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..."

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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