Friday, March 30, 2012

The Spring Verdure Peeping Forth, March 30, 2012

“…in the hardy winter of a healthy old age;
that sort of old age which seems merging
into a second flowering youth,
for among all the fissures of his wrinkles,
there shone certain mild gleams of a newly developing bloom —
the spring verdure peeping forth even beneath February’s snow.
~Herman Melville

Hello Family and Friends,

Greetings to all of you from San Diego, as March draws to a close and spring time blossoms forth. Some days I do identify with Melville's description above of "a healthy old age", with "the spring verdure peeping forth even beneath February's snow." But then there are those other days, when the spring verdure seems to peep forth not at all! Thank God for the former, which seem to outnumber the latter, at least for now.

Happy Birthday Joan! Tomorrow is the birthday of Joan Shepard of Dixon, California, who suggested the Melville quote at the top. She is the daughter of the late Elmer and Beryl Swinney Shepard. Joan and her daughter Havilah Wardle (see first picture) returned recently from Henderson, Texas where they attended the funeral of Joan's father Elmer.

Joan: Springtime blows in my birthday each year and sometimes lands me happily with family. This year with Dad’s passing, Havilah and I joined friends and family in the country landscape where Elmer and Beryl farmed and Havilah played some twenty years ago. In fact, Havilah was born in Henderson, Texas, the rustic town we returned to for Dad’s memorial. Having braved DFW airport and rush-hour traffic, Havilah and I stepped back in time, celebrating her granddad’s life, trying to locate all the places and feelings we held dear through our years with him in East Texas. 

Mom used to say that life unfolds like a book; you close one chapter and open another. This time I had to read back through the pages before letting the story close. So, after the funeral, Havilah and I went back “home” to the old farm. The crumbing structures and surrounding fields, lying fallow now, lit the sparks of memory and affection for us. We celebrated the former bounty, the fruit trees and purple hull peas and dogwood that grew here. This is where the child Havilah cooked “mayonnaise pies” with red clay and cicadas celebrated our summer. It’s where Granddad taught a toddler about vapor trails and airplanes in a wide-open sky, where we churned Grandmother’s honey ice cream and rode a relic of a tractor to the woods.

We could have lingered for days, embracing friends and family, but this chapter was coming to an end. This was a special birthday, one that allowed me the greatest gift of tender memories filled with appreciation. I feel a debt of gratitude not only for my parents and com- passionate daughter, but also for Dane, who cared so lovingly for Dad during his final years. As I turn the last page, I have to say “thank you” to the source of life itself and to family for your tender prayers and presence.

Wedding Bells! Congratulations to my nephew Patrick Shepard and his bride Nicole Haw who were married in Cancun, Mexico just this past Wednesday, and who are continuing to bask in the warm romantic sun of the Yucatan Peninsula. Attending the wedding and enjoying the week in Mexico with them are their immediate families, including Pat's parents, my brother Darrell and his wife Mary Medina Shepard of Kirkland, Washington.

Thanks to Pat and Nicole for this third picture which shows them at their wedding on the warm sandy beach of Cancun.
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Monday, March 26, 2012

Birthday 2 and Counting, March 26, 2012

You don't really understand human nature
unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round
will wave at his parents every time around
- and why his parents will always wave back.
~William D. Tammeus

Hello Family and Friends.

Happy Birthday Preslea! Today is the second birthday of Cindy's and my Granddaughter Preslea Maida Shepard of Alameda, California. Her proud parents are Nathan and Chenda Shepard. Preslea has one brother Logan, and another brother "to be named later", who will arrive this summer.

Preslea has taught Cindy and me a lot about being grand parents, as you might imagine. Without her we would never understand what an enjoyable, rewarding, demanding, and satisfying experience grandparent-hood is. And I am certain there is a lot more for us to learn.

We celebrated Preslea's birthday this past Saturday with a rousing pizza party on a rainy day in Alameda where she lives. The first picture shows Preslea with her grandmother Cindy at Preslea's birthday party as we were singing Happy Birthday to her.

Preslea is named after her great grandmother Maida Gower Shepard. She is the 10th of the 11 GGgrandchildren of Will and Bura Davis Shepard. Interestingly she is the 9th of the 11 GGgrandchildren of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower.

The following is a photo presentation to celebrate Preslea's Birthday. (If the following does not play correctly, select this link.)

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Kaylan and Gary, March 19, 2012

I count myself in nothing else so happy,
As in a soul remembering my good friends.
~William Shakespeare

Hello Family and Friends,

Greetings to all of you from Tucson, Arizona. Cindy and I are on the road, and find ourselves today here in Tucson visiting friends. This is a great place to be as the calendar turns from winter to spring, which it will do on Wednesday of this week.

