Friday, December 26, 2014

A Christmas Birth, December 26, 2014

Joy to the world
the Lord has come,
Let earth receive her king.
~Isaac Watts

Remembering William Shepard. Yesterday, Christmas Day 2014, was the 126th anniversary of the birth of my late Grandfather William Shepard, who was born on December 25, 1888.

Granddad was a unique individual, with endless stories to tell his 12 grand-kids about life in the Midwest and then the Southwest in the early 20th century. He was quite the story teller later in his life -- much more so than any of his children, including my own father -- and loved to recall events from his early years. Whenever he had the opportunity he would reminisce about everything from the spectacular Saint Louis World's Fair of 1904, to the ugly racial conflicts of the Saint Louis area where he was raised, to chasing the renegade Indian Cochise in New Mexico, to making the 1,200 mile journey from Colorado to California in pre-World War II days. He lived a remarkable life, being quite a rambler at times, in ways that made life difficult as a young family man. But he found grounding and direction from his wife Bura to whom he was married for 61 years.

He was the first born child of William Elmer Shepard and Elvira Owens Shepard of Alton, Illinois. Granddad did not know a lot about his Shepard family since his own father had been estranged from his Indiana family since the days of his youth. His mother's Owens family was well established in Madison County, Illinois and there is plenty of information about their place in the history of that particular part of Western Illinois.

As a youth of about 16 Granddad's family moved from Madison County, Illinois to Beaver County, Oklahoma where he met and married Bura Davis with whom he had 4 children, including my father Eugene Shepard. In 1928 William and Bura moved their family to Colorado, and then in 1940 on to San Diego. That's where William's family grew and flourished, and where he died in 1976 just a few weeks short of his 88th birthday. He is buried with his wife Bura in Greenwood Cemetery here in San Diego, alongside several other family members, including their oldest daughter Pauline Shepard Russell. (See first picture of William and daughter Pauline from 1958.)

Pauline Shepard Russell. Speaking of Pauline, this Sunday, December 28, is the 98th anniversary of her birth. She was William and Bura Shepard's oldest child, born in Oklahoma in 1916. She and her husband Bill Russell were my aunt and uncle and were wonderful people who contributed much to the happiness of our family life here in San Diego from the time the Shepards arrived in 1940. Pauline died in the San Diego area 60 years after settling here, and just a few years after uncle Bill. Their direct descendants today are Eric Russell of Red Rock, Nevada, and Shannon and Emma Wilk of Atchison, Kansas.

A 46th Anniversary. Tomorrow, December 27, is the 46th wedding anniversary of Cindy and me. We were married here in San Diego in 1968 by Edwin Kilpatrick, the minister of the Linda Vista Church of Christ, to which my family belonged. Edwin was the logical choice since his family and my grandmother Davis' family had had close ties for several generations, both in Oklahoma and here in California. (By the way, that family connection continues. Earlier this month I bumped into one of Edwin's cousins Richard Indermill who -- surprise! -- lives about a mile from us and who I had not seen in several decades.)

It has been quite a 46 year journey for Cindy and me, from San Diego to Lubbock and then Abilene, Texas and then back to California where we have lived in a variety of places including Los Alamitos, Palo Alto, Dorrington and now San Diego again. I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to have such a wonderful life partner with whom I have shared all these years. Life has never been better for us, with our son Nathan, his wife Chenda and their 3 children close by.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, December 19, 2014

Being Family Is an Instinct, Dec 19, 2014

My mother used to tell me that 
when push comes to shove, 
you always know who to turn to. 
That being a family
isn't a social construct 
but an instinct.
~Jodi Picoult

In my last post I mentioned the birth of our newest family member Mason Michael Shepard, son of my nephew Patrick and his wife Nicole Shepard of Bothell, Washington. In this first week of his life, little Mason has gotten to meet many of his family, including his Great Grandmother Maida Gower Shepard of Anacortes, Washington. Below are two pictures of Maida with newborn Mason. Thanks to Mason's aunt Rachel Shepard for these pictures!

The Homesman. Cindy and I recently viewed the film "The Homesman," starring Tommy Lee Jones and Hillary Swank, which is about the difficulty of life on the American frontier. In particular it the story of 3 women who were simply unable to keep it together mentally as mothers and wives on the lonely, dusty plains of the Nebraska Territory. This is not a "feel good" movie. The ability of Tommy Lee Jones to dance a jig is somewhat amusing, and brought to mind a few times my Grandfather Shepard attempted a soft shoe routine in the style of turn of the century America. But in large part the film is starkly realistic. It is an eye opener in regard to the toll that was exacted on the mental health of families who participated in the westward movement to settle America. Interestingly the country churches that figure into the story receive positive treatment for the way they responded to the plight of women with mental health issues.   

