Wednesday, June 26, 2013

An Extended Sense of History, June 26, 2013

The greatest thing you'll ever learn
is just to love and be loved in return.
Eden Ahbez

Happy Anniversary! Congratulations to our son Nathan and his wife Chenda Sou Shepard who celebrated 4 years of marriage this past weekend. They were married on Father's Day, 2009 in a small private ceremony overlooking the Pacific Ocean near the Old Lighthouse in San Diego. Today they live in Alameda, California with their children. 

The first picture, taken earlier this month, shows Nathan and Chenda (on the right) with Cindy and me and their three children Logan, Preslea and William.

Grandpa Gower's Birthday. Yesterday was the anniversary of the birth of my grandfather Leroy Ertin Gower, who was born June 25, 1899, in Mountain View, Arkansas. Leroy and my grandmother Nola Shannon Gower were married for 53 years when he died in 1974 in San Diego.

Leroy and Nola are the parents of a family numbering 44 direct descendants, most of whom are still alive today. No wait, that should be 45 descendants, with the birth earlier this month of their first GGG grandchild Kambree Kay Bowman in Weatherford, Texas. 

Among Leroy and Nola's surviving descendants are their two daughters: my mother Maida Gower Shepard and my aunt Vicky Gower Johnston, both of whom live in the Puget Sound area of Western Washington. Their son Hank died in 2004.

The second picture shows Leroy Gower as a young man and may have been taken in San Diego in the 1940s, not long after they moved from Oklahoma to the West Coast. My mother thinks this picture might be one taken at the Baptist Church in Balboa Park in San Diego where the Gowers were committed members for many years and where Leroy was a deacon for many of those years. 

The group picture below was taken at the Shepard home on Armstrong Street in San Diego in 1972. It shows Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower on the far right just 2 years before Leroy died. Also in the picture, left to right, are Jackie and Gary Shepard, Maida and Eugene Shepard, Kerri Shepard in Maida's lap, and Russ Shepard in Eugene's lap.

Thinking about my grandpa Gower causes me to ponder the notion that in some way, my life extends as far back as my grandparents' lives did. I have this sense that, by extension, I have "lived", in some way, ever since the time of their births. Now obviously that is not literally true. But it is true in a psychological sense.

Let me put it this way: I knew very well, and was known very well by, four different grandparents (including my grandpa Gower) whose lives reached back to the late 19th century. I spent time with all four of them, fortunately a good amount of time since we all lived in the same city for the first 20 years of my life. They loved me and I loved them. They rejoiced when I was born (presumably!) and I rejoiced when I could spend an occasional weekend with them. They told me stories of their early lives -- some humorous, some painful, many faith based, and some simply historical. They shared with me who they were in years past. And I took it all in eagerly, like a sponge, like most grandchildren who know and love their grandparents. 

A familial bond was created between my grandparents and me (and to varying degrees with all my siblings and cousins), a bond that was about as strong as one could expect to have. As a result, my personal grasp of history seems to reach all the way back to the years they lived. In the case of my four grandparents, that would be 1903, 1899, 1896, and even 1888, the birth year of my oldest grandparent William Shepard.

So when I consider history or hear about events that took place a hundred years or so ago, what comes to my mind is whether or not it falls within the years since my grandparents were born. If it does, it seems to be more within my grasp, within my extended lifetime, so to speak. Grandpa Gower is one who helps me to have that extended sense of history that reaches back over a hundred years. Next year it will be 40 years since he died, but I remember him well and am grateful for the impact he made on my life.

Today is the birthday of Kyle Sauvage, who was born 105 years after his GG Grampa Leroy Gower, almost to the day. Kyle is the younger son of my niece Kelly Shepard Sauvage and her husband James. Until recently, Kyle was the youngest member of our family living in the Weatherford, Texas area. When his cousin Mandi gave birth recently, Kyle got bumped to second place.

This last picture shows Kyle on the right with his brother Nate when they attended an NBA game earlier this year. 
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Steve Shepard

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sweet Baby Kambree, June 19, 2013

A new baby is like
the beginning of all things.
Eda J. Le Shan

Anacortes Family Reunion 2013. The family reunion in Anacortes, Washington on Saturday, August 10, is fast approaching. It is less than two months away! All members and friends of the Shepard and Gower families are invited to attend. If you do plan to be there, please let one of our Anacortes family members know, so we can "set a place at the table" for you.

