Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Celebrations, December 31, 2013

Some people ask the secret of our long marriage.
We take time to go to a restaurant
two times a week. 
A little candlelight, dinner, 
soft music and dancing. 
She goes Tuesdays, I go Fridays.
~Henny Youngman 

Chenda Shepard. Happy Birthday tomorrow to our daughter-in-law Chenda Sou Shepard who was born in Cambodia, in the capital city of Phnom Penh, 34 years ago on January 1. After 4 1/2
years in the United States, she lives today in Alameda, California with husband Nathan and children Preslea, Logan and William. The first picture shows Chenda with their youngest son William Quincy Shepard, taken in San Diego last month.

Darrell and Mary Shepard. Today is the wedding Anniversary of Darrell and Mary Medina Shepard, who were married in Abilene, Texas 31 years ago. As I mentioned in my last post, Abilene Christian figured into the wedding plans of Cindy and me many years ago, and it also figured into the wedding plans for Darrell and Mary. They both had attended that Texas school and were living there when they decided to marry on that happy New Year's Eve in 1982. 

Soon thereafter they moved to the West Coast where they have lived ever since. Today they make their home in Kirkland, Washington where they are the parents of Chris, Rachel and Pat and the grandparents of Logan Joseph. The second picture, taken this past summer in Anacortes, Washington shows Darrell and Mary. Also in this picture on the left is birthday girl Chenda Shepard.

New Year Weddings. We usually think of spring or summer as the best time for getting married. But this time of the year -- New Year's Eve and New Year's Day -- has been a popular marrying time for a surprising number of people in our family.

Darrrell's great grandparents Jim and Callie Spear Davis, were married January 1, 1896 (see third picture of Jim and Callie on their wedding day 118 years ago). On that same day in 1903 Jim's brother Tom Davis married his wife Alice Hinton. Those weddings were even in the cold clime of Spencer, Indiana! 

Jim and Callie's youngest daughter Marjorie Davis married John Millikan on January 1, 1931, and -- are you ready for this? -- married her second husband Clyde Williams in 1981, exactly 50 years later, also on New Year's Day. Two of Marjorie's sons were also married that same time of the year: Arlen on Dec 31, 1952, and Gary, Dec 31, 1955. On the Gower side of the family, my aunt Vicki Gower Johnston married Al Perry Dec 31, 1973.

There may be others in our family who were married on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, each with their own interesting story to tell. Do you know of others?
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, December 27, 2013

A 45th Anniversary, Dec 27, 2013

We are not the same persons
 this year as last;
nor are those we love.
It is a happy chance
 if we, changing,
continue to love a changed person.
~W. Somerset Maugham 

It is hard for me to believe that today is the 45th wedding anniversary of Cindy and me. It was in 1968 on this December day, which also happened to be on Friday, that Cindy and I were married at the La Mesa Church of Christ here in the San Diego area. It was an evening wedding, officiated by my second cousin Edwin Kilpatrick, who was also the minister of my family's church, the Linda Vista Church of Christ.

Among those in the wedding party all those years ago were Gloria Weston, Pam Henderson, Connie Cleland, my sister Linda, my brother Gary, the Deveny twins, Dan Frost, and Cindy's brother Joe Paul. The wedding was attended by a large number of our family and friends.

I was home on Christmas break from college at Abilene Christian in order for us to get married. After the wedding we took a few days and went up the California coast for a quiet honeymoon that was a welcome rest after all the hectic preparations for the wedding (most of which I was able to avoid!). Within a few days we returned to Texas for school where we both continued our studies for another year and a half before returning to California. Our first home together was a small apartment across the street from the College. The memories of that time, though they grow faint, still fill us with warmth and joy.

The first picture (above) shows the two of us. The left half of the image was taken 45 years ago on our wedding night; the right half was taken just last month while we were on vacation in Kona, Hawaii. The right half of this picture was taken by my mom Maida Shepard, the same person who had to "sign for me" when we got our marriage license all those years ago. Cindy and I were both 20 at the time but an archaic California law stated that men were underage at 20 while women were not.

That Was Then; This Is Now. Tonight we plan to leave all our house guests to fend for themselves and have dinner somewhere here in San Diego at a nice restaurant as we celebrate our years together.

The second picture was taken this past Thanksgiving and shows Cindy and me with our son Nathan, his wife Chenda and their children William, Preslea and Logan. On the left are Cindy's aunt Juanita Eeds and Cindy's mom Paula Harris.
- - -

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas! December 23, 2013

There are many gifts under the Christmas tree,
but the very best is the gift of family.

Wednesday this week is not only Christmas Day, it is also the 125th anniversary of the birth of my grandfather William Shepard. For the last few blog posts I have mentioned him and included pictures about him as a way of remembering the important place he has in our family history.

