served our family very well for these last 4 decades. Dad passed away in their home some 15 years ago after a battle with COPD, but Mom remains comfortable ensconced at the family estate on Wildwood Lane.

Set among tall, windblown, evergreen trees, with a circular drive usually full of cars, the house is a short walk from beautiful little Lake Erie and the mountain of the same name that looks down on it. The home is where both my grandmothers, Grandmother Gower and Grandmother Shepard, spent the last years of their lives. They too deserve to be remembered and honored on this weekend of Mother's Day.

My Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard (middle)
and my Mother Maida Gower Shepard (far right)
The first picture I am sharing today was taken in 1978 not long after Mom and Dad bought their home on Wildwood Lane where this picture was taken. My Mom Maida is on the far right with their youngest son Russell next to her. Our father Gene Shepard is just behind Russ. In the middle in the soft purple pantsuit and the carefully coiffed wig is my solemn but gentle 81 year old Grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. On the left is Jerry and Jane Clark with their youngest daughter Becky who were visiting from Lubbock, Texas.

Bura Davis Shepard (1896-1986). My Dad's Mom, Bura Davis Shepard, died in 1986 after living the last couple of years of her life in Anacortes. Originally from Spencer, Indiana, Grandmother Shepard lived in Oklahoma and then Colorado before moving to San Diego where she lived the biggest part of her life, some 40 years. There, in the middle years of the 20th century, she had the good fortune of watching her and Granddad's 12 grandchildren grow up. We grandkids were very fortunate that Grandma Shepard was actively engaged in the lives of her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004). My Mom's Mom, Nola Shannon Gower, died in 2004 also after having lived the last few years of her life at the Shepard home in Anacortes. Originally from Mountain View, Arkansas, Grandmother Gower lived in Oklahoma for 17 years before she and Grandpa moved to San Diego where they lived the largest part of their lives. Grandma Gower was also engaged in the lives of her 12 grandchildren in San Diego as they grew up. All of us grandkids have many wonderful memories of life on Lynne Street at their home in what was called East San Diego back then.

My wife Cindy and My Grandmother Nola Gower with Nathan
The second picture I am including today, taken in 1977 shows Grandma Nola Gower with my wife Cindy Harris Shepard next to her. Grandma Gower is holding our son Nathan who was just a few months old. My Grandmother, who lived in San Diego, was visiting us in Sylmar, California, where we lived at the time.

I am struck once again at how significant these women have been throughout my life. I am constantly reminded of how much I am a reflection of them: their values, their hopes, their aspirations, their spiritual orientation, their attitudes toward family, their sense of humor, their approach to life. Their influence on me has been felt my whole life and will continue to be felt as long as I live. I have a strong suspicion that all my siblings and cousins could say the same thing for themselves. For all these reasons, I am glad to honor these women on this weekend of Mother's Day. Thank God for the powerful influence for good of Mothers and Grandmothers!
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, April 27, 2018

A Remarkable Week for Remembering, April 27, 2018

We have a witch in the family.
Isn't it wonderful?
- from Harry Potter
and the Sorcerer's Stone

It has been a remarkable week for remembering people in our family.

Gloria Harrell Watson. Yesterday, on beautiful clear day, we laid to rest my cousin Gloria Harrell Watson (1953-2016) in Greenwood Cemetery in San Diego. Her sister Paula had made the arrangements and was there with her husband Frank as we said our last goodbyes and prayed Gloria into eternity. Gloria passed away two years ago in Knoxville, Tennessee at 63 years old. She was born in San Diego and was raised there along with all her siblings and cousins. At just 18 years old she married William Watson in San Diego. She then moved with him to Tennessee where she lived the rest of her life. She had a long and successful career at healthcare company Allmeds, Inc. in Knoxville.

Gloria Harrell Watson and Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower
Thanks to our cousin Jimmie Gower, Gloria's ashes were interred in the grave next to her grandmother Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004).  Gloria and her Grandmother were very close and had a special bond throughout Gloria's life. Their final resting place is in a lovely section of Greenwood Cemetery which on a clear day offers views of the local mountains to the east, and San Diego bay to the west. In this particular corner of Greenwood Cemetery a dozen or more graves of family members are located. It is a place rife with memories of Gowers and Shepards who have lived in San Diego in recent generations.

The first picture I am including today was taken 25 years ago and shows Gloria with her Grandmother in San Diego. The picture was taken while Gloria was visiting in San Diego from Tennessee.