While watching it I was reminded of some of our ancestors' stories of incredible hardships as they made their way westward across the American continent. I could not help but think of my 4X Great Grandmother Lydia Williams (her lineage: Lydia Warford Williams / John Pouty Williams / Margaret Williams Spear / Callie Spear Davis / Bura Davis Shepard / Eugene Shepard / Steve Shepard).

I have written about Lydia before in this blog. In 1813 when a young mother of 4 children (3, 5, 7 and 9 years old), her husband died, probably in the War of 1812 while they were living in a small town in Western Kentucky. Lydia sold their home and the 5 of them moved to the new state of Indiana where they settled. One can only imagine how difficult it was for the widow Lydia amidst the Indians, the wilderness, and the raw frontier they had to negotiate to make a life for themselves in the area around Spencer, Indiana.

While watching "The Homesman" I was also reminded of my Great Great Grandmother Peggy Shannon (her lineage: Peggy Gray Shannon / Samuel Pickens Shannon / Nola Shannon Gower / Maida Gower Shepard / Steve Shepard). I have also written before about Peggy and her husband David Shannon. They lived near New Orleans, Louisiana when husband David was called to serve in the Civil War in 1864. After not hearing a word about him for a year, she made inquiries and discovered that he had died 7 months earlier. Suddenly she was alone with 7 children (from 2 to 16 years old), far from any family, trying to make ends meet on a small country farm in rural Louisiana. Fortunately her brothers and father heard of her desperate plight and took her to live with them in Arkansas. We don't know the depth of the anguish and despair she must have felt, but we know that with help she survived. And her story is now a part of our family's historical drama.

These and other family stories came to my mind because of the film "The Homesman". Somehow amidst all the adversity, they survived and are part of the our rich family heritage. A reminder of the challenges they faced makes us appreciate more the lives we live and the debt of gratitude we owe those who have gone before.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Joy! December 12, 2014

Before you speak to me about your religion,
first show it to me in how you treat other people.
~Cory Booker

Christmas Joy! Congratulations to Patrick and Nicole Haw Shepard of Bothell, Washington on the birth of their second child earlier today. At about 10 a.m. this morning Mason Michael Shepard was born in Kirkland Washington at 7 lbs. 6 oz. and 20 inches long. The birth went just fine with no complications and everyone in the family is relieved and in a celebrative mood.

Mason is the third grandchild born to my brother Darrell and his wife Mary Shepard in the last 17 months. I thought our 3 grandchildren, who arrived over a period of just 28 months, were born in rapid succession. But 17 months is breakneck speed in grandchildren years! Best wishes to Mason's whole family, including his Great Grandmother Maida Gower Shepard, who was there to welcome Mason as her 10th Great Grandchild.

This first picture shows Mason and was taken just a few hours ago, shortly after his birth.

More "Christmas Joy!" Stanley Guy of Dallas, Texas is a second cousin of mine, a few branches over on the family tree. We are both descended from Charles Davis (1848-1926) and Malinda Wright Davis (1847-1820). I have never met Stan in person, nor his husband David, but we have corresponded many times by email and on Facebook. Stan is an accomplished musician and, with four fellow harpists, has recently released a Christmas CD.

Being an afficianado of Christmas music, as well as interested in noteworthy accomplishments of family members, I obtained a copy of the CD. Titled "Christmas Joy" it says it is "beautiful Christmas classics performed by the Harp Essence quintet," of which Stan is a member.
This second picture is from the cover of the CD, and shows Stan on the far left with the other 4 members of the group.

Although I find myself interested in a wide variety of holiday tunes, my favorite Christmas music is contemporary, rousing, and religiously oriented. So I must admit that I was not expecting too much from a Christmas harp collection. But in truth, I found it to be a fine collection of 12 pieces of holiday music that range from "Angels We Have Heard on High" to "Greensleeves" to "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

My favorite piece on the CD is the traditional English folk tune "Greensleeves." That particular melody seems to work very well when interpreted by the strings of the harp. In this collection it is beautifully done, carrying with it all the peace and beauty of Jesus' birth story. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed their interpretation of the french Christmas carol "O Holy Night." That is such a big song I could not imagine harps giving it nearly enough power and dynamic contrast to do it justice. Yet Harp Essence accomplished something special, and with a unique flair was able to make this piece about the night of Jesus' arrival an emotional and satisfying experience.

I found "Christmas Joy" to be just that, a joyful holiday celebration worth listening to, and have gladly added