Interestingly, grandfather William -- like many men of his time -- never had a life long profession, or a career that he worked at most of his life. In the census records for 1910, 20, 30 and 40 he gave his occupation as farmer. But we know he did many different things, from factory work in his early years in Illinois, to farming and railroad work in Oklahoma, to driving a gas truck in Colorado, to running a boarding home with wife Bura in San Diego, to working at Seal Laundry in his later years. 

Nevertheless, those of us who knew him remember him as a valued part of our family. He and his sister Sadie were the only Shepard children of their generation, with no cousins named Shepard. Their father William Elmer Shepard was the only Shepard child of his generation, with no cousins named Shepard. Granddad William therefore is a very unique and important linkage to our Shepard ancestry. 

The first picture is a collection of images showing 7 generations of parents and children span more than 200 years. The single picture in the second row is William. Above him are his great grandfather Edmond Owens Jr. (1795-1864) and his mother Elvira Owens Shepard (1865-1931).

Below William are his daughter Pauline Shepard Russell (1916-2000), her daughter Beverly Russell Wilk (1939-1974), her daughter Shannon Wilk (b. 1973), and her daughter Emma Beverly Jean Wilk (b. 2005). Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of William's maternal grandfather, Payton Owens (1826-1872), whose place would be between the top two pictures.)

The 4 images below William in this picture show 4 of the 53 descendants of him and Bura. Their first child Pauline was born Dec 28, 1916 -- 97 years ago this Saturday. 

I am grateful for William Shepard and all the ways that he gave of himself to his family. He will be long remembered as a good father, grandfather and great grandfather, and a very important part of our family heritage.

Family Christmas Gathering. The second picture I am including shows a gathering of a large part of the clan of Leroy and Nola Gower. It was taken at their home in San Diego on a sunny Christmas Day in 1974. This picture was taken just 2 weeks after grandpa Leroy Gower had passed away.

Standing, left to right, are Nola Shannon Gower, Starlene Bass Gower, Hershell Gower, Hendrix Gower, Al Perry, Janet Nolan Gower, Eugene Shepard, Cindy Harris Shepard, Jackie Enderle Shepard, Jason Shepard, Darrell Shepard, Gary Shepard and Kelly Shepard. In the front row are Vicki Gower Perry, Shaun and Lloyd Gower, Russell Shepard, Barbara Shepard, Maida Gower Shepard and Kerri Shepard.

May you all have a wonderful, joyful Christmas!
- - -
Steve Shepard

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

An American Tale, Dec 17, 2013

Happiness doesn't result from what we get, 
but from what we give.
~Ben Carson

As I mentioned in my last post, this Christmas celebrates the 125th anniversary of the birth of my grandfather William Shepard (1888-1976). The first picture (below) shows William with his wife Bura Davis Shepard on Christmas Eve, 1973 -- 40 years ago.

Our Growing Body of Knowledge. The discoveries that have been made about his ancestry since his death have been amazing. We knew that he was originally from Alton, Illinois. We have also known that his father William Elmer Shepard was originally from Wabash, Indiana, but settled in Madison County, Illinois where he married Elvira Owens before they moved to Oklahoma. We have also known that his grandfather William Shepard was from Wabash, Indiana, and died in the Civil War as a young man.

But research done in recent years has filled in many of the gaps in our knowledge of him and his ancestry. We have learned that his great grandparents on the Shepard side were James and Hannah Shepard (Shepherd?), of Eastern Ohio, who migrated to Indiana in the early 19th century. James' grave can be visited in Paint Creek Cemetery outside tiny Camden, Indiana.

William's grandfather, also named William Shepard, was seriously injured in what was probably the first battle of his Civil War regiment at Bowling Green, Kentucky, in February, 1862. The soldier William was taken to a military hospital in Evansville, Indiana where he languished for 5 long months before he died in July, 1862. His grave in the Civil War section of Oak Hill Cemetery in Evansville is a solemn, historic location.

Furthermore we have learned the identity of William's grandmother, Mary Sprague Shepard, the Civil War widow who was left with an infant son when her husband/soldier died. Her son was born and her husband was wounded in the same month, February, 1862. The widow Mary went on to marry an older man, William Ragsdale, who she hoped would care for her and her fatherless son. She may have been cared for well, but her son William Elmer Shepard found life in the home of his step father unbearable and left home as a teen, never to see his family again. Mary Sprague Shepard Ragsdale died in 1919 and is buried today in Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana.

The runaway teen William Elmer Shepard, in about 1880, ended up in Madison County, Illinois where he married Elvira Owen and made a good life for himself. He, Elvira and their two children moved to Oklahoma in the early 20th century. William Elmer and and Elvira are buried in Sophia Cemetery in Beaver County, Oklahoma.

