Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Bright Light of Exemplary Lives, April 27, 2019

It's not where you live, 
it's the people who surround you
that make you feel at home.
- J.B. McGee

Beverly Jean Russell Wilk
with Granddaughter Emma Beverly Jean Wilk
This weekend is the occasion to celebrate the lives of three people who will forever be linked in our family's collective conscience. The three whose birthdays are this weekend are my cousin Beverly Russell Wilk, my father Eugene Shepard, and my grandmother Nola Shannon Gower. These three were beloved parts of our family in San Diego for many wonderful years. Bev was the last of these three to be born, but unfortunately the first to die at just 35. Ironically Nola was the first of these three to be born but the last to die just 15 years ago at the age of 101.

My Cousin Beverly. Today would have been the 80th birthday of my late cousin Beverly Russell Wilk (1939-1974). She was born in 1939 in Two Buttes, Colorado, the second child and only daughter of Bill and Pauline Russell Shepard. Bev moved with her family to San Diego at just a year old. That year, 1940, was when the first members of our family arrived in the Golden State. After graduating from San Diego High School in 1957, Bev married Phil Wilk in 1965 and with him had two children, Karl and Shannon. Bev died unfortunately at just 35 years old in 1974 of a brain aneurysm in San Diego, leaving husband Phil to raise two young children.

For each of the three persons being celebrated today -- Beverly, Eugene and Nola -- I have created a composite picture showing each of them with one of their present day grandchildren. The first picture shows Bev with her granddaughter Emma Beverly Jean Wilk. Emma lives with her mother Shannon Wilk in Atchison, Kansas.

Eugene Shepard 
with his Granddaughter Rachel Shepard
My Father Eugene. Tomorrow is the 98th anniversary of the birth of my father Eugene Shepard (1921-2003). Dad was born in 1921 in the Beaver County community of Logan, in the panhandle of Oklahoma. He graduated from High School in 1939 in the tiny Southeast Colorado town of Two Buttes. The very next year as the world was ramping up for World War II, the Shepards moved to the military city of San Diego, where Gene and his brother Elmer both involved themselves in the war. Gene and wife Maida lived in San Diego for 38 years, raised their 6 children there and then retired to Western Washington in 1978. After 25 enjoyable years in rural Washington, Dad passed away at 82 years old at their home on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes, Washington.

This second picture shows Eugene with one of his 9 grandchildren, Rachel Shepard of Seattle, Washington, the daughter of my brother Darrell and his wife Mary Shepard.

My Grandmother Gower. Tomorrow is also the anniversary of the birth of my maternal Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004). Born in 1903 in Mountain View, Arkansas, Grandma Gower and husband Leroy moved to Okemah, Oklahoma and lived there for 17 years before settling in San Diego where she lived for nearly 60 years. She lived the last few years of her life in Anacortes, Washington with her daughter Maida Gower Shepard and family.

Nola Shannon Gower
with Grandson Michael Harrell
This third picture shows Nola with one of her 12 grandchildren, Michael Harrell, son of Vicki Gower Johnston. Today Michael and his wife Carole live in Tokyo, Japan on a work assignment.

The Bright Light of Their Exemplary Lives. Nola, Eugene and Beverly: all of us who knew them will agree that they represent the very best in the history of our family. They were quality people of outstanding faith who loved life, their families and the world in which they lived. They helped shape our family in ways that are still being felt today. I am proud to honor them on this weekend of their birthdays. The grandchildren pictured above are just a sampling of their many descendants through whom the bright light of their exemplary lives continues to shine.
- - -
Steve Shepard

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