Friday, September 14, 2018

The Pantheon of the Famously Named, September 14, 2018

Observe good faith and justice toward all nations.
Cultivate peace and harmony with all.
~George Washington

In recent months I have done considerable research into our Sheppard ancestors of Eastern Ohio in the early 19th century. These were our Sheppard ancestors who spelled their name with two PPs. It was not until our vagabond ancestor, my Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915), that our name was consistently spelled -- by his descendants anyway -- with one P.

My research into our Sheppard ancestors from Belmont County, Ohio has centered on the prominent, early 19th century, family of James Sheppard and Hannah Gatchell Sheppard. They had a total of 13 children, their 7th child being James Cross Sheppard Jr., the one from whom we are descended, and the one about whom I have written numerous times in this blog. James and Hannah's last child was George Washington Sheppard. It was an interesting choice and it piqued my interest. How often have people in our family tree named their kids after Presidents?

I have found five instances among our ancestors where people were so named. There may be others hiding in the branches of our large family tree that I have not yet identified. If you know of ancestors who were named after Presidents, please let me know. I'd be glad to add them to what I am calling "The Pantheon of the Famously Named."

George Washington Sheppard. The first one is George Washington Sheppard (1829-1900), the 13th child of my GGGG Grandparents James Cross and Hannah Sheppard of Kirkwood, Belmont County, Ohio. In 1829 when he was born, the original George Washington, our first President, had been dead about 30 years. G.W. Sheppard's parents James and Hannah were born in 1775 and 1781 respectively. They were children, in the area of Washington DC, during the years of George Washington's greatest accomplishments. It is no wonder they named one of their children after him.

William Henry Harrison Sheppard
William Henry Harrison Sheppard. The second person in this "Pantheon of the Famously Named" is William Henry Harrison Sheppard (1840-1862). He was named after our 9th President, William Henry Harrison (1773-1841). President Harrison only served for a short time in 1841. He died of pneumonia just one month after his inauguration, making him the President with the shortest tenure. Our ancestor William Henry Harrison Sheppard was the 7th of the 11 children of John and Elizabeth Donahoo Sheppard, and was a grandson of the aforementioned James and Hannah Sheppard of Belmont County, Ohio. Here's a curious bit of trivia: Parents John and Elizabeth Sheppard named their son after Harrison in July, 1840, before Harrison was actually elected President in November, 1840. So technically they named their son after a beloved politician and Presidential candidate who later became President. But who's quibbling? He still gets added to this Pantheon!

This first picture purports to show William Henry Harrison Sheppard in a Civil War uniform, probably about 1862.

By the way, our ancestor William Henry Harrison Sheppard was another of the many fellows named "William Shepard" in our family tree. Sadly, William Henry Harrison Sheppard died in 1862 in the Civil War at just 21 years old. Interestingly, he was the first cousin of my GG Grandfather William Shepard (1835-1862) who also died in the Civil War, also in 1862. So not only were these first cousins who were given nearly the same name, they also died the same year, in the same war. It would be unusual for first cousins today to be given the same name. But 200 years ago, when families were large, migration was prevalent, and communication was often lacking, it was not unusual.

William Henry Harrison Loyd
William Henry Harrison Loyd. The third member of our "Pantheon of the Famously Named" was also named after President William Henry Harrison, a fellow by the name of William Henry Harrison Loyd (1841-1920). He was connected to the part of our Shepard family in Indiana, and probably knew very little about the Sheppards of Belmont County, Ohio. William Henry Harrison Loyd was the husband of the step-daughter of my GG Grandmother Mary Sprague Shepard Ragsdale of Ladoga, Montgomery County, Indiana. Mary was the widow of my GG Grandfather, the soldier William Shepard. Read about their story here.

William Henry Harrison Loyd was born April 17, 1841, just 13 days after the death of President Harrison on April 4, 1841. Before he was President, William Henry Harrison had been the Governor of the Indiana Territory, and was well known and beloved by many in that state. It is very understandable then that while the country was mourning the death of this new President, parents would give their son his name.

I am very fortunate to have found this very old image of William Henry Harris Loyd looking very distinguished, almost Presidential. He died in 1920 at nearly 80 years old, which means this picture was probably taken around the turn of the 20th Century.

I have others to add to this "Pantheon of the Famously Named," and I will share about them in my next post. Stay tuned.

A Milestone Birthday. Last Sunday I celebrated a milestone birthday when I turned 70 years old. It is a milestone that I accept with a mixture of joy and trepidation. I am glad to be as healthy as I am at this point in my life, realizing that the average age of the 19th century ancestors I like to write about, was less than 50. 

This second picture shows Cindy and me. It was taken just a couple of weeks ago here in San Diego on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Thanks to young grandson William Shepard for taking this picture.

