Thursday, February 14, 2019

Happy Valentine's Day! February 14, 2019

The greatest thing
you'll ever learn
is just to love,
and be loved in return.
-eden ahbez

Happy Valentine's Day! Today is one of the happiest and most family-friendly days of the entire year. It is a day all about love, which is what our families -- when we are at our best -- are all about. My wish for all of you is that you will feel the love of friends and family this year like never before. And that you will share the love as well!

Grandmother Nola Gower (left) celebrating 
with Gloria Harrell Watson in the 1990s
Show Me The Love. For the last several years I have given a "Show Me The Love Award" on Valentine's Day to a person in our family, from the present or the past, who has exemplified love in a remarkable way. Our family is a mixed bag, of course, as are all families. Our family tree includes some infamous people who were less than reputable. I have told some of their stories in this blog. They have been worth telling simply to remind us that families are not always full of wonderful people. Fortunately we have many family members, past and present, who do show us in a unique way what family love and devotion are all about. For them we will always be eternally grateful. Their stories are a joy to tell and will continue to be a staple for my posts here in The Shepard's Crook.

In the Valentine's Day posts for the last several years I have made a point of honoring people in our family tree who exemplified love. They have included people such as Gloria Harrell Watson (pictured above, whose 66th birthday would have been yesterday), and well as my mother Maida Shepard. Previous recipients have also included lesser known people from long ago like my 3x Great Grandfather Richard Gray who showed incredible family love and devotion during the Civil War. The stories of their exemplary love need to be told and retold.

Nathan Ross Shepard and Kara Ward
A Uniquely Qualified Choice. This year's "Show Me The Love Award" goes to one of the younger members of our family: Nathan Ross Shepard. He is the 23 year old son of my cousin Dane Shepard and his wife Cindy of Blanchard, Oklahoma and a graduate of Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Nathan and his fiancĂ© Kara are getting married tomorrow, making him a uniquely qualified choice for this award. He wrote to me recently and said, "Oh thank you so much! It’s great to hear from you! My fiance's name is Kara Ward and she’s from Athens, Alabama. We are getting married in Webster, Florida and will be honeymooning in Orlando! We plan to visit Harry Potter world while we are there! Hope you are well otherwise!"

It has been a while since we have had a wedding in our larger family. Especially one that appears to be as conventional, beautiful and exciting as the wedding of Nathan and Kara. They even have a website about their wedding! There is little doubt that weddings are changing dramatically these days, in some ways for the better. Even so I find it very encouraging to learn of Nathan and Kara's love and their willingness to devote themselves to each other in marriage.

Congratulations to Nathan and Kara and best wishes to both of them for a bright future together. We wish them and their families the very best.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Ground Hog Day, February 2, 2019

Retirement is when you stop living at work
and begin working at living.

Greetings to all of you from cold, dreary, rainy San Diego on this Ground Hog Day 2019! Ground Hog Day happens to be the very midpoint of winter. Best wishes to all of you who live in places that are experiencing some harsh freezing winter weather. The harsher the weather today, the earlier the good weather of spring, right? We'll see.

Cindy A. Shepard's Birthday and Retirement! Congratulations to Cindy A. Shepard (my brother Gary's wife) whose milestone birthday is today. Cindy and Gary live in Oak Harbor, Washington and are among the Shepard family members who are providing care and support to our 94 year old mother Maida Shepard in Anacortes, Washington.

Cindy A. Shepard (left) 
with Maida Shepard and Gary Shepard
Cindy has been anxiously looking forward to this birthday for a long time. Back in 2003 after Gary retired from the County of San Diego, the two of them moved from Southern California to Western Washington to be with family. At the time our father Eugene Shepard was very ill, and as it turned out, would only live a few more months. Cindy has worked at Schenk Packing Company in Mount Vernon for over 15 years, ever since they relocated to Washington. Today she retires from the working life, and begins a new chapter in her and Gary's life as they celebrate the joy and freedom of retirement. Congratulations to Cindy and best wishes to her and Gary in this next chapter of their lives!

On the right is a family picture showing retiree Cindy Shepard bottom left, with our mother Maida Shepard on the right and Cindy's husband Gary Shepard behind Maida. Also pictured in the back are friends and family Vicki, Barbara, Pam and Steven Paul. This picture was taken at the family home on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes.

Remembering William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915). Today is also a day for remembering my Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard. He was born on this wintry February day in 1862, 157 years ago, in the midst of the Civil War. Ironically it was also in February, 1862 that William Elmer's father William Shepard was injured in a Civil War battle in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He was taken to a military hospital in Evansville, Indiana where he languished for 5 months before finally succumbing July 22, 1862. Great Grandfather William Elmer never got to know his father, probably never even met him. That sad reality may have contributed to William Elmer's bitter conflict as a teenager with his mother and step-father, a conflict that led to his estrangement from them for the rest of his life. On the upside, young William Elmer married Elvira Owens in Madison, Illinois and together they made a family of their own that eventually settled in Beaver County, Oklahoma.