Most of the foregoing details were unknown to granddad before he died in San Diego in 1976. His story, the elements of it he knew, and the elements he never knew, are all part of our family's history, a history that is important because it is OUR history. These are our people. This is literally our connection to the past, our American tale, a story that deserves to be preserved and passed on.

It is unfortunate that granddad never knew much of his own family's history, but it is fortunate that we have been able to fill in so many of the details in recent years. There is much more to learn. As the years go by we will learn even more about all parts of our family. That knowledge that will become an integral part of our self understanding, that we can pass on to future generations. Ours is a wonderful American story, with both heartbreak and happiness, inspiration and regret, successes and failures. It's a story that we celebrate on this 125th anniversary of granddad William Shepard's birth.

That Was Then; This Is Now. The second picture I am including shows twin Christmas Elves, Dominic and Isaac Ortiz, who are Great Great Grandchildren of William and Bura Davis Shepard. They are sons of Jeremy and Desiree Ortiz of Blue Springs, Missouri. Jeremy's mother is Kim Boyd Clark, and his grandmother is Thelma Shepard Boyd.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A 125th Anniversary, December 11, 2013

Age is a question of mind over matter.
If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.
~Satchel Paige

A 125th Anniversary. Christmas, 2013 is the 125th anniversary of the birth of my grandfather William Shepard. He was born December 25, 1888, longer ago than anyone in our family that I have ever known personally. The only other family members I have known who were born before the turn of the 20th century were my grandmother Bura Davis Shepard (1896), and my maternal grandfather Leroy Gower (1899).

It seems only appropriate then to spend some time this month celebrating granddad William Shepard by reviewing his life with special consideration of what we have learned about him and his ancestry in recent years. I am grateful for the wonderful grandfather that he was, and honor him this month, 125 years after his birth.

He was born and lived his early life in Alton, Illinois, which is across the Mississippi and upriver just a ways from Saint Louis, Missouri. He and his family, including his only sister Sadie and his parents William Elmer and Elvira Owen Shepard, moved from Illinois to Oklahoma about 1905 and settled in Beaver County. There he met and married Bura Davis, who would be his life partner for over 60 years. After relocating for 12 years to Colorado, they and their four children made their way to San Diego, where he lived the last 36 years of his life.

The first picture shows a well dressed William Shepard in a family picture in San Diego about 1952, in front of their home in North Park. His wife Bura is sitting on the bumper of their car, their granddaughter Linda Shepard is in her lap, with me in the middle of this photo. At the time of this picture William was just about the same age that I am now. (I think I recognize that expanding waistline!)

He died in San Diego on the last day of November, 1976 -- 37 years ago -- at 88 years old. Those of us with warm memories of him as a friend or relative are getting fewer and fewer in number. He and Bura's descendants number 53 today. 40 of those 53 have been born since 1976 when he died.

In the years since he died, computers and the internet have made it possible to discover one's family history in ways that were never dreamed possible before. I will share more about that in my next blog post.

That Was Then; This is Now. The second picture I am including shows Christmas 2013 in Anacortes, Washington. In the picture is my mom Maida Shepard. She was was a daughter-in-law of William for over 30 years and it was in her home that he and Bura lived for the last few years of his life. 

In this picture she is taking a break from trimming the Christmas tree at her home on Wildwood Lane where she lives with grandson Steven and daughter Barbara. Thanks to Barbara for taking this picture and sharing it on Facebook.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

It's the Holiday Season, December 4, 2013

Let us be grateful
to the people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.
~Marcel Proust

The Holiday Season. When growing up in San Diego with the other members of our Shepard and Gower family, the holiday season, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, was a special time, especially for the children. 

The Shepard part of our family was careful not to celebrate Christmas as an overtly religious holiday, which may seem a little strange to some. But as devout "church of Christ" people we were following a strong church and family tradition that questioned the claim that Dec. 25 was Jesus' actual birth date. To treat it as a religious holiday seemed somewhat "papist" (pardon the expression).

Nevertheless, we made the holidays special times. Christmas and Thanksgiving were filled with holiday celebrations and family gatherings, modest gift giving, seasonal music and usually a Christmas tree. It was how we lived out our very meaningful holiday traditions that continue to be passed on from generation to generation.
The first picture is one that I shared a few years ago in this blog. It is one of the oldest pictures I have of a holiday gathering of our family in San Diego. Taken at Elmer and Beryl Shepard's home on Thanksgiving Day 53 years ago, it shows nearly the entire clan of Will and Bura Davis Shepard. It includes their children Pauline Shepard Russell, Elmer Shepard, Eugene Shepard, and Thelma Shepard Boyd, and their spouses, as well as 8 of the 9 grandchildren in the clan at that time.  

Happy Birthday Patrick. Tomorrow is the birthday of one of Will and Bura's great grandchildren, Patrick Shepard. His father Darrell is the little boy in the picture above, next to the little girl (Joan Shepard) front and center. 

