Wednesday, November 13, 2019

That Great Mosaic, November 13, 2019

Bura Davis Shepard (1896-1986). Last Friday was the anniversary of the birth of my grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. She was one of the most influential people in our entire family. A woman small in stature, she was a spiritual giant in our Shepard family. She was the only person in our ancestral tree who was raised in Indiana, migrated to Beaver County, Oklahoma, and then settled with her family in San Diego where she lived the biggest part of her life. Her last few years were spent in Anacortes, Washington with her son Eugene Shepard and his family. She and husband William are buried today in San Diego's Greenwood Cemetery.

William and Bura Davis Shepard
San Diego, 1960s
When I remember my grandmother Bura Davis Shepard I always think of her faithful devotion to the Church of Christ. Her father was James Davis and her mother was Callie Spear Davis. The Davises and the Spears were Church of Christ families who migrated to Indiana from Southeastern Ohio about the time of the Civil War. They were among the founders of the New Union Church just outside Spencer, Indiana. James and Callie brought their faith with them when they settled in Indiana. From her childhood my Grandmother Bura developed that same love and devotion to the Church. It was part of the DNA she inherited from both the Davises and the Spears, and that she passed on religiously (so to speak) to her descendants.

I have not found many details about the church life of the Spears and the Davises in Ohio. But I do know that Monroe County, Ohio where they lived in the early to mid 19th century was in the very region where the Restoration movement originated. The ancestral home of the Spears and Davises in Monroe County was just outside the County Seat of Woodsfield, where there is an historic Restoration Movement congregation that began in pre-Civil War days. Alexander Campbell himself preached at the dedication of the congregation in 1855. Because of grandmother Bura and her Davis and Spear kinfolk, we have a number of family members today who can trace our lineage in the Restoration Movement back for 6, 7, even 8 generations.

On this month of the 123rd anniversary of my grandmother's birth, I am grateful for her life and that of her husband William Shepard. Their love and dedication to their family and their faith is a treasured legacy that we hold dear.

Karl Wilk's High School Photo
Granite Hills High, 1987
Karl Frederickpaul Wilk (1969-1997). One of William and Bura's great grandchildren was Karl Frederickpaul Wilk. He was the son of my cousin Beverly Russell Wilk and her husband Phil Wilk. Had she lived, cousin Bev would have turned 80 years old in April of this year. Unfortunately she died at just 35 years old of an unexpected brain aneurism. When she died, she left her 39 year old husband with two youngsters: a 1 year old daughter, Shannon, and a 5 year old son, Karl. It was to Phil's great credit that he did such a good job of being a single parent for many years. He was assisted in raising his children by grandmother Bura Shepard who, after the death of granddad William, lived with Phil and his family for several years.

Last Tuesday would have been Karl's 50th birthday. His unfortunate death occurred 22 years old in San Diego. Substance abuse was his downfall, resulting in him taking his own life. He died here in San Diego way too young at just 27 years old, a handsome young man full of promise and hope. Like others in our family tree, his life is a cautionary tale, reminding us that life is fragile and the dangers are many. Karl's sister and niece, Shannon and Emma Wilk, live in Atchison, Kansas. Shannon shared with me recently some thoughts on the life of her brother Karl.

Emma and Shannon Wilk
Atchison, Kansas 2019
"I think of him often. I tell my daughter about him all the time. Little things, like his favorite music, movies he liked. My memories are full of the good times. Even the ones of him picking on me. He was my big brother, and I miss him terribly. He loved music, his friends and loved to make you laugh. Karl will always be on my mind. Never a day goes by that I don't think of him."

Karl and Shannon's grandparents were my aunt and uncle, Pauline Shepard Russell (1916-2000) and her husband Bill Russell (1908-1997). Uncle Bill died in the summer of 1997 at 88 years old, just three months before Karl took his own life.

We would like to think that all our family stories are positive ones. But they are not. We all know that's the way life is. Some family stories are not pleasant to recall, even though we can and do remember, and learn from, the parts of those stories that are positive and insightful. It reminds me once again that family research sometimes leaves one uneasy and discomforted. But it is all part of that great mosaic we call our family.
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Steve Shepard

Friday, November 01, 2019

One Saint's Day, Nov 1, 2019


For millions of people today is All Saints Day. But for me and many others, this day of my mother's birthday can be rightly named “One Saints Day.” As the oldest member of our family my mom Maida Gower Shepard has been a beloved member of our clan for 95 years. She has always had the status of Sainthood in my book. 

Maida Gower Shepard on her 95th Birthday
with Barbara, Gary and Steve Shepard
Today her family honors her for being a generous, caring, spiritual force in our family. We gladly and joyfully celebrate her for being the glue that has held our family together for all these many years. And we do that remembering our Dad Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) who was her life partner for 58 wonderful years until his death 16 years ago. 

First and foremost we celebrate Mom today for being a caring parent of her 6 children to whom she has been, and continues to be, an emotional and spiritual guide. She has had one or more of her children living with her for the last 73 years, ever since the day their first child Gary was born in 1946. Their kids have come and gone numerous times over all those years, but through it all mom and dad created a loving and generous home where all felt welcome. 

We also celebrate mom on her birthday today for being devoted to her whole family. Their home in Anacortes was the place her mother Nola Shannon Gower spent the last few years of her life until her death in 2004. And before that theirs was the home for Dad’s mother Bura Davis Shepard for the last years of her life until she passed away in 1986.

And of course we celebrate the fact that Mom has made it to the age of 95. That doesn’t happen by accident. You don't get to be 95 without taking good care of yourself and living a healthy, wholesome life. We don't know what God has in mind for the future of our dear mother, but we do know that by the grace of God she will be well cared for, in this life and into the next. For now we joyfully have her with us for yet another birthday, and we continue to cherish every day that we are blessed by her presence.
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Steve Shepard