Congratulations to my great niece Mandi Aquiningoc and her boyfriend Steven Bowman on the birth of Kambree Kay Bowman this past Friday evening at Campbell Memorial Hospital in Weatherford, Texas.

Mandi's sister Lyndsey sent me a message to say: Mandi and sweet baby Kambree are doing great. She just got to bring her home tonight [Saturday]! I couldn't be any more exited about being an auntie. I'm also the Godmother which makes me very happy! I hope yall are doing great. I miss yall like crazy and wanna make a visit to yall sometime soon!

This first picture, taken this past Sunday, shows the new baby Kambree Kay with a blue ribbon in her hair. She weighed in at a healthy 7 lbs. and 19 inches long. 

The second picture shows Mandi in the middle holding the baby, with her sister Lyndsey Aquiningoc on the left, and the new grandmother Kerri Shepard Aquiningoc on the right. 

Kambree Kay becomes the first of a new genera- tion in our family, being the first GGG grandchild of both Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower, and William and Bura Davis Shepard. My mother Maida Shepard is now a great great grandmother, my brother Gary Shepard a great grandfather, and my niece Kerri Aquiningoc a proud grandmother. 

Best wishes to Mandi and Steven and their entire family on the birth of this beautiful new baby. 

Kambree Kay has the unique distinction, of course, of being the youngest in our extended family. But she won't be for long. In about another month, another beautiful little baby is scheduled to arrive in our Shepard/Gower extended family. This one in Bothell, Washington. Stayed tuned!
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Steve Shepard

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Running on Grandpa's Grave, June 12, 2013

Our fathers had their dreams;
we have ours; 
the generation that follows
will have its own.
~Olive Schreiner 

Back in mid-March our grandson Logan spent a week with Cindy and me here in San Diego. My mom Maida and sister Barbara from Washington were also with us as we enjoyed a special week together. One day during that week we decided to make our periodic visit to two places here in San Diego that carry special significance for us: Greenwood Cemetery, and the Hard Rock Cafe, two locations not often coupled in the same sentence, much less in the same afternoon.

At not quite 2 years old, Logan had a difficult time at the Hard Rock. Too confining. Too boring. Way too sedate. But the cemetery was a different story altogether. You need to understand that Logan has never met a grass field he didn't like. Turn him loose on the open green spaces of the neighborhood park and it's a new lease on life for him. His eyes light up, his demeanor changes, he is a new person. 

When we got to that solemn corner of the cemetery just off Imperial Avenue, where over a dozen of our dearly departed loved ones reside, Barb and I had a quiet moment of reflection. 

Not so for Logan. For him it was an opportunity to tear around the headstones with reckless abandon. He'd been cooped up at the Hard Rock and then in his car seat way too long. It was time to let 'er rip, so off he went. He was like a baseball player who just hit a deep line drive. Run your hardest to one base, then another. And don't stop there. Keep going. The headstones were not solemn markers, they were touchstones for his little body as he scampered from one to another.

The picture above shows him rounding "second base" (Grandpa Gower's grave) and heading for third as fast as his little legs can carry him. Which is not really very fast. For Logan, running is a cross between a waddle and a sprint. But who cares? It's all about the joy, the freedom, the unrestrained explosion of energy. I could imagine Grandpa Gower looking down on his little GG grandson and enjoying this happy graveyard romp with a smile on his face.

With Father's Day coming up this weekend, it is a time to remember fathers and grandfathers who have meant so much to us. I suggest that remembering our fathers need not be so much a solemn and reflective affair. Instead it should prompt us to approach life with all the energy and verve we can muster, like a 2 year old running on grandpa's grave.

I am grateful for my two wonderful grandfathers, and for my father Eugene Shepard (whose grave can be seen in the upper left of the first picture). In the 10 years since dad died, life has gone on and I sometimes fear that I have forgotten some important things about him. But there is no doubt about my memory of his character, his honesty, his support of me and his love for his family and the church. He was the kind of father who related to me in a way that freed me to be the person I choose to be, and I will always honor him for that.

The second picture shows my dad Eugene Shepard in Anacortes, Washington in 1979. In his lap is his grandson Nathan Shepard, Logan's father. At the time Nathan was 2, the same age that Logan is today. 

My uncle Terry Boyd, who passed away in March of this year, is one of the fathers in our family who will be remembered in a special way this weekend. Best wishes to all Terry's immediate family as they celebrate this first Father's Day after his passing.