Beverly Jean Russell Wilk. Today would have been the 79th Birthday of my cousin Beverly Jean Russell Wilk (1939-1974). Bev is the mother of Shannon Wilk who lives with her daughter Emma Beverly Jean in Atchison, Kansas. Bev only lived to be 35 years old because of a brain aneurysm that tragically cut her life short back in 1974 when she was a wife and a mother of two young children. Beverly's grave is just a few steps away from Gloria's in San Diego.

Bev's daughter Shannon posted this on Facebook just today: "Happy Birthday to my mom. She would have been 79 years old today. She was taken from me early in my life, and though I have no memory of her, she is always in my heart. My very own Angel who watches over me and her granddaughter. Love you mommy."


Beverly Russell Wilk with uncle Eugene Shepard
Eugene Shepard. Tomorrow I will be remembering my maternal grandmother Nola Shannon Gower, and my father Eugene Shepard, who were both born on April 28. My dad was born 97 years ago in Beaver County, Oklahoma, where he was raised. He graduated from Two Buttes (Colorado) High School when his family lived there in the 1930s. After serving in the Navy in WW2 he stayed in San Diego, married Maida Gower and with her raised a family of 6 kids. After retiring from the Naval Supply Depot in the late 1970s, he and Maida moved to Anacortes, Washington where he died 15 years ago this summer.

The second picture in this post was taken about 1944 in San Diego. It shows my father, Navyman Eugene Shepard, holding his 5 year old niece Beverly Jean Russell. Dad was stationed at the time in Los Alamitos, California, and was probably home on leave visiting his family. Bev was the only granddaughter of the Shepards at the time and was the darling of the family. She and her family had only lived in San Diego for a couple of years, having moved from Colorado in 1940.

Nola Shannon Gower. My Grandmother Nola Gower was born 115 years ago near Mountain View, Arkansas. She married Leroy Gower in Arkansas in 1921, and then moved to Okemah, Oklahoma where she and husband Leroy lived for 17 years until they moved to San Diego. The first picture above shows Nola Gower in her home on Lynne Street in San Diego, where she lived for almost 50 years.


The memories of this week have been important and powerful for members of both our Shepard and the Gower families. They bring to mind some of the best of the folks who have made our family what it is today. I thank God for the memories of all these loved ones.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Happy Siblings Day! April 10, 2018

Our paths may change as life goes along
But the bond between us remains ever strong.

Today is Siblings Day, one of the lesser holidays on the calendar, but one that most definitely deserves its place. It is undervalued as far as I am concerned. Siblings are important, even though they sometimes live at a distance, even if our relationships do grow old over time, even if we have our differences. Despite all that it behooves us to honor our siblings.

Gary, me, Jerry, Darrell, Barbara and Russ
I am grateful for my siblings. For Gary, Darrell, Barbara, and Russ, and for Jerry Clark. And for the memory of my departed sister Linda. I am grateful to each of them for our shared history, for our family ties, for the memories we have from years passed. I am grateful for the happy times that brought us together and the sad times that also brought us together, even though we would never have wished for it to have happened that way. I am also grateful for the ways our relationships have evolved over the years, sometimes in ways that deepen our bonds, other times in ways that challenge the very fabric of our family.

Maida and her sister Vicki
But most of all I am particularly grateful for the ways my siblings have responded to needs of our dear mother Maida Shepard in these last years of her life. My life is so much better for having my siblings in my life. But most of all, mom is blessed by the care given to her by her children, my siblings, who give the best of themselves to her.

Long Time Siblings. Siblings are usually the people we have known longer in life than anyone else, except our parents. In our larger family, among those who have been siblings a very long time are my 93 year old mother Maida Gower Shepard and her 84 year old sister Vicki Gower Johnston. These days Maida and Vicki live a distance from each other, with Maida living in Washington, and Vicki living in Arizona. But for most of their lives they lived near enough to one another to keep their relationship close. They stay in contact even today as best they can despite the limitations of their advanced years. They have been siblings since 1933, nearly 85 years. This second picture shows Maida and Vicki just a few years ago in Maida's home in Anacortes, Washington.

Sisters Juanita and Paula, with Cindy on the left
But the most remarkable set of siblings among us is my wife Cindy's mother Paula Hicks Harris and her sister Juanita Hicks Eeds. At 94 and 96 years old respectively, Paula and Juanita have shared the bond of sisterhood for almost 95 years! They have been close throughout the years, even as each had children and raised their respective families. They have both lived in San Diego since about 1950, and have lived together in the same house on Burgundy Street for the last 37 years. These days they both struggle with the affects of aging and need full time care, but their sibling bond remains as strong as ever. This third picture shows Juanita in the middle with her sister Paula on the right, and Paula's daughter Cindy on the left.

Rest In Peace Gloria. I received word from my cousin Paula Harrell Tuzzolino that her sister Gloria Harrell Watson, who died two years ago, will be laid to rest later this month in San Diego. On April 26 Gloria's ashes will be interred next to her Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower. At that time there will be a graveside service to honor Gloria. Any family members or friends are welcome to join us. For more details please contact me or Paula.
Darrell, Kellan, Mary and Rachel

Happy Birthday Rachel!
Birthday wishes are extended to my niece Rachel Shepard who turns 31 years old this Saturday April 14. She is the daughter of my sibling Darrell Shepard, and lives in the Seattle, Washington area with her son Kellan. Best wishes to Rachel for a wonderful birthday!


This last picture was taken this past Easter and shows Rachel with her dad Darrell, her mom Mary and her son Kellan. And her friend the Easter Bunny.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Nathan Shepard: An American Original, April 3, 2018

We are connected with our past.
People who care nothing for the past
usually have no thought for the future.
~S. W. Kimball

Preslea Maida Shepard
Happy Birthday Preslea! Last Monday was the 8th birthday of our granddaughter Preslea Maida Shepard. She lives here in San Diego with her dad and brothers, just a short ways from Cindy and me. We all had a great time celebrating her big day last week at LEGOLAND in nearby Carlsbad.

The first picture shows a smiling birthday girl Preslea in a picture at their home in San Diego.

Birthday Wishes to Nathan! Today is the birthday of her father, our son Nathan Shepard. Best wishes to Nate for a great birthday! Nate stays busy these days being a father of three, and working full time for Wells Fargo Bank. He enjoys hockey, biking, backpacking, Roblox, and caring for the family dog Jasmine.

When Cindy and I gave our son his name 41 years ago, little did we know that he was not the first in our Shepard family to have the name Nathan Shepard. We thought we were being original. I am sure the same can said for my cousin Dane Shepard and his wife Cindy who, 22 years ago, gave their son the name Nathan Shepard. What none of us knew until recently, was that the first Nathan in our Shepard family tree was the first born child of James and Hannah Gatchell Sheppard, of Belmont County, Ohio. That Nathan was born 217 years ago on February 7, 1801, in Fredricktown, Maryland.

Nathan with Preslea and Logan
The second picture shows Nathan Shepard with daughter Preslea and son Logan.

The Sheppard clan of Kirkwood Township in Belmont County, Ohio is an important part of our family history. The patriarch and matriarch of that clan were James and Hannah Sheppard, who migrated to the frontier of Ohio from Maryland in the first decade of the 19th century. (Note: It was not until after the Civil War that we began consistently spelling our last name with one p.)

Fellow family researcher Dee Gordon has written this story about my 4X Great Grandparents James and Hannah Sheppard, the parents of the original Nathan Shepard in our family:
James and Hannah began their married life in Maryland possibly with or near her parents the Gatchells, until their first 4 children were born. Then they decided to try their luck in the wilds of Ohio. And started on their long and trying journey in a heavy covered wagon pulled by oxen. The trail they took is now known as U.S. Route 40 Highway. 
After several weeks of travel and peril they stopped in the Kirkwood twp., Belmont Co., Ohio. They settled first on the Wilson Farm in October of 1809 and remained there for one year. James then bought a quarter section in Kirkwood twp., for two dollars per acre, and made improvements. The deed was dated January 1, 1812 and was signed by James Madison President, and James Monroe, Secretary of State. The deed is still in the family.
That old homestead never had any other name other than the Sheppard Farm till 1943, 135 years later. By about 1949 it had been transferred only 4 times. This old home is spoken of at length, because from it more persons with the same family name have started out into the world than from any other home in Kirkwood twp. 
It is said that the quality of their household goods and other equipment which they brought from Maryland was of the best that could be obtained at that time.
Among those improvements made on this land in the native forest was a home erected by James to which he moved his family in 1810. It was a round-log cabin 18 by 20 feet, one story high, with one small window, and a quilt hung up for a door. They lived in this house until 1827 when he erected a two-story addition of hewed logs in which he lived the remainder of his life.
One of the odd things about this house was the adjustments made to accommodate a Grandfather's Clock. It was brought over from Baltimore and was taller than the ceiling. A hole was cut through into the room above, next to the wall on the north side. The top of the clock extended twenty inches above the upper floor and was capped over for protection. This clock was a family relic which has been lost entirely to this generation; but those two rooms completed that fine building which was nicknamed the PEPPER BOX on account of its shape.
James Sheppard was considered one of the most successful farmers in Belmont Co., and was a large land-holder, owning over 1,200 acres in Belmont Co. He also assisted in building several schoolhouses and held several township offices.
James was a Tanner by trade and followed it for several years as well as farming. He learned this and Weaving while still in Maryland. James was also a very accomplished carpenter and cabinet maker. A small bureau or chest of drawers made by James is in the permanent home of the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus, Ohio. 
James and Hannah had 99 grandchildren.
The foregoing story gives an overview of the life of this Sheppard clan in Kirkwood, Ohio in the early 19th century. Much of it seems to be word of mouth family traditions, but gives some interesting facts from which more documented research into this part of our family can be done.

Nathan Cross Sheppard (1801-1856), the oldest of the 13 children in this family, was actually born in Maryland but made the wagon journey to Ohio as a child. He was raised in Belmont County, Ohio and married Elizabeth Clark with whom he had 14 children. So this Nathan was one of 13 children. Then he and his wife Elizabeth had 14 children. Do the math. The claim above that James and Hannah Sheppard had 99 grandchildren is not far fetched.

Bethesda Cemetery Grave of Nathan Sheppard (1801-1856)
After raising their family in Ohio, Nathan Cross Sheppard and wife Elizabeth sold their Belmont County farm and migrated 600 miles westward to Rock County in Western Illinois in 1854, where Nathan died just two years later at 55 years old. He is buried there in Bethesda Cemetery, along with numerous other relatives, including a Eugene Sheppard, a Mary Sheppard, 2 Rachel Sheppards, and yet another William Sheppard.

The picture on the right shows the grave of 19th century Nathan Sheppard in Bethesda Cemetery, Illinois.

Nathan Cross Sheppard -- the original Nathan in our Shepard Family Tree -- was an outstanding American pioneer and frontiersman, who we are proud to claim. His younger brother James Cross Sheppard Jr. (1813-1887) is the one from whom we are directly descended. His son, William Shepard (1835-1862), who died in the Civil War, is the one I have written about many times in this blog. He was the Grandfather of my Grandfather William Shepard (1888-1976).
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Steve Shepard

Friday, March 23, 2018

Happy Birthday to Gary Shepard, March 23, 2018

Spring has returned.
The Earth is like a child
that knows poems.
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Greetings to all of you, wherever you may be, from beautiful San Diego on this first week of spring, 2018!

Happy Birthday today to my older brother Gary Lee Shepard. He and his wife Cindy Ann Shepard live in Oak Harbor, Washington. Gary, like all my siblings and I, was born and raised in San Diego. Gary, however, unlike his siblings, remained in San Diego for almost his entire working life. It was not until 2003 when he retired from the County of San Diego, that he left Southern California for the Northwest. He and his wife Cindy have lived on Whidbey Island in Western Washington now for 15 years.

Gary is the oldest of the 5 children of our parents Maida Gower Shepard and the late Eugene Shepard. Gary and our sister Barbara have accepted the largest share of the responsibility for caring for our elderly mother Maida, who lives in nearby Anacortes, Washington. These days in addition to his own health concerns, Gary is one of the primary caregivers for our mom. It is a very important job that does not get all the thanks that he and Barbara so richly deserve.

Leroy Gower, Maida Gower Shepard, Gary and Jason Shepard, 1973
Gary was given the middle name "Lee" by our parents as a nod to our maternal Grandfather Leroy Ertin Gower (1899-1974). Leroy was a native Arkansan who had moved his family to San Diego in 1942, just 4 years before Gary was born. Grandpa Gower often went by the name "Lee" among his friends. It was also the way I remember Grandma Gower referring to him. Lee is also the middle name that Gary gave to his son Jason Lee Shepard who lives today in Fort Worth, Texas.

This first picture (above) was taken in 1973 and shows Gary on the right holding his son Jason Lee Shepard. Grampa Leroy Gower is on the left with his daughter Maida Gower Shepard in the middle.

Our Grandfather Leroy was named after his uncle Leroy Monroe Gower (1875-1965) who went by the name "Babe" (think Babe Ruth) presumably to avoid confusion over all the "Leroy Gowers" in the family. Uncle "Babe" Gower was a young man of 23 and a neighbor of Grandpa Gower's when our Grandfather was born just months before the start of the 20th century. They all lived in the small farming community of Newnata, a few miles west of Mountain View, Arkansas.

Leroy Monroe "Babe" Gower with daughter Vergie, about 1900
This second picture, taken about 1940 in Arkansas, shows Leroy Monroe "Babe" Gower with his special needs daughter Vergie Gower.

Yet another of Gary's namesakes in our Gower family tree is Grandpa Gower's Grandfather, who was also named Leroy Gower (1854-1909). As best as I can tell this Leroy Gower was the first one with the name Leroy in our entire Gower family line. Born before the Civil War in 1854, he was the very first Gower to be born in Izard County (later renamed Stone County), Arkansas. His parents Jackson William Gower and Mary Anderson Gower had come to the hills of Northern Arkansas about 1850 from Wayne County, Tennessee about 100 miles southwest of Nashville. They may have been the very first Gowers to settle in Stone County, Arkansas.

Leroy Gower with wife Ellen Taylor Gower about 1900
This last picture shows my GG Grandparents Leroy Gower and his wife Ellen Taylor Gower. The source from whom I received this picture claims that "this is the oldest known picture of any Gowers in Arkansas." I could find no date for this remarkable photo, but both these folks died in their early 50s in 1906 and 1909, respectively. It may have been taken around the turn of the 20th century.

The following is a map showing the 168 year, 3,348 mile journey of the folks mentioned in this post. It begins with GGG Grandparents Jackson and Mary Gower who, in 1850, left Wayne County, Tennessee. It concludes with Gary and Cindy Shepard who have lived in Oak Harbor, Washington since 2003. The stops along the way include a 75 year stop in Arkansas, a 17 year stop in Oklahoma, and a 71 year stop in San Diego. 



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Steve Shepard

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Celebrating Irish, March 13, 2018

St. Patrick's Day is an enchanted time
a day to begin transforming
winter's dreams into summer's magic.
~Adrienne Cook

Celebrating Our Irish Heritage! Happy Saint Patrick's Day this coming Saturday! I have not mentioned for some time in this blog two of our most prominent Irish ancestors, 18th Century Immigrants Thomas and Eigness Shannon. They are my 6X Great Grandparents via my grandmother Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004). The following is a summary of their descendants' migration across our country since they arrived nearly 300 years ago.


Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower, San Diego, 1972
Pennsylvania. Thomas and his wife Eigness sailed across the Atlantic from Derry, Ireland to Pennsylvania about 1725, and eventually settled in Sadsbury, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania about 60 miles west of Philadelphia. State records show that in 1734 Thomas Shannon purchased 200 acres of land in Lancaster County on which he and his family got their start in America.

Virginia. He and Eigness had 5 children. Their first, Samuel Shannon (1727-1811), was born about 1727 in Pennsylvania, and is the one from whom we are descended. Samuel and his wife Jean Reid Shannon (1725-1806) migrated 400 miles westward in 1772 and settled in the frontier town of Poplar Hill, Virginia. They eventually made their way farther west to the area south of Nashville, Tennessee. 

Tennessee. Samuel and Jean's first child was David Shannon (1756-1823). He was born in Virginia but settled in Tennessee with his parents. In Tennessee David married a girl from North Carolina named Jane McKnight (1759-1830), whose ancestors had also migrated from northern Ireland in the early 1700s. (Our Irish blood thickens.) Life in Tennessee after the Revolutionary War was good for David and Jane McKnight Shannon who brought into the world a total of 11 children. 

Mississippi. The first of David and Jane Shannon's 11 children was David McKnight Shannon (1790-1860). He married Anna Pickens (1785-1867), who herself had several ancestors who were Irish immigrants. (Our Irish blood thickens even more.) David and Anna then migrated a couple of hundred miles southwest where they settled in Itawamba County, Mississippi.


Samuel Pickens Shannon and Finetta Dearien Shannon,
Arkansas, 1920s
Louisiana and Arkansas. The first of David and Anna Shannon's 10 children was David Reid Shannon (1821-1864), who married Peggy Gray (1829-1899). David and Peggy migrated to Southern Louisiana where they had 9 children. The Civil War took the life of 42 year old father David, leaving a distraught and poverty stricken widow Peggy Shannon. Her father and brothers rescued her and the children from their desperate plight in Louisiana and moved them to Stone County, Arkansas in 1867. (Read more about that touching story here.)

Oklahoma and California. The 7th child of that rescued brood was my Great Grandfather, 8 year old Samuel Pickens Shannon (1859-1930). Some 14 years after relocating to Arkansas he in turn rescued a young girl from a different kind of tragic life when he married Finetta Dearien (1861-1960). Read about their story here. The two of them bore 9 children in Arkansas, the last one being my grandmother Nola Agnes Shannon, who after marrying fellow Arkansan Leroy Gower, migrated to Oklahoma and then on to San Diego.


Russ and Steven Paul Shepard, 2012
Anacortes, Washington
So there you have it: the 3 century trail of our Shannon Irish ancestors across our country from Southeast Pennsylvania all the way to California. It is one part of our great Irish heritage to remember and to celebrate this Saint Patrick's Day!

Happy Birthday to Russ and Steve. Birthday wishes today to my brother Russell Shepard and his son Steven Paul Shepard, who were both born on March 13. There is a certain symmetry about this birthday for the two of them: Russ at 56 years old is exactly, to the day, twice as old as Steve at 28 years old. Russ is a native of San Diego while Steven has lived his entire life in Anacortes, Washington. Steven and Russ (and Russ' wife Pam) live at the Shepard home on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes. They are part of the care-giving team for our mother Maida Shepard who at 93 needs plenty of loving care and attention.

Linda and Jerry Clark, Cindy and Steve Shepard
San Diego, August 1970
Best Wishes To Jerry Clark. Happy Birthday tomorrow to my brother-by-another-mother Jerry Clark who lives with his wife Cathrina in Lubbock, Texas. Originally from Albuquerque, Jerry has lived in Lubbock nearly his entire adult life. He has been a part of our family ever since he and my late sister Linda were married back in August, 1970 in San Diego.

Happy Birthday Kerri. Earlier this month, on March 3, a very special birthday was had by my eldest niece Kerri Shepard Aquiningoc of Weatherford, Texas. Born in Walled Lake, Michigan 50 years ago (can that be right?), Kerri was raised in San Diego. She is the first born daughter of my brother Gary Shepard and Jackie Perry.
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Steve Shepard

Monday, February 19, 2018

75 Years of Cousins, February 19, 2018

Home is where love resides,
memories are made,
friends are always welcome,
and families are forever.

Today is the 75th birthday of my cousin Hershell Gower who lives in Bullhead City, California. Hershell is the first of the 12 Grandchildren of our Grandparents Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. The 12 of us were all raised together in San Diego back in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

Leroy and Nola had moved to San Diego during the Second World War in 1942 from the small town of Okemah, Oklahoma. Within a matter of months the grandchildren began arriving on the scene. Hershell, his brother Jimmie, my brother Gary and myself were the first four, born in the decade of the 1940s. Over the 20 year period from 1943-1962 the Gower children, Hendrix, Maida and Vicki, gave their parents a total of 12 Grandkids. Hershell was the initial Gower Grandchild, born in 1943 to Hendrix and Starlene Gower, while my brother Russell Shepard was the last one, born in 1962.


Leroy and Nola Gower and Family, 1968
All 12 of us kids frequented the Gower home on Lynn Street in East San Diego for family events, or for a weekend stay, or just to stop by and visit. Some of us even lived there for periods of time. It was a happy place where we all felt welcome and where familial love was in abundance. In that modest 2 bedroom home the Senior Gowers lived for almost 50 years. It still remains an important place for all us in our remembering of our Gower grandparents. From Grampa's cigarette smoke, to Grandma's Tommy Tarts and other culinary delights, it was a house of memories that will never leave us.

The first picture shows Leroy and Nola Gower in the front yard of their home on Lynne Street in San Diego in 1968. Pictured here are most of their family members, especially their first two Great Grandchildren, Kerri Shepard and Sean Gower -- both less than a year old -- sitting on Grandpa's lap.


Hershell, Hendrix and Nola Shannon Gower, 2003
It has been 75 years now since the start of that generation of those dozen Gower grandkids. Two of those 12 have passed away: my sister Linda Shepard (1950-1971), and my cousin Gloria Harrell Watson (1953-2016). Today the other 10 live scattered around from Western Washington to Southern California to Arizona to Tokyo, Japan. We cousins don't get to spend as much time with each other as we did back in our youth, but our connections remain the same, with an historical bond that will always be there.

The second picture I am including shows Hershell on the left with his father Hendrix Gower and his grandmother Nola Shannon Gower. This picture was taken in 2003 in Anacortes, Washington at the 100th birthday celebration of Nola Gower.

Happy Birthday and best wishes on this day of a milestone celebration to Hershell Gower, the senior member of those dozen cousins. I spoke with Hershell earlier today. He is doing well and enjoying life with his wife Shelly and their dogs "in the sticks", as he calls it, in Bullhead City, California.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, February 12, 2018

Valentine's Day Approaches, February 12, 2018

We do not find the meaning of life
by ourselves alone -
we find it with another.
~Thomas Merton

Happy Valentine's Day! This is the week of Valentine's Day, which is on Wednesday. It is a day to celebrate and honor love, whether you are a senior, a child, or anywhere in between. It seems to me that this makes Valentine's Day the perfect time to celebrate family love.

For most of us it was, and is, those familial relationships that have meant the most to us throughout our lives. In families we first received unconditional love, we learned about love, and we discovered the importance of extending love to others. It was also in family relationships that it became clear to us that loving those closest to us was gratifying and the pillar upon which all love is based. On the other hand, in families we also learned that love can be challenging and even heartbreaking. So on this week of Valentine's Day we celebrate family love, not just warm fuzzy feeling we get with our family, but the realistic, tough kind of love as well. 

Eugene, Gary, Maida Shepard, 1946
"Show Me The Love" Award for 2018. For the last several years on Valentine's Day I have selected one person in our family who receives a "Show Me The Love" Award. It is a member of our family whose life exemplifies family love in an extraordinary way. The more I learn about the history of our family, the more I marvel at the people from who we are descended. In many instances they are people who sacrificed a lot for their kin. They are people who gave up much to better their station in life and that of their children.

You can look back in the archives of this blog to the last several Valentine's Day posts that have referred to individuals who won the "Show Me The Love" Award. They were mostly people who lived before our time, but what we learned about them shows they were clearly deserving of this Award. This year, however, I want to select a person for this Award who is still with us: my mother Maida Gower Shepard. 

Maida Gower Shepard, at 93 years old, has lived in Anacortes, Washington for the past 40 years. She and her sister Vicki Gower Johnston of Chandler, Arizona are today the senior members of our family. Originally from Arkansas, mom moved with her family from Oklahoma to San Diego during World War II. There she met Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) and lived with him in San Diego for over 30 years. In San Diego they raised their 6 children. In 1978, their life changed dramatically when Eugene retired and they moved 1,500 miles to Skagit County, Washington.
Steve, Maida, Gary Shepard, 2018

The first picture (above) was taken in San Diego in 1946 and shows Mom with young husband Eugene and their first child Gary. The second picture shows Mom in the middle with me on the left and my brother Gary Shepard on the right. This picture was taken just last month at Mom's home on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes, Washington.

Mom has showed extraordinary love her whole life long. She learned that kind of extraordinary family love from her parents, especially her mother Nola Shannon Gower. Maida's home has been a place of welcome throughout her life, a place where she has shown how much family means to her. 



For the last 72 years Mom has had one or another child or grandchild living with her without a break. For over 7 decades her home had been a place of love and acceptance. Talk about loving dedication to her family! Even today, at 93, Mom has 4 family members living with her. Two years ago she was diagnosed with memory loss and is now in need of her family's assistance, rather than the other way around.

So with all the foregoing in mind, I suggest to you that Maida Shepard deserves the "Show Me The Love" Award for 2018. I cannot imagine another person more deserving.   

Paula Harrell Tuzzolino, 2015
Happy Birthday Paula. Last week on Feb 7 was the birthday of my cousin Paula Harrell Tuzzolino of Sun Lakes, Arizona. Paula is married to husband Frank, and together they are the primary caregivers for Paula's mother Vicki Gower Johnston. Best wishes for a very happy birthday to Paula!

This second picture shows Paula and was taken a few years ago in Oak Harbor, Washington at the home of her mom Vicki Gower Johnston.

Make it a happy Valentine's Day for the ones you love!
- - -
Steve Shepard