Today is the birthday of Kaylan Ruth Shepard of New Castle, Oklahoma. Kaylan is the daughter of Dane and Cindy Shepard and the brother of Nathan Shepard. She was the last one in our entire Shepard family to be born in the 20th century, having arrived on the cusp of spring, 1999. She is also the youngest of the 21 Ggrandchildren of Will and Bura Davis Shepard.

Today she is celebrating that most magical of birthdays - her 13th. This elicits our best wishes (some might say condolences?) to Dane and Cindy who are now the parents of two teenagers.

Dane emailed me to say: Kaylan is turning thirteen this year. She enjoys home school but looks forward to playing the clarinet in band and participating in bowling tournaments. She loves to sing and is usually involved in talent shows at the camps she attends. Kaylan is fun to have around as she seems to always find something humorous to laugh about.

Our prayers continue to be with Kylan and her family on the death just two weeks ago of her grandfather Elmer Shepard. Elmer is missed by all of us who knew him and with whom we shared life experiences as family during the nearly 94 years of his life. But none will miss him as much as his closest family, especially his children and grandchildren.

More from Dane: Thanks for all your work in remembering Dad. The funeral [March 10] was truly a special occasion and a memorable celebration of his life. He was interred next to Beryl in the Holleman Cemetery which included a military ceremony. Those family members in attendance beside the four of us were Joan, Havilah, Jeff and Kim along with Ashlyn, and Victor Swinney, mom's youngest brother. 

This coming Friday, March 23, is not only the first Friday of spring, it is also the birthday of my brother Gary Shepard (see second picture). Gary and his wife Cindy live in Oak Harbor, Washington.

For the last couple of months now Gary's Cindy has been recovering from a badly broken shoulder, so Gary has been busy helping her in various ways. The last report I had is that she is doing much better and is even back to work part time.

In spite of it all we wish Gary and Cindy the best. And to Gary a very happy birthday.
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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Jerry, Russ and Steven Paul, March 13, 2012

The old believe everything;
the middle aged suspect everything;
the young know everything.
~Oscar Wilde

Hello Family and Friends,

Greetings to all of you from San Diego where the trees and flowers of spring are beginning to burst forth with new life. 

Russell and Steven Paul Shepard
Today is the birthday of my brother Russell Shepard and his son Steven Paul Shepard. They are not the only father- son combi- nation in our family who share a birthday on the same day of the year. In January we celebrated the birthdays of my cousin Dane Shepard and his son Nathan who were both born on January 21. Are their any other parent-child same day birthdays in the family?

Russ and Steven live in Anacortes, Washington at the family home on Wildwood Lane. Russ (who turns the big 5-0 today!) has lived in Anacortes ever since his parents Eugene and Maida Gower Shepard moved from San Diego 34 years ago.

Steve turns 22 today and has lived his entire life in Anacortes. His mother Pam Engan Shepard and sister Linda also live in Anacortes. The first picture shows the happy father and son duo. Happy Birthday to Steve and Russ!

Jerry Clark and a Roman "Soldier"
Tomorrow, March 14, is the birthday of my "brother by another mother" Jerry Clark, who lives with his wife Cathrina Helms Clark in Lubbock, Texas. He stays busy with Taylor Publishing in Lubbock, a small business which he has owned for most of his life, and which he runs these days with his daughter Susan Clark Cox.

The second picture shows Jerry in front of the ancient Roman Colosseum mixing it up with a Roman "soldier" while on vacation last summer in Italy.

Jerry: Wow, I can't believe that I will be able to get social security now. I got here way too fast! Cat is healing well [from back surgery] and will start back to work part-time after the 19th. We have been busy going back and forth to Dallas to visit kids and go to Cat's doctor followups. 

My business is still blessed even during this depression. Susan bought a used building for us to move into this summer. It is a great investment and better than paying rent as I did for 30 years. Cat and I have 8 grand-kids to keep up with and more on the way with Susan's next one due in July. Becky is doing great with 3 kids and an active business. Amanda just bought a house in Bedford (suburb of Ft Worth) and is doing well. 

God bless the Shepard's! Hope to see you all soon and if you ever want to come to the dust bowl, please come see us. Remember we live here so you guys don't have too. We will celebrate my birthday all week and as long as I can milk it!