On the left is a picture of William Elmer Shepard's grave in Sophia Cemetery in Beaver County, Oklahoma. This headstone says that William Elmer was born February 5, 1862. But my records from family members say that he was born February 2, 1862. It is a minor point to be sure, but it does illustrate how there are discrepancies in the historical record occasionally, and we simply do our best to sort it out, sometimes without great certainty.

On this day of remembering his birth, we honor Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard and his unique life as a fatherless Civil War victim, a runaway, a pioneer, and a hardworking family man. It is hard to imagine the heartbreak, the struggles, the family dysfunction of his early life, and the adversity he encountered in his 53 years, but through it all he endured. Between the families and descendants of his two children, William Shepard and Sadie Shepard Pruett, there are over 150 people today who can be proud to count him among their ancestors.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Remembering Sadie Shepard, January 27, 2019

I've learned that regardless
of your relationship with your parents,
you'll miss them when
they're gone
from your life.
~Maya Angelou

As January draws near its close the time is right to remember my great aunt Sadie Shepard Pruett (1892-1980). The younger sister (and only sibling) of my Grandfather William Shepard (1888-1976), Sadie was born January 27 (127 years ago today), and died January 29 (39 years ago). 

Sadie and William Shepard, 1892
Remembering Sadie Shepard Pruett. Sadie's father William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915) had a terrible falling out with his parents as an older teen in Indiana about 1880. We don't know the details of the conflict, just that it had something to do with his relationship to his step-father William Ragsdale who was his mother's second husband. Theirs was a blended family of his 9 kids from his first marriage, her 2 sons from her first marriage, and their 3 children together. Even though they lived on a farm outside Ladoga, Indiana, it was a stressful living arrangement, especially for William Elmer, one of the only two in the entire family who had the last name Shepard.

So with great anger in his heart, this hot headed young man left home, and ran away 350 miles to Madison County, Illinois. From all indications he never reconnected with his Indiana family. It was a bitter family conflict that had long term ramifications. First of all William Elmer's wife Elvira Owens, who he met and married in Illinois, never got to know her husband's Indiana family. It also meant that their children William (my Grandfather) and Sadie, who were born in Illinois, never got a chance to meet their paternal grandparents in Indiana or any of their relatives on that side of their family. 

Frances (Flossie) Shepherd, about 1920
The Family They Never Knew. That Indiana family dispute also meant that Sadie and William Shepard probably never knew their father's only biological brother, their uncle Frank Shepherd or his wife, their aunt Leona. Nor did Sadie and William realize that uncle Frank had taken a different spelling for his last name, one of those anomalies not uncommon in post Civil War America. Furthermore Sadie and William probably never knew that they had just one first cousin on the Shepard side of their family, a young woman named Frances (Flossie) Shepherd who was nearly the same age as Sadie. One can only imagine the wonderful relationship cousins Flossie and Sadie might have shared.

And perhaps most regrettable, Sadie and William never knew their grandmother Mary Sprague Shepard Ragsdale (1840-1919) and her remarkable life story. She became a Civil War Widow with two babies at 22 years old. She remarried at 25 years old and went on to be mother/step mother to 14 children. She was widowed a second time at 47 years old but persevered nonetheless. At 61 years old -- 39 years after the war ended! -- she finally received a modest Civil War Widow's pension. And she lived her final 15 years comfortably in Indianapolis where she died at 79 years old in 1919.

Sadie Shepard Pruett (left) in 1942, with brother 
William Shepard and William's daughter Thelma
Sadie Shepard and her brother William Shepard migrated as teens with their parents from Illinois to Beaver County, Oklahoma in 1905. And they both went on to have families of their own and make good lives for themselves. But somewhere inside each of them there must have been a sense of loss, a longing to know their father's family of origin. But because of their father's conflict with his own family, it was not to be, to the great misfortune of his descendants.

The Miracle of the Digital Age. I continue to be amazed that in the early 20th century, my grandfather and his sister Sadie Shepard Pruett could live their lives and never know their father's family. Yet here we are 100 years later and we have a wealth of information about those people who were unknown to them. The Internet has made possible research that helps us know ancestors like never before. For that I am very grateful. Unfortunately the Internet cannot change our susceptibility to conflicts and disputes within families. We will always have to deal with that, and the fall out that comes as a result. 
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Memories From A Half Century Ago, January 17, 2019

No one can ever take your memories from you - 
each day is a new beginning, 
make good memories every day.
~Catherine Pulsifer

Last month I shared some memories from 50 years ago when Cindy and I were married. But there were a lot of other memories being made in our family at that time as well. In this post I am including family scenes from half a century ago. It was a wonderful time for our Shepard, Gower and Harris families of San Diego. There was a great amount of family harmony and life was good. The following are four memorable scenes from life in our families back in 1969.