Pat and his wife Nicole live in Bothell, Washington with their infant son Logan Joseph Shepard, a great great grandchild of both Leroy and Nola Gower, and Will and Bura Shepard. Pat is a native of the Great Northwest and lives with his family not far from his dad and mom, the newest and proudest grandparents among us, Darrell and Mary Shepard.

The second picture shows 5 generations in our family. From left to right are Logan Joseph Shepard (2013), his father Patrick Shepard (1992), grandfather Darrell Shepard (1958), great grandfather Eugene Shepard (about 1935), and great great grandfather William Shepard (about 1930).
-- -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!, Nov 27, 2013

Thou hast given so much to me, give one thing more, a grateful heart. 
Not thankful when it pleaseth me, as if thy blessing had spare days, 
but such a heart whose pulse may be thy praise.
~George Herbert

Greetings to all you on the day before Thanksgiving 2013. May tomorrow be a happy, family filled holiday, wherever you may be to celebrate it. 

This Friday is the birthday of my great grandmother Callie Spear Davis (1865-1951). She and great grandfather James Brooks Davis were both native Indianans who were raised near Spencer, Indiana but who migrated in 1913 to Beaver County, Oklahoma. 

Their family included Callie's special needs brother Clayton, as well as their 7 children, the oldest of whom was my grandmother Bura Davis. A number of other Davis family members had already moved from Indiana to Oklahoma, so they were reuniting with a whole clan of Davises who were new settlers to the Sooner state.

Callie, who was born at the tail end of the Civil War, was 47 when she moved to Oklahoma, and lived the rest of her life there. Her life spanned quite an era in American life, from the Civil War to the Oklahoma expansion to the entire first half of the twentieth century. She died in 1951 and is buried in Sophia Cemetery in Beaver County alongside her husband James. 

The first picture taken in 1922 in Beaver County, Oklahoma, shows Callie Spear Davis on the right at 56 years old. Sitting on the running board of their old family car, Callie is with her husband James and the first 5 of their 31 grandchildren: Eugene Shepard (left), Pauline Shepard (top), Elmer Shepard (middle), Geneva Kilpatrick (lower middle), and Bernard Kilpatrick (lower right). 

This Friday is also the birthday of Kim Boyd Clark and her grandson Damian Ortiz. Damian is the son of Jeremy and Desiree Ortiz, also of Blue Springs, while Kim is the daughter of Thelma Shepard Boyd and the wife of Jeff Clark. Kim is also one of the great grandchildren of Callie Spear Davis.

Kim, writing from Blue Springs, says: A lot of excitement happening here. Damian and I will have our birthday dinner at .......not yet decided. Jeremy and Desiree bought a beautiful 4 bedroom house about 15 min away from us and will be moving on Thanksgiving day. We will have Thanksgiving dinner at my moms. Amanda has a wonderful boyfriend that we all really like and I think will be married pretty soon. Scott has a very sweet girlfriend that will be coming with him for Christmas. I am enjoying my hobby of auctions and estate sales and resales in my booth at the Brass Armadillo antique mall. Damian is so busy with school and sports. He is playing basketball right now.

Best wishes to Kim and Damian for a very happy birthday.

- - -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Grateful for Family, November 20, 2013

There is one day that is ours.
Thanksgiving Day is the one day
that is purely American.
~O. Henry

Hello Family and Friends,

Greetings to all of you on this week before Thanksgiving. As I think back on the last year, and consider the family experiences that we have had, and the writing and research I have done, I find myself very thankful for particular family members of recent times and long ago. 

A Never Ending Miracle. I am grateful for the new babies among us, especially those born this year. First, born in San Diego in January, was Carsyn Slaughter, the daughter of Courtney Boyd and her boyfriend. Carsyn is one of the growing number of Great Great Grandchildren of Will and Bura Shepard. 

Kambree Kay Bowman, daughter of Mandi Aquiningoc and Steve Bowman, was born in June in Weatherford, Texas. She is a Great Great Great Granddaughter of both Leroy and Nola Gower and Will and Bura Shepard. 

The third baby born this past year in our larger family is Logan Joseph Shepard, who is a Great Great Grandson of both the aforementioned Gowers and Shepards. Logan, born this past July was born to Patrick and Nicole Haw Shepard of Bothell, Washington.

This first picture shows the newest members of our extended family, Carsyn, Kambree, and Logan. 

These babies remind us that this marvelous thing we call family is a never ending miracle, and will continue far longer than most of us will. They also are that needed reminder that family research is not just an old and dusty endeavor; it is as new and fresh as a baby's dreams. Thank God for the youngest ones among us!

