Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving! November 27, 2014

Thank you for the food we eat,
thank you for the world so sweet,
thank you for the birds that sing,
thank you God for everything.
~a child's prayer

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! Of all the holidays, this for me is the one that is most family friendly. "What about Christmas," you say? We all love Christmas, of course. But Thanksgiving is so much less stressful that it becomes for me a family time that surpasses all others. I hope this day is an enjoyable one for you and a blessing for your family!

Happy Birthday this Saturday to my cousin Kim Boyd Ortiz-Clark of Blue Springs, Missouri. And to her grandson Damian Ortiz of San Diego. And to Kim's Great Grandmother Callie Spear Davis (1865-1951). The first picture shows the three of them side by side. Callie's picture was taken on her wedding day, January 1, 1896. Kim and Damian's pictures were both taken this past summer.

President Abraham Lincoln, like many presidents before him, issued a Thanksgiving proclamation in 1863, during some of the darkest days of the Civil War. Since Great Grandmother Callie Spear was born in the fall of 1865, she arrived a few days after just the third celebration after Lincoln's proclamation. Being the first child of William and Maggie Spear, Callie's birth must have come with great thanksgiving by her parents and family.

There was one other child in their family at the time, Callie's 2 year old half sister Isolena Spear, who was the child of William Spear and his first wife Caroline Williams Spear. This Caroline died in 1863 after the birth of her daughter Isolena, at just 23 years old. Clearly it was a time of great sorrow in the family: there was the Civil War with all its death and dying, there was the death of young Caroline Williams Spear, and there was the widower William Spear caring for his motherless baby daughter Isolena. Sad, hard times to be sure!

Then life turned a corner for these relatives of ours. The widower William married his dead wife's sister Maggie Spear -- a happy beginning in itself -- and then in 1865 the first of their many children was born, Great Grandmother Callie Spear (who was named after her aunt). Callie's birth must have been accompanied with humble gratitude that the sadness of the past was over and happier times were ahead. Ole Abe knew what he was doing to bring Thanksgiving to the forefront in the dark days of 1863.

So on this Thanksgiving Day, we remember Callie Spear Davis, who was born 149 years ago on November 29. This Saturday we also celebrate the birthday of Callie's Great Granddaughter Kim Boyd Ortiz-Clark, and Kim's grandson Damian Ortiz. Kim: "Things have really slowed down with our empty nest and most of our grandkids far away now. I won't be at Chucky Cheese this year for my birthday lol but it will be my first time not with Damian on our birthday. I'll celebrate my birthday with my mom, Jeff, Amanda and Justin, Casey and Kyler."

The second picture above, taken this past summer, shows Kim standing behind Damian in the middle in red. On the far right is Kim's daughter Amanda and granddaughter Ashlyn. On the far left is Kim's mother Thelma Shepard Boyd with Kim's granddaughter Ciara in front of her. Also in this picture, in yellow, is Kim's cousin Shannon Wilk with her daughter Emma in front.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanks for Family Past and Present! November 20, 2014

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

On this week before Thanksgiving, I find myself very grateful for the family that Cindy and I have, in a special way for our son Nathan, his wife Chenda, and their children Preslea, Logan and William. I am also grateful for my siblings and their families and for our wonderful mother Maida Shepard, whose 90th birthday we joyfully celebrated earlier this month.

I am also grateful for babies who were born into our family this year: Kellan Shepard, son of Rachel Shepard and Brian Miller of Kirkland, Washington; and Karver Bearden, son of Lyndsey Aquiningoc and Colton Bearden. The picture shows recent images of Kellan (left) and Karver.

Furthermore, I am grateful for people who married into our family this year, in particular Justin Davis of Blue Springs, Mo. (husband of Amanda Ortiz), and Dee Shannon of Dixon, California (wife of Joan Shepard).

My gratitude also extends to the life Sou Penh of Kampong Speu, Cambodia, who died this year. He was the father of our daughter in law Chenda Shepard. He was known to only a few of us, but will always have a place in the hearts of Chenda and those of us who had met him, and his grandchildren, who never had the privilege of meeting him.

One of the unexpected benefits of doing family research is discovering ancestors who sacrificed so much during their lives, often in ways that contributed to the quality of life that we live yet today.
I am thinking in particular about the growing list of soldier ancestors who served in the various wars of our country, from the Revolutionary War, to the Civil War and conflicts of the 20th Century.

The second picture shows Eugene Shepard and brother Elmer Shepard who served during World War II. With them in this picture are the only 3 children that were in the Shepard family in February, 1945 at the time of this picture: their sister Thelma Shepard, and their niece and nephew Beverly Russell and Rex Russell.

