Wednesday, August 04, 2010

My Two Grandfathers, Aug 4

One of the most powerful handclasps
is that of a new grandbaby
around the finger of a grandfather.
~Joy Hargrove

Hello Shepard Family and Friends,

A few weeks ago I wrote about "My Two Grandmothers." In this post I will share something about the lives of "My Two Grandfathers", William Shepard and Leroy Gower.

They were born many miles apart in very different communities. William (see his picture on the right in 1951) was born in 1888 into a small family in Alton, Illinois near the metropolis of St Louis. Leroy (see his picture in 1972 with wife Nola below) was born in 1899 into a large family in Mountain View, Arkansas, in the remote hills of the Ozarks.

Leroy came from a long line of Gowers who can be traced back 9 generations before him to Abel and Jane (Hatcher) Gower, both born in the 1600s in Virginia.

In contrast, there are but 3 known Shepards in the ancestry of William - his sister Sadie Shepard Pruett, his father William Elmer Shepard, and his grandfather, Civil War casualty William Shepard (1835-1862). He never met his Shepard grandmother, whose name we do not know.

William and Leroy each moved, as young men, with their families to Oklahoma in the early 20th century. William settled in Beaver County in the panhandle about 1905, and Leroy in 1925 in Okemah, south of Tulsa, in the eastern part of the state.

Following familiar migration patterns for the 20th century, they both moved westward in the early 1940s to California, searching for greater opportunities. They both landed in San Diego with wives and children during the second World War. Shortly thereafter their lives became forever intertwined when their children Eugene Shepard and Maida Gower married and began their own family, giving both men 6 common grandchildren between 1946 and 1962.

Both men influenced my life in a big way. Granddad Shepard told stories of his life in the Midwest, about the St Louis World's Fair in 1904, the bitterly cold winters he endured, but the even colder relations between blacks and whites in the St Louis area that lead to funny personal stories on the one hand, but violent race riots on the other.

Grandpa Gower shared with his Grandkids the value he placed on family, his great affection for the San Diego Padres, his devotion to his church, and his love of deep sea fishing, trains and unfortunately, cigarettes.

We grandkids were always welcome in the homes of both men, as much because of them as our grand mothers, and we were glad to have them travel with us on family vacations, which happened on several occasions.

They were each the respected head of a close knit family clan in San Diego in the mid 20th century. Since that time their common descendants have grown into families who are spread out from Texas to California to Washington State. Today there are 20 people who claim both men as ancestors. (Their youngest descendant, Preslea Shepard, is pictured above, with parents Chenda and Nathan in a picture taken last month.)

William and Leroy died two years apart in the mid 1970s and are buried with their wives in San Diego. But their legacy remains, and their influence continues to be felt in many ways by those of us who loved and respected them.
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