Irish Ancestors. I am also grateful for Irish ancestors who sacrificed much so that we might live in this country. When we visited Ireland earlier this year and saw the land of many family members who came before us, it was a humbling experience. What we learned about how they lived there, and the difficulties of travelling across the Atlantic, was eye opening. Thank God for the numerous folks in our family tree who sought a better life in America.

Gratitude for Our Dearly Departed. I am also very thankful as I remember the lives of two family members we said goodbye to this year. Becky Davis of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, died in early March. She was one of my dad's first cousins who loved family history and lived a remarkable and courageous life. The second picture shows Becky as a young girl with her father Jesse Davis. 

My uncle Terry Boyd of Blue Springs, Missouri, died later in March. He and my aunt Thelma are the Great Great Grandparents of little Carsyn who was born in January. 

I am grateful to God for both of them. Just like the new babies mentioned above, they remind me that family is a never ending miracle. But it is also a fleeting thing that passes away sooner than we ever expected. Thanks be to God for memories of family and the joy that is ours.

- - -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Find-A-Grave.com, November 13, 2013

There is no cure for birth and death
save to enjoy the interval. 
~George Santayana

Hello and greetings to all of you from warm and pleasant San Diego. I would like to share with you today about a wonderful online resource for family researchers, called Find-A-Grave. Even though I have been aware of it for a few years, I have just begun to understand how truly valuable it is.

At Findagrave.com one can find information on over 100 million people who are buried in cemeteries around the U.S., and around the world. Anyone can add a record for their own ancestors who may not yet be found in their growing database.

I have mentioned Find-A-Grave before in this blog when it was a resource for information on ancestors of ours. For example, several months ago I wrote about some of the earliest ancestors we are aware of in the line of my grandmother Nola Shannon Gower. Grandma Gower's 6X great grandparents are 17th century Irish immigrants John and Elizabeth McKnight, who are buried in Manokin Cemetery in Princess Anne, Maryland (See picture). Pictures and other invaluable information about these progenitors of ours can be found on findagrave.com at this link.

After the visit I made this past September to my Shannon great grandparents' graves in tiny Gray Cemetery outside Mountain View, Arkansas, I discovered first hand what a remarkable resource it can be, and how easily it can be used. Gray Cemetery is a very small burial ground on private property and is of great value to the descendants of the 30 or so Gray and Shannon folks who are buried there. But for most people there is not much of importance there, hence it has never been listed on Findagrave.com.

But after visiting Arkansas in September and finally locating Gray Cemetery (you can read that story here), I decided to add this cemetery to Findagrave and include the four people I knew who are buried there. Shortly thereafter some other folks came forward with info about other family members in Gray Cemetery and they added that information. You can now go to the Gray Cemetery page and see information about 8 persons who are buried there, including pictures. 

You can also use the links listed with the people there to go to the memorial page for their family members. For example, on the Gray Cemetery page, you can select "view all interments" and select Great Grandmother Finetta Dearien Shannon to view her memorial page, with pictures and information. On her page you can select the link for Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower, and be taken to her memorial page, which shows you her picture and grave in San Diego at Greenwood Cemetery, which gives you links to other family members.

Here are just a sampling of some of the many memorial pages of family members in Find-A-Grave, with links, pictures and other family data:

By the way, if you click on one of the last two links above, you will see that the picture of my Davis Great Grandparents was put on Find-A-Grave by Nancy Bushong, a second cousin on the Davis side of our family.

Find-A-Grave is a great source for finding where people are buried, getting information about ancestors of long ago, and adding information that you might have, for others to see. All in all it is a boon to family researchers and will become and even greater resource in the future, as people become more aware of it and add to it. 

Do you have loved ones who have passed away that you can add to Find-A-Grave? It is easier than you might think.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Celebrate Good Times, Come on! November 6, 2013

Ooowee, ooowee baby, 
Won't you let me take you
on a sea cruise.
~Huey Smith 
(1957 song)

The Real Cause Célèbre. Cindy and I and our mums continue to enjoy ourselves on the beautiful waters of the Pacific Ocean, even though our adventure will draw to a close later today. I mentioned in a recent post that we are on this Cruise to celebrate the birthday of my mom Maida, which we did celebrate in style just a few days ago. But the real impetus for this trip was the 90th birthday of Cindy's mom Paula Harris of San Diego. Her birthday was actually back on the 18th of August, but a birthday that big takes time to celebrate properly. Hence this Hawaiian pacific adventure. Happy 90th Birthday to Paula!

The first picture shows the four of us, including new nanogenarian Paula Harris, second from the left.

Havilah Colgain Wardle. Today, November 6, is the 31st birthday of Havilah Colgain Wardle, who lives with her husband Kevin in Victoria, Texas. 