Best wishes to Jerry for a happy birthday, or a happy week if he can swing it! By the way, don't let Jerry mislead you. West Texas can also be a very beautiful place as this link illustrates so well. Thanks to my old college roommate Robert Joe Lee for sharing this link.
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Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Very Act of Remembering, March 10, 2012

We are always adding to the past we remember,
because in the very act of remembering,
we add something new to our past.
~Barbara Mesle

Hello Family and Friends,

I am thinking about my uncle Elmer Shepard whose funeral is today in Henderson, Texas, and about his family who is gathered there to honor him. I have also been thinking recently about Elmer's Ggrandparents, because of some new information I have discovered about their remarkable lives.

An Ill Fated Marriage. Tomorrow is the 152nd anniversary of the wedding of William Shepard and Mary Ellen Sprague, who were married in Indiana in 1860. Theirs was an all too brief, compelling, but ultimately tragic relationship.

These twenty-somethings (she was 20, he was 24) were married on March 11, 1860, in Montgomery County, Indiana, perhaps in the county seat of Crawfordsville, where their marriage record is located today. William's family was actually from Tippecanoe County (to the north) but it was customary for young couples to be married in the bride's county, so they tied the knot in Montgomery County, where her family lived.

A lot of living was packed into their brief 2 year marriage. Here is a quick summary of the events we know about their life together:
  • June, 1860: 3 months after their wedding, Census records show William living and working on the farm of the George Baker family near Wabash, Indiana, making good money.
  • April, 1861: The Civil War breaks out.
  • May, 1861: Mary Shepard becomes pregnant with their first (and only) child.
  • September, 1861: William enlists in Company F, 2nd Indiana Cavalry, of the Union Army at Wabash Indiana.
  • December, 1861: William leaves home for his military service.
  • February 2, 1862: Mary Shepard gives birth to William Elmer Shepard in Wabash.
  • Mid-February, 1862: William is injured in battle at Bowling Green, Kentucky, and hospitalized.
  • July 21, 1862: William, at 26, dies in a military hospital at Evansville, Indiana, where he is buried today (see first picture of me kneeling at his grave).
Just 2 years, 4 months into their marriage, Mary finds herself a widow with a 5 month old baby boy. The vows and the joys they shared on that second Sunday of March in 1860 must have included some high hopes for a long, happy, productive life together. But those dreams were never realized because of a war that took the life of William and over 600,000 other Americans.

The Rest of the Story.  After receiving word of her husband's death, Mary Ellen packed up little William Elmer and tearfully left Wabash and returned the 100 or so miles to Montgomery County. Like so many other war widows, she returned home for healing and support from family and friends, and to put her life back together. 

After the war ended, Mary Shepard married another William, this time William Ragsdale, an older widower from Ladoga in Mont- gomery County, a man who already had 9 children! With him she bore 3 more children, making a combined family of 13 kids! She went from being a single mother of one little boy, to the Nursery Rhyme mother, who "had so many children she didn't know what to do"!

It was a marriage that took its toll. Not necessarily on her, but on young William Elmer. From all indications she lived with Mr. Ragsdale quite contentedly, and cared for all her, his and their children until they were all raised, and until he died in 1887. Young William Elmer, however, was so out of place in his step-father's home that he ran away as a teenager, never to be reunited with his family.

Mary Ellen Sprague Shepard Ragsdale died in 1919 and is buried today in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. It is not by accident, nor without great meaning, that her headstone has one descriptor for her: Mother. (see second picture of her grave.)

Tomorrow, on their anniversary, I will be saying a prayer in church for my GGgrandparents William and Mary, in gratitude for their lives, and for their willingness to live with courage and hope in a dark and desperate time.
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Thursday, March 08, 2012

Elmer Shepard (1918-2012), March 8, 2012

Praising what is lost
makes the remembrance dear.
~William Shakespeare

Hello Family and Friends,

I was saddened just 2 days ago when my cousin Dane Shepard let me know that his father Elmer Shepard had died that afternoon. The family had received word from his doctor just the day before that he was suffering from congestive heart failure and that he would not last much longer.

At 93 years old, Elmer was the senior member of our Shepard clan, and had been ever since his older sister Pauline Shepard Russell passed away 12 years ago here in San Diego. For the last few years Elmer had lived near his son Dane, most recently in a Veteran's facility in Norman, Oklahoma.

Elmer began his life in the panhandle of Oklahoma, in Beaver County, in the spring of 1918, as the second child of William and Bura Davis Shepard. When he was 10 years old the family moved to the tiny hamlet of Two Buttes, Colorado, which is where he graduated from High School. In 1940 the entire family moved to San Diego, California, just before the U.S. entered World War II. Elmer served in that war as an Air Force pilot.