I am grateful to God for all the many the joys of life, especially those that come from being part of such a wonderful family -- both my immediate family and the larger clan to which I belong.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, August 31, 2018

A Summer of Transitions, August 31, 2018

If you don't like something, change it.
If you can't change it,
change your attitude.
~Maya Angelou

As summer winds down to a close, I find it a time to celebrate family. I say this despite the fact that it has been a very busy summer, and a time of great transition for our part of the family.

Paula Harris, 1945
Surgery in Missouri. I received word from my cousin Kim Boyd Clark just this morning that her mom, Thelma Shepard Boyd, had heart surgery in Kansas City, Missouri today. Kim says that it appears to have been a successful surgery and that Thelma is now resting comfortably. Very best wishes to my aunt Thelma for a speedy recovery, and to Kim and her entire family in this time of concern for Thelma.

Remembering Paula and Joe Paul Harris. Earlier this month we laid to rest a couple of family members. My wife Cindy's mom Paula Harris passed away earlier this summer. On Saturday, August 18, we placed her ashes in a Columbarium at the Miramar National Cemetery here in San Diego. As a World War II Army veteran she took her appropriate place alongside other military personnel in one of the newer Cemeteries in our area, next to the Miramar Air Base. 


Joe Paul Harris, 1970s
At the same time, in the niche next to her we placed another Army veteran, her son Joe Paul Harris, who served in the Vietnam War in the 1970s. He died back in 2009 but is now in his final resting place in Miramar. They both rest honorably in a beautiful little Columbarium on the west side of the cemetery grounds.

As far as I know, Paula Harris and her son Joe Paul are the first two in our larger family to be interred at Miramar National cemetery. As the years go by this cemetery may become the burial location for other family members and will take its place with Greenwood Cemetery as an important cemetery where family members are remembered.

Preslea, Logan and William
Ready For Third, Second and First Grade
A Different Kind Of Transition. Cindy's 97 year old aunt Juanita Eeds relocated earlier this month from our home on Burgundy 
Street in San Diego and is now living with her son and daughter-in-law, Keith and Sally Eeds, in their beautiful new home in the cozy little resort town of Bandon, Oregon, not far from the California border. It is a positive move for Neen, though a difficult one to be sure. She has lived here in San Diego for over 60 years, the last 37 of which were with her sister Paula. Our prayers and best wishes are with Neen as she adjusts to her new life in Oregon.

Back To School. Earlier this week our grandkids celebrated the beginning of the school year for them at Dailard Elementary here in San Diego. As First, Second and Third graders at Dailard they will be keeping their father Nathan busy with all the many activities associated with their education.

- - -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

The Gibbs and the Shepards, August 8, 2018

I was not raised with a fortune.
Something more was left me,
and that was family values.
~Dikembe Mutombo

Remembering Our Dads. Today Cindy and I are remembering our fathers. Ironically, Aug 8 is my Dad's death day, and Cindy's Dad's birthday. My Dad Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) died August 8, 2003, 15 years ago, in Anacortes, Washington after a long time struggle with COPD. Born in Logan, Oklahoma, he lived the longest part of his life -- 38 years -- in San Diego. The last 25 years of his life he lived happily in retirement, on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes, Washington.

Joe Harris and daughter Cindy
San Diego, 1968
Cindy's Dad, S.J. (Joe) Harris was born August 8, 1922 in tiny Leon, Oklahoma. Like my Dad, Joe served in World War II, which was part of the reason he moved to Southern California. He lived in San Diego from 1950 until his death in 1999.

Our Dads had a lot in common. Both were born in Oklahoma, both came to California in the World War II era, both spent the biggest part of their lives in San Diego, where they both raised their families, and both were devout Church of Christ members. But most importantly they were both fine men who loved their families and will be long remembered as quality individuals of great faith who gave of themselves generously to others.

The Gibbs and the Shepards. I received word recently from Ron Gibbs, a member of the Gibbs family who were close friends of our Shepard ancestors in the early and mid 20th century. Ron who is a Justice of the Peace, has lived in Searcy, Arkansas for over 30 years even though he grew up in the San Diego area in Escondido. He is the son of Raymond Gibbs and a nephew of Rod and Violet Gibbs Ramirez.

Ron Gibbs and I had a very good conversation about the connections between our Shepard ancestors and his Gibbs ancestors in Southern California, and before that in Two Buttes, Colorado, and in Beaver County, Oklahoma. He reminded me that both the Shepards and Gibbs, who knew each other in Oklahoma, moved in 1928 to Two Buttes, Colorado. Some Kilpatrick family members also moved to Two Buttes that very same year. These folks brought with them their devotion to the Church of Christ. Ron told me of a Gospel Meeting that was held in little Two Buttes in 1928. As a result of that meeting, a Church of Christ congregation was started in Two Buttes with founding members being from among the families of the Shepards, the Kilpatricks, the Gibbs, as well as others. The dust bowl made life in Southeast Colorado unbearable in the ensuing years. So it did not take long for a number of those living in Two Buttes to move on westward to California.