Havilah is the daughter of Joan Shepard of Dixon, California and Art Colgain of Kaysville, Utah. She is the first grandchild of Elmer and Beryl Shepard, and the 9th of the 21 Ggrandchildren of Will and Bura Davis Shepard. Happy Birthday Havilah! The second image shows Havilah in a picture that was taken this past summer.

Speaking of Bura Davis Shepard... this Friday, November 8 is the 117th anniversary of her birth. She was born in 1896 in Spencer, Indiana, and died in October, 1986. She was the oldest of the 7 children of James Brooks and Callie Spear Davis. In 1913 their family of 9, including 16 year old Bura, moved to Beaver County, Oklahoma, where she would soon meet her future husband William Shepard. When they married in 1915 the branch of the Davis family to which I belong began. 

Bura lived for 27 years in Oklahoma and Colorado, and then most of the rest of her life in San Diego, where she is buried today in Greenwood Cemetery, with a number of other family members. She is remembered with affection by all those who knew her, including, perhaps, her great granddaughter Havilah (above) who was 4 years old when Bura died.

The third picture shows Bura in the middle surrounded by several family members. On the left is her husband William, daughter Thelma, and her youngest grandchild (at the time) Dane Shepard. On the right is her son Eugene, his wife Maida, and me and my brother Gary in the front.

This picture was taken at a family Thanksgiving gathering in San Diego in 1953. It reflects accurately Bura's place at the center of our family's life, with granddad not quite in the center but just a little behind her, yet in many ways just as loved, as is indicated by his daughter Thelma holding tightly to his arm. This image also shows Bura's somewhat frail physical frame, yet there is a certain strength evident in her careful holding on to my shoulders, almost as if she is pushing me downward to hold me in place. In some ways her emotional grip on me is felt even yet. The smiles on most of our faces illustrates that this was a happy time in our family's life as we made our way into the upbeat years of the 1950s in the booming community of San Diego.

Shaun Gower. This Friday, November 8, is also the birthday of my cousin Shaun Gower of Escondido, California, just north of San Diego. Shaun is one of the two sons of my cousin Hershell Gower. So to be precise, Shaun is my first cousin, once removed. He is the first of the 14 great grandchildren of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. 

I had a enjoyable time reconnecting with Shaun recently after not much contact in recent years. He is doing well and enjoying life with his fiance Tracy. This fourth picture shows Shaun and Tracy in a picture that was taken in San Diego just a few weeks ago.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween Tomorrow! October 31, 2013

Life's no fun
without a good scare.
~Danny Elfman

Happy Spooky Day tomorrow! Even here on our Cruise people are getting into the Holloween Spirit with costumes and other holiday activities.

Happy Birthday Pam! Yester- day, October 30, was the birthday of Pam Engan Shepard who has lived all her 40-something years in Anacortes, Washington. Pam is the mother of Steven and Linda Shepard. Best wishes to Pam and many happy returns of the day!

The first picture shows Pam (second from right) with Russ and their children Linda and Steven. This picture was taken this past summer at the Shepard family reunion in Anacortes, Washington.

Mom's Birthday. Tomorrow is the birthday of my mother Maida Shepard of Anacortes, Washington. It is hard to believe that she has lived in Washington State for over 35 years now! In 1978 she and husband Eugene moved to Anacortes from San Diego where they raised their 6 children. 

Maida is celebrating Halloween, as well as her birthday, by taking a Hawaiian cruise with me and Cindy and Cindy's mom Paula Harris. So far it has been a wonderful adventure and the four of us look forward to the rest of our journey at sea.

The second picture was taken this past summer and shows Maida giving her great grandson Logan A. Shepard a computer lesson. Look closely in her eyes and you can see what sophisticated lesson she is teaching him.

Happy Halloween! In celebration of our strange family on this strangest of American holidays, the following photo presentation is offered. It shows many of our our older and younger family members from various locations around the country, in Halloween costumes and other holiday poses. Some of these pictures are recent and others from many years ago. 

"This is Halloween..."

- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, October 24, 2013

An Adventure Begins, October 24, 2013

It is easier to build strong children
than to repair broken adults.
~Frederick Douglass

Hello Family and Friends and greetings to all of you as October rapidly moves toward its spooky conclusion.

Happy 21st! This Saturday, October 26 is the 21st birthday of Mandi Aquiningoc of Mineral Wells, Texas. Mandi was born in San Diego but almost 15 years ago moved with her family to Texas where she has made her home ever since. She and boyfriend Steven Bowman are the parents of little Kambree Kay who was born back in June. Happy 21st birthday and best wishes to Mandi!

The first picture was taken 2 weeks ago in Texas and shows Mandi holding little Kambree (look at those shoes!) with Steven Bowman on the right.

Pacific Adventure Redux. By the time you read this Cindy and I will be out on the open sea, on a Cruise ship heading west from San Diego. We are with our moms, Paula Harris and Maida Shepard on this pacific adventure redux, the four of us having made this same trip back in the fall of 2008. 