While in the service he met Beryl Swinney at San Diego's Naval Hospital (see first picture). They were married in 1946 and settled in San Diego where they were part of the larger San Diego Shepard clan. That clan included William and Bura Shepard, all four of their children (including Elmer) and their spouses, and their brood of 12 grandchildren, which included Dane and Joan, Elmer and Beryl's two children.

I was also among that brood of 12 who were born and raised in San Diego in the 1940's, 50's and 60's. It was during that time that I had lots of contact with my uncle Elmer, certainly more than in the years since then. I remember him as a serious man, who shared his mother's deep devotion to the Church, a man who enjoyed family gatherings, who was willing to take us boys to a Padres game, and who thought very highly of family. (see second picture from 1975, of Elmer -- in the middle -- with his parents and siblings.)

It was in the 1940's, 50's and 60's, on Christmas Eve or July 4th or Thanksgiving, that the whole family would gather occasionally: uncles and aunts with their partners, grandparents, and lots of cousins, with a few friends thrown in for good measure. Those were important times when the whole family bonded over lots of food, board games and hand cranked home made ice cream. My uncle Elmer was very much a part of those gatherings. As a matter of fact, often it was at his and Beryl's home on Osage Trail in the San Diego suburb of Winter Gardens that we gathered.

When I saw my uncle Elmer at the Oklahoma family reunion 3 years ago, it may have been the first time I had seen him since the late 1970s when he and Beryl moved from San Diego and settled in Henderson, Texas. Beryl died 18 years ago, when they lived in Henderson, and is buried in a county cemetery nearby. Appropriately enough, Elmer will join her in that same cemetery when he is laid to rest this weekend. The funeral will be this Saturday at the Crim Funeral Home in Henderson, Texas.

Our hearts go out to Elmer's immediately family, his son Dane (in the 3rd picture, from 2008) who lives in New Castle, Oklahoma with his wife Cindy and their children Nathan and Kaylan, and Elmer's daughter Joan Shepard (also in the 3rd picture) who lives in Dixon, California, and her daughter Havilah Wardle in West Valley City, Utah. 
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Saturday, March 03, 2012

The Unfolding Puzzle of Life, March 3, 2012

We are one big family of people,
trying to make our way through
the unfolding puzzle of life.
~Sara Paddison

Hello Family and Friends,

Happy Birthday Kerri! Today is the birthday of my niece Kerri Shepard Aquiningoc of Weatherford, Texas. The daughter of Jackie Perry and my brother Gary, Kerri was born and raised in San Diego, but over 10 years ago moved to Texas where her daughters Lyndsey and Mandi, her mother Jackie, her sister Kelly and other family also live.

The first picture shows Kerri with Lyndsey hamming it up on the left and Mandi just looking lovely on the right in a picture that was taken a couple of months ago.

Way Back When. My 2nd cousin Jerry Davis wrote me recently to say that Valentine's Day, a few weeks ago, was the anniversary of the birth of his grandmother Vera LeCrone Davis. 

Vera was born in 1893 in Kansas. In Oklahoma, on Christmas Day in 1910 she married John Davis, who was a younger brother of my Great Grandfather James Brooks Davis. John and James Davis were among those family members who migrated from Spencer, Indiana and settled in Beaver County, Oklahoma in the early years of the 20th century. Jerry had recently dug out a wonderful old photo of his grandparents Vera and John, and was kind enough to scan it and send me a copy.

The second picture I am including shows John and Vera LeCrone Davis in the 1920's, sitting proudly in what Jerry says was the first Model T (or Model A?) that they ever owned. He tells me that "the picture was taken on their farm in Beaver County near the town of Sophia. That is a windmill frame in the background that was on the farm."

Speaking of old family photos, I recently received dozens of old family pictures from Eric and Ruthie Russell of Red Rock, Nevada. Eric is the grandson of Bill and Pauline Shepard Russell and received these family pictures from his grandparents, and from his dad Rex Russell, who died just about a year ago. Many of them are real treasures. I look forward to sharing many of them with all of you in this blog in coming weeks and months. Thanks so much to Eric and Ruthie!

The third picture I am including is one of those I recently received and was taken back in the late 1940s, probably in Colorado or Oklahoma. The back of the photo simply says "Rex, Earle, Jerry and Lyndell." My cousin Rex Russell (1936-2011) is the young man on the right. Another one of them might be Lyndell Jenkins. Can any of you identify any of the others?
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