Happy Birthday tomorrow, June 13, to Terry and Thelma Boyd's #2 grandson Scott Ortiz. Best wishes to Scott for a wonderful 28th birthday.  


Select the image above to see a musical photo presentation honoring the fathers in our family who have died, and celebrating those who do such a good job of being good fathers today.

Steve Shepard

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

100 Years Ago This Spring, June 5, 2013

History does not repeat itself;
at best it sometimes rhymes.
~Mark Twain

Hello family and friends, and greeting to all of you from Northern California on this warm day in late spring as the promise of summer is everywhere to be seen.

James Brooks and Caroline Spear Davis, my great grandparents, were a special couple who deserve to be remembered and celebrated. It was 100 years ago this spring that they migrated from Indiana to Oklahoma in a move that began a whole new chapter in the life of their family. Today the descendants of James and Callie number in the hundreds and are scattered throughout the Western U.S.

In early 1913 when James and Callie packed up and moved westward, they did so with all 7 of their children and Callie's mentally handicapped brother, Clayton Spear.

The second picture, taken in Indiana in 1908 -- 5 years before their move -- is a remarkable old family photo of James and Callie and their 7 children. The children are Winona (far left), Marjorie (in her father's lap), Myra and Bura (in the back), Esther (sitting down in front), Jesse (in the very middle) and Lawrence (on the right).

They were not the first in their larger family to move westward to Oklahoma. Before the turn of the 20th century, James' widowed grandmother Jane Buskirk Davis had made the move, as did James' parents Charles and Melinda Davis in the early 20th century. Eventually 5 of James' 6 siblings relocated to the Sooner state. The lone exception was brother Tom Davis who lived all his life in Owen County, Indiana, where some of his descendants still live today.

Marjorie Davis Millikan (1907-2008), the youngest of James and Callie's children, wrote the following about her family's move. 

In March, 1913 the Davis family of nine boarded a train at Spencer, Owen County, Indiana and arrived in Forgan, Beaver County, Oklahoma on March 8. The trip was 800 or 900 miles, and crossed the Mississippi River at St. Louis.

Callie’s brother, Emery Clayton Spear came with them and lived with Callie and Jim most of his life. After Jim’s death, no one in her family offered to care for him since he was unable to care for himself. Callie’s son Lawrence Davis being the eldest son made the decision to admit him to the mental hospital in Fort Supply, Oklahoma. Lawrence was always troubled by his decision, weighing heavily on his heart all his life. Clayton died in 1944 at the age of 74. 

Sometime back my second cousin Jerry Davis emailed me to say that his grandparents John and Vera Davis (James' brother) "moved to Beaver County in June 1912 in two wagons and it took two weeks. They moved in with (their parents) Charles and Malinda Davis in a two room house and lived there for a period of time, but were asked to move out since John's older brother Jim was coming with his family, which included seven children."

All 10 members of James and Callie's household moved into a 2 room house with his parents? Talk about cozy! If nothing else it shows how difficult it was for these migrant ancestors of ours. The effort it took to follow their bliss and move westward and "start from scratch" was tremendous, and deserving of our gratitude and admiration.

What motivated them to move? To be with family was certainly one thing. The possibility of land ownership in the Oklahoma panhandle must have been another. Basically James and Callie were driven by the promise of a better life for them and their loved ones. For these reasons and many others, 100 years later we remember with thanksgiving their sacrifice and strength of spirit. It was courageous people like them who make us who we are today.

James and Callie were both born in Spencer, Indiana in the years following the Civil War, but are laid to rest today beneath a beautiful headstone in Sophia Cemetery in Beaver County, Oklahoma.

Looking at the big family picture over the last 2 centuries, James' grandparents Alexander and Jane Davis had migrated 300 miles to Owen County, Indiana from South East Ohio in the mid 19th century, then James and Callie migrated 900 miles to Beaver County, Oklahoma in the early 20th century. The completion of the migration across the U.S. occurred when their oldest daughter Bura and husband William Shepard moved 1,200 miles to San Diego in 1940. 

That Was Then, This is Now.  Happy Birthday to Emma Wilk tomorrow on the occasion of her 8th birthday. She is one of the GGG grandchildren of James and Callie Davis. In her family line are Bura Davis Shepard, Pauline Shepard Russell, and Beverly Russell Wilk. Emma lives with her mom Shannon Wilk in Atchison, Kansas. Best wishes to both of them, but especially to Emma for a wonderful birthday!

- - -
Steve Shepard