We left Southern California two days ago and will be away for two weeks, relaxing on this vast ocean, sipping drinks and playing games as we catch a view of an occasional dolphin or flying fish. In the course of our journey we will make a couple of stops at a few of the islands. And we will enjoy each other's company as we celebrate a few personal milestones, the details of which I will share with you as we go along.

The second picture shows Cindy, Paula and Maida as they get ready to board the cruise ship. The adventure begins.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Fire In Me Now, Oct 17, 2013

Perhaps my best years are gone,
but I wouldn't want them back.
Not with the fire in me now.
~Samuel Beckett

Hello family and friends, and greetings to all of you from San Diego where October is bringing warm weather and pleasant days.

Bill Russell, 1908-1997. Tomorrow, October 18, is the birthday of my late uncle Bill Russell, who was married to my aunt Pauline Shepard Russell for 62 years until he died in San Diego in 1997. Uncle Bill was originally from Oklahoma; he married Pauline Shepard in Two Buttes, Colorado in 1935; but he then moved in 1940 to Southern California where he and Pauline raised their family and lived the rest of their lives.

The first picture is an old one and shows Bill and Pauline in San Diego in 1957. During the 1950s and 1960s Bill and Pauline and their children Rex and Beverly were among the larger family of Will and Bura Davis Shepard who were close and would often gather for holiday meals or attend worship together at the El Cajon Blvd. Church of Christ.
Bill and Pauline have two grandchildren alive today: Eric Russell and Shannon Wilk. The second picture shows Eric and his wife Ruthie (top) who live in Nevada (although this picture was taken while on a Hawaiian vacation). The bottom half of the picture shows Shannon and her daughter Emma, who live in Kansas.

Happy Birthday Kori Boyd. Tomorrow is also the birthday of Kori Boyd of Coronado, California, one of the great granddaughters of Will and Bura Davis Shepard, and the daughter of Darren Boyd. She is a student at Coronado High School. Happy Birthday to Kori!

Vicki Gower Johnston's 80th Birthday! And finally, tomorrow is the 80th birthday of my aunt Vicki Gower Johnston, who lives with her husband Duke Johnston in Oak Harbor, Washington. Vicki is the younger daughter of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. She has the unique distinction of being the only one in our family who was born in Okemah, Oklahoma. 

Leroy and Nola and their family lived in Okemah (about an hour's drive east of Oklahoma City) for 17 years, from 1925 to 1942. It was something of an extended sojourn on their way from Arkansas, where they were both born, to San Diego, where they settled for the rest of their life together. 

Vicki spent the first 9 years of her life in Oklahoma, then lived in San Diego for many years. For almost 40 years now she has lived on Whidby Island in Northwest Washington. She is having serious struggles these days with health issues related to aging. Our prayers and best wishes are with her, her daughter Paula who is her primary care giver, and all her family.

The third picture, taken in Anacortes, Washington in 1995, shows Vicki's mother Nola Shannon Gower on the left, then Vicki, then her older daughter Paula Tuzzolino, and on the right, Vicki's granddaughter Heather Cotton.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Magic Mirrors, Oct 10, 2013

Family faces are magic mirrors.
Looking at people who belong to us,
we see the past, present, and future.
~Gail Lumet Buckley

Update on Logan Joseph Shepard. One of the babies born into our family in recent months is Logan Joseph Shepard, who was born July 24, the son of Patrick and Nicole Shepard of Bothell, Washington. He is the youngest member of our family and the first grandchild of Darrell and Mary Shepard. 

Logan spent the first several weeks of his life in the hospital as a result of a difficult delivery. Patrick tells me that "Logan is doing very well. He has been home almost a month and is almost 3 months old! He is making good progress in his development and growing quick! He still is learning how to eat orally but doing good at it! We are so lucky to have him, he is our miracle baby! We appreciate the whole family's prayers and thoughts."

The first picture shows a pensive Logan with his companion teddy bear. Our best wishes are with him and his parents Patrick and Nicole and his entire proud family!

And Kambree Kay. The other baby that was born into our family this summer was Kambree Kay Bowman, daughter of Mandi Aquiningoc and Steven Bowman of Mineral Wells, Texas who entered this world June 14, 2013.

Mandi tells me that they "are doing great. Kambree will be four months old October 14th :) She is just getting so big :)  and I love her to pieces."

Looking at these two babies, you can tell they are a part of the same family, even though they are second cousins, once removed. We are very blessed to have these young ones among us. They prove the truth of the words of Gail Lumet Buckley about family faces being magic mirrors, because in them "we see the past, the present, and the future".

And now for something entirely different. Halloween is fast approaching. Again this year I plan to put together a family photo/musical presentation with a Halloween theme. In recent months I have collected some new Halloween pictures of family members that I will add to the presentation. If you have a favorite Halloween picture (recent or old, of children or adults) that you would like for me to include, please send it my way.