All the following soldiers I have written about in the posts of this blog over the last few years. They are all persons to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude, not only as Thanksgiving 2014 approaches, but always. Those with asterisks by their names died in the service of their country.

Revolutionary War:
  • Marmaduke Davis (1760-1855) 
  • Andrew Pickens (1739-1817)
  • Robert McKnight (1732-1818)
War of 1812:
  • *John Williams Sr. (1782-1813)
Civil War:
  • *William Shepard (1835-1862)
  • *David Reid Shannon (1821-1864)
  • Jackson William Gower (1831-1902)
  • Gus Dearien (1814-1900)
World War I:
  • *Lloyd W. Gower (1896-1918)
  • Benjamin Davis (1888-1963)
World War II:
  • Elmer Shepard (1918-2012)
  • Gene Shepard (1921-2003)
  • Beryl Swinney Shepard (1923-1994)
  • Paula Harris (b. 1923)
  • Juanita Eeds (b. 1921)
For the dedication and sacrifice of the foregoing, our hearts are filled with gratitude. A prayer this coming week in thankfulness for their lives would be most appropriate.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hints and Echoes From the Life Behind, November 13, 2014

The great eventful Present
hides the Past;
but through the din 
Of its loud life
hints and echoes
from the life behind steal in.
~John Greenleaf Whittier

At the end of my last post I mentioned the anniversary of the birth of my Grandmother Bura Davis in Indiana 118 years ago this month. This caused me to notice how a whole series of events occurred almost exactly 100 years ago, events that were of great significance to both my Shepard grandparents and their families.

In the fall of 1914 Bura Davis and her family lived on a farm in Beaver County, Oklahoma, having moved there from Spencer, Indiana the previous year. Their farm was not far from where her future husband William Shepard and his family lived. The Shepards had moved to Oklahoma from Illinois almost 10 years earlier. We don't know exactly when Bura and William met -- probably in 1913 -- but we do know that in 1914 this 17 year old teenager and her 25 year old boyfriend began dating and became serious about one another.

In November of 1914 Bura turned 18, a common age at that time for women to marry. Not long after Bura's birthday, William proposed marriage, and Bura readily and gladly accepted. (See wedding picture from June 2, 1915 of William at 26 and Bura at 18.) But as often happens in life, the joy we experience is soon tempered with sadness. Also in the fall of 1914, William's father, William Elmer Shepard, was diagnosed with stomach cancer.

I am not sure which of these events -- the marriage proposal or the cancer diagnosis -- came first. It may have been the life threatening illness of his father that led to William's concern for his own future and his desire to marry Bura.

Also during this period of time, William's father (and possibly his mother Elvira) joined the South Flat Church of Christ in Beaver County, the congregation to which Bura and her Davis family already belonged. Again I am not sure which of these events came first -- his cancer or his decision to join the church. A cancer diagnosis would certainly bring many of us closer to God. In any case, this was the very first instance of one of our Shepard ancestors belonging to a Church of Christ congregation.

Fast forward 60 years: In 1975 William and Bura Shepard were living in San Diego and attending the El Cajon Blvd Church of Christ, the family's church for most of the 20th century. (See second picture of William and Bura in 1975.) At a special church function, William was recorded reminiscing about family events that transpired in Oklahoma in late 1914. Thanks to my cousin Dane Shepard, we have copies of that recording and a few other recordings of Grandad not long before he died in 1976. In those recordings William discussed, among other things, his proposal to Bura, and his father's cancer.

William said that they were unsure of the precise cause of the cancer. Grandad William attributed it to his father's habit of chewing tobacco. He said that some years later his father-in-law James Davis had died of the same thing, stomach cancer, because of his habit of chewing tobacco. William said in one of the recordings, however, that his father believed his own cancer was caused by something different. William Elmer had suffered a severe injury from a mule kick to his midsection not long before his cancer developed, and went to his grave in February, 1915 believing that was the cause.

In the 1975 Church recording, at 86 years old William got choked up as he recalled how his father, on his death bed, told his son that he wanted William to join the church before he died. How can one not honor a request like that from a dying parent? Shortly thereafter Grandad William "obeyed the gospel", as Grandmother Bura would say, and joined the South Flat Church.

In a matter of weeks several things happened in rapid succession that fall a century ago: my Grandmother Bura came of age, my Grandfather William proposed to her and then joined their church, his father William Elmer became a Christian and then fell deathly ill. Late 1914 was an eventful time for our family, highlighted by decisions and occurrances with lasting consequences that are felt even today, 100 years later.