Cindy and me, Mom Maida, Grandmother Nola Gower,
and Russ and Barbara Shepard, in Abilene, Texas, 1969
Newlywed Students. In 1969 Cindy and I were newlywed college students at Abilene Christian. It was a rare but pleasant occurrence when family from San Diego would visit us in what at the time was the faraway land of West Texas. This first picture shows Cindy and me with members of my family when they came to visit us on N.E. 16th Street in Abilene, Texas. This was taken in front of our apartment across the street from Abilene Christian University.

This picture shows Cindy and me on the left looking spry and well dressed. We were all so well dressed that this picture must have been taken on a Sunday. We may have just returned from attending worship at the Minter Lane Church of Christ in Abilene where we attended. On the right in the back are my mother Maida Shepard and my grandmother Nola Gower. In front are my youngest siblings, brother Russell and sister Barbara.

Jerry Clark, Linda Shepard
Lubbock, Texas, 1969
Jerry Clark - Linda Shepard. While Cindy and I were in school in Abilene Texas in 1969, my sister Linda was enjoying her first year of college just a few hours drive up the road at Lubbock Christian University. She and boyfriend Jerry Clark from Albuquerque, N.M. were classmates and were getting to know each other quite well. They would marry in August of 1970 in a happy celebration at the Linda Vista Church of Christ in San Diego. This second memorable scene from 50 years ago shows Linda Shepard and Jerry Clark on a swing in the backyard of Jerry's Grandmother in Whitesboro, Texas.

Joe and Paula Harris. Though Cindy and I lived in Texas where we went to college in 1969, our heart and our home was still in San Diego. This third picture shows Cindy's parents Joe Harris (1922-1999) and Paula Harris (1923-2018) in the Harris home on Burgundy Street in the Allied Gardens community of San Diego. It is the home they purchased in 1957, and is where Cindy and I live today.

Joe and Paula Harris, 
San Diego, California, 1969
In this particular picture Joe is dressed in his ever present business suit, while diligent homemaker Paula is dressed more casually. They were a wonderful couple. As my in-laws for many many years they could not have been more loving and supportive of Cindy and me. 

In this picture, behind Joe and Paula is their fancy new Console: a wonderfully monstrous Television - Radio - Record Player combination, which was state of the art half a century ago. It was advertised as the "Magnificent Magnavox Stereo Theatre" and proudly graced their living room for many years. It was an impressive purchase for 1969, the envy of many.

The Gower Clan on Lynne Street. This final scene I am including today shows my mother's Gower Clan from 50 years ago. My Gower Grandparents Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower are in the middle of this picture. This image is from a photo taken in front of their home on Lynne Street in San Diego where they had lived since 1951 when the house was built. It was a common gathering place for our family for nearly the entire second half of the 20th century.

Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower and family
San Diego, 1969
Standing in the center of this picture is a happy and healthy 65 year old Grandma Gower in white hair and glasses, the matriarch of this impressive brood. Sitting in front of her is 69 year old Grandpa Gower whose eyesight was so poor he had a hard time looking at the camera. He would live just another 5 years. In his lap are the first two Gower Great Grandchildren, Shaun Gower and Kerri Shepard, both about a year old. Also in this picture are my Grandparents' three children, Hank (and wife Starlene), Maida (and husband Eugene), and Vicki (and husband John). Also shown here are 9 of the 12 Gower Grandchildren: Hershell (and wife Janet), Jimmie, Gary (and wife Jackie), me, Linda, Darrell, Barbara, Russ and Michael. One of the most remarkable things about this photo is that the face of almost every single one of the 21 people in it can be seen.

Life has changed in many ways for our Gower, Shepard and Harris families in the last 50 years. Children, Grandchildren and even Great Grandchildren have been born. Deaths have occurred. Many have moved away from Southern California. Despite all the changes, the memories remain and the values we shared are still with us. And the need remains to share our life and heritage with the younger ones among us.

Happy Anniversary Kim and Jeff! I can't let January come and go without saying happy anniversary to Jeff and Kim Boyd Clark. Tomorrow, January 18, will be their 12th wedding anniversary. Congratulations and best wishes!

May 2019 be a happy and healthy year for all of you. May the love, joy and memories of family be with you this year and always.
- - -
Steve Shepard