The third picture is an oldie, indeed the oldest Halloween picture I have. It shows my brother Gary -- great grandfather of little Kambree in the picture above -- when he was just a few years older than she is now. This picture was taken at Halloween in San Diego in 1951.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Finding a Fallen Hero, October 3, 2013

Family isn’t something that’s supposed to be static, or set.
It’s always evolving, turning into something else.
~Sarah Dessen

I mentioned recently in this blog that a few weeks ago my mom and I visited her birth town, Mountain View, Arkansas. A genealogical trek like that is an opportunity to meet some relatives for the first time, to see where our ancestors once lived, to visit some beautiful towns or cities, and to be graveyard jackrabbits. This particular trip was all of that. And more.

Mountain View, ArkansasWe stayed in Mountain View with mom's first cousin Bernice Beckham. Mom and Bernice are both grandchildren of Sam and Finetta Dearien Shannon, early settlers in Northern Arkansas. While in Mountain View I was fortunate enough to meet several of my second cousins for the first time. One of them was Bernice's daughter Jana Richardson, CFO of a nearby health care facility who was exceptionally hospitable, even for Stone County, Arkansas. (See first picture of Bernice, Jana and Maida at the Shannon Family reunion.)

The Saturday evening of the reunion, Jana took it upon herself to drive us to a beautiful scenic overlook, which on this particular evening provided a remarkable view of the town. Jana made it clear that this was a special place, as she oohed and ahhed, revealing her affection for her hometown, where she has lived her whole life, where her mother has lived her whole life, where my mother was born, and where both my grandparents, Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower, were born and raised. It was a lovely sight as the setting sun allowed its evening glow to give Mountain View its best light.

After basking sufficiently in the view, Jana decided to show us the thing for which her town is most famous: music. Mountain View is known as "The Folk Music Capital of the World". (Google that phrase and Mountain View comes up every time.) Each evening during warm weather crowds of people gather in the middle of town and hear pickers and singers whoop it up and have a good time. (My guitar pickin' brother Darrell would be in "hog-heaven" -- an Arkansas phrase.) That Saturday evening we strolled through at least three different venues where Folk Music was on display to the delight of hundreds of spectators. I couldn't have imagined a better way to experience the heart of this historic town.

One of the music venues was the steps of the Stone County Courthouse, just a few blocks west of one of only two stoplights in the entire town. We listened for a while to some wonderful, heartfelt folk music, while children danced in front of the singers, putting their best skills on display without a hint of embarrassment. The talent of these young two-steppers made that evening all the more impressive. Clearly Mountain Viewers of all ages take their music seriously. This was small town America at its best.

Gone But Not Forgotten. As we moved along to another music setting we happened to pass by a memorial in front of the Court House that read In Loving Remembrance of Our Stone County Sons. (See second picture.) "I wonder if your uncle is listed here", I asked mom as we walked by. I had learned just a few months ago that Grandpa Gower had a brother, 3 years older than him, who died in World War I in 1918 at just 22 years old. It took but a moment to locate him in the second column of names, the third one down: Lloyd Gower. As that Saturday evening drew to a close, my connection to this small town was growing stonger than I had expected. 

A day or two later cousin Jana continued to practice her best Arkansan hospitality -- this time with husband Aubrey, also a Mountain View native -- when they guided us to a couple of the local cemeteries. One was Cooper Hill Cemetery, easily accessible about 9 miles west of town on SR66. It's a beautiful, grassy location, protected by several lazy cows, who lounged just outside the fence surrounding the graves. They stood as mindless sentinels, quietly suspicious of strange visitors like us, as they tail-slapped the flies off their backs, all the while remaining wary of us, as if we were grave robbers or dangerous hunters.

It was at Cooper Hill, under the careful gaze of those mindless sentinels, that we found the grave of WWI soldier Lloyd W. Gower (1896-1918). Although he died 95 years ago this week, his headstone is still fairly easy to read and continues to stand as a solemn reminder that we are descended from brave, sacrificial folk to whom we owe an immeasurable debt. 

At this beautiful burial ground we also found the graves of Lloyd's grandparents (my great great grandparents) Leroy and Ellen Taylor Gower, among the earliest Gower settlers in Arkansas. (See picture of Lloyd Gower's grave, top; and mom and me at Leroy and Ellen Gower's grave, bottom.)

It's not clear when I will ever return to Mountain View, Arkansas, but the few days we spent there in early September showed us that there is a family presence in that place -- among both the living and the dead -- that will ever be welcoming and hospitable. For countless generations to come, our family history in Stone County will be a touchstone from which to appreciate our proud Gower and Shannon heritage.
- - -
Steve Shepard