Are there "hints and echoes" from these historical events that, in the words of John Greenleaf Whittier, "steal in" to our lives today?
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Celebrating, Remembering and Looking Ahead, November 6, 2014

Family.... They don't mean
to get on your nerves.
They don't even mean
to be your family; 
they just are.
~Marsha Norman

Happy 90th Birthday! Those of us who attended my mother Maida Shepard's 90th birthday party in Anacortes, Washington last Saturday are still feeling the positive effects of a marvelous family celebration. Nearly 60 friends and family met to usher mom into her 90s in an event that she enjoyed thoroughly, even after a fairly serious health setback last month. All her children, many of her Grandchildren, a number of Great Grandchildren, and numerous church friends were on hand to enjoy a delightful gathering.

The first picture, taken last Saturday, the day of the party, shows Maida in the middle, flanked by her oldest son Gary and his wife Cindy. Gary and Cindy were the key planners of the party.

Happy Birthday Havilah! Today is the birthday of Havilah Colgain Wardle, one of the Great Grandchildren of Will and Bura Davis Shepard, and the Granddaughter of the late Elmer and Beryl Shepard. Havilah lives in Victoria, Texas, and has spent several months getting her and husband Kevin's Texas house fixed up and ready to sell so she can make her way back to Utah to be with husband and friends.

The second picture shows Havilah on the right with her mom Joan Shepard, who is standing in front of Joan's partner Dee Shannon. This picture was taken on the occasion of Joan and Dee's wedding this past July. Also in this picture are Dee's sons Ryan (left) and Tim. Best wishes to Havilah for a wonderful birthday!

Happy Birthday, Shaun! This Saturday, November 8, is the birthday of my cousin Shaun Gower, the first Great Grandchild of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. Shaun is the older son of my first cousin Hershell Gower and his late wife Janet. Hershell lives today in Bullhead City, California. Shaun and girlfriend Tracy live in Escondido, California, north of San Diego. Shaun was born in England when his father was in the military there, but came to the US with his parents when just a few months old and has lived most of his life here in Southern California.

The third picture, taken about 1985, is an oldie and shows Shaun with his Great Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower in their Sunday best. This was taken in front of the Gower home on Lynne Street in San Diego, which was the hub of Gower family life for the entire second half of the 20th century. It holds many wonderful memories for all us Gower Grandkids and Great Grandkids.

Remembering Bura Davis Shepard. I cannot let this weekend come and go without mentioning my other Grandmother, 
Bura Davis Shepard. This Saturday, November 8, is the 118th Anniversary of her birth in Spencer, Indiana. She and Grandad William Shepard met and were married in Beaver County, Oklahoma 99 years ago, but migrated with their kids to San Diego during World War II. It was a move that resulted in most of our Shepard family being settled in Southern California for many years.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, November 01, 2014

90 Years Young And Going Strong, November 1, 2014

So even to old age and grey hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might
to all the generations to come.
~Psalm 71.18

Today is the 90th Birthday of my mother Maida Gower Shepard. I have always considered it beautifully appropriate that she was born on All Saints Day, since she is the closest thing to a saint that our family has to offer. A milestone birthday like this deserves a special celebration and that is what we are having today in Anacortes, Washington where Maida lives with her daughter Barbara and grandson Steven. This afternoon upwards of 60 friends and family will gather at a local restaurant to honor this milestone and usher her into the world of nanogenarians.

Maida was born in Mountain View, Arkansas in 1924 but moved at an early age with her family to Okemah, Oklahoma before moving on westward during World War II, to San Diego. That's where she met navyman Eugene Shepard at the El Cajon Blvd Church of Christ. In San Diego is also where she and Gene were married 69 years ago (see first picture) and then where they raised their 6 children: Gary, me, Linda, Darrell, Barbara and Russell. 36 years ago Maida and Gene retired to Anacortes, Washington, to be near some family and friends, and to support the young Church of Christ in Anacortes, a congregation that Maida still faithfully supports today. Eugene passed away 11 summers ago, but Maida and most of her children still live in Western Washington.

Maida is the senior member of our Shepard and Gower clans. She has one surviving sibling, a younger sister, Vicki Gower Johnston, who lives nearby in Oak Harbor, Washington. She is also the oldest member of the family into which she married in 1945, the family of Will and Bura Davis Shepard. Their youngest child, Thelma Shepard Boyd lives today in Blue Springs, Missouri.

We joyfully celebrate today the first 90 years of this woman who means so much to all her family and friends. (See second picture of Maida taken earlier this year in San Diego with Preslea Shepard, one of her 9 Great Grandchildren.) She is in the process of bouncing back from some health issues that had her in the hospital just two weeks ago, so she may not be partying heartily all afternoon. But we are grateful for the progress she has made and are thankful to God as she strides into the 10th decade of her life.

As a part of Maida's birthday celebration today in Anacortes, I compiled a photo presentation honoring her on this milestone. Below is essentially the same presentation for those of you who were unable to attend the party.


- - - -
Steve Shepard