Violet Gibbs, Eugene Shepard 
Two Buttes, Colorado, about 1935
The Gibbs were among the first of these folks to leave Colorado and move to Southern California where they settled in San Diego in the late 1930s. In 1940 the Gibbs' wrote to the Shepards, who were still languishing in the dust bowl of Colorado, and said there was a San Diego boarding house looking for someone to run it. Would Will and Bura Shepard be interested in relocating to San Diego to be in charge of this boarding house? 

It was just what Will and Bura Shepard (my grandparents) were waiting for. They packed up and made the 1,200 mile drive to California in September, 1940. The two of them were actually a part of a clan of 9 who made the transition. Along with Will and Bura Shepard came their kids, Elmer (22), Eugene (19) and Thelma (4). Some months later they were joined by their oldest daughter Pauline, her husband Bill Russell and their two young children Rex (4) and Beverly (1).

The move in 1928 from Beaver County, Oklahoma to Southeast Colorado, in retrospect, had been ill advised. Who could have foreseen the hardships they were to encounter in tiny Two Buttes? But as ill advised as that move was, the move to San Diego was just as fortuitous. The Shepards and the Gibbs rode the wave of prosperity in the years following World War II and made good lives for themselves in  Southern California. 

Through the middle years of the 20th century the Shepards and the Gibbs remained good family friends in California, through their Church of Christ affiliation, as well as through family gatherings and other times of being together. Born in 1948 I was one of the first of Will and Bura Shepard's 12 grandchildren to be born in California. I still have fond memories of the kids of our families getting together for play times and BBQs and swim parties, and hearing the older generation talk about the Colorado and the Oklahoma days. Many of us have scattered in various directions in recent decades but those family experiences in Oklahoma and Colorado, and then in San Diego, will remain formative and an important part of our families' shared history.

Thanks to Ron Gibbs for making contact and for stirring some important memories of years gone by.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Happy Happy Happy Birthday, July 28, 2018

What greater thing is there for human souls
than to feel that they are joined for life -
to be with each other
in silent unspeakable memories.
~George Eliot

Greetings to all of you from very warm and sunny San Diego! As July draws to a close it is a happy time for several members of our larger family who are celebrating a birth and some birthdays.

Birthday Buddies Barbara and William
Happy Birthday Barbara and William! Today is the birthday of my sister Barbara Shepard of Anacortes, Washington, and the birthday of my Grandson William Quincy Shepard of San Diego. Barbara was born in San Diego "back in the day," and is the youngest daughter of our parents Eugene and Maida Shepard. William was born in San Francisco 6 years ago today, the youngest child of our son Nathan and Chenda Sou Shepard.

Since both of them share the same day of the year as their birthdays I put together a collection of images of both of them. Select this link to view the music video. The songs on the video are from the soundtrack of the recent motion picture "Coco." The video contains scenes primarily from the last year. Some are pictures of each of them individually and some are pictures of both of them together, along with other family and friends. A number of the pictures were taken just two weeks ago when Barbara was in San Diego with her friend Ashley from Washington. They spent a week with us and celebrated Barb and Will's birthday a few days early. 

Jeff and Kim Clark (on the right) with family
Happy Birthday Jeff! Today is also the birthday of Jeff Clark, the husband of my cousin Kim Boyd Clark. The two of them are vagabonds traveling around the county in their RV with Kim's octogenarian mother, my aunt Thelma Shepard Boyd. Some of their time is spent here in Southern California visiting children and Grandchildren. That is when I caught up with them earlier this summer. Since then they have been back to their old haunts in Missouri. The latest news I have received is that Thelma has developed some health issues and will be having some surgery in Missouri in a few weeks. Our best birthday wishes go out to Jeff, and prayers for good health for Thelma!

This second picture was posted on Facebook and was taken Thursday when Jeff and Kim stopped and visited family in Albuquerque, New Mexico, while on their way back to California.

Welcome to Alden Nathaniel Gower! Speaking of July births... Congratulations to my cousin Sean Gower and his wife Tracy to whom a baby boy was born last weekend on Saturday night, July 21. Sean told me in a text that "Tracy is doing well along with Alden Nathaniel Gower. This was quite a feat at my age of 50 and my wife Tracy's age of 46 to have a child. We are so happy and overjoyed that he is so healthy. We beat all the odds. Love to everybody."

Alden Nathaniel Gower
Our best wishes go out to Sean and Tracy Gower on the birth of Alden. This is the first birth we have had in our larger family in a couple of years, and the first Gower birth we have had in quite a few years. And what a special birth it is! 

My Gower Grandparents, Leroy Gower (1899-1974) and Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004), had only one male child, Hendrix Gower (1921-2004). Hendrix and his wife Starlene had two sons, Hershell and Jimmie, but their grandchildren, until now, have only included one male child, Dane Gower, the grandson of Jimmie and his wife Cheryl. All of which means that until this month, among our Gower family members there has been just one male descendant capable of passing on the Gower family name. Alden Gower now becomes one more.
- - -
Steve Shepard

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.



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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!
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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.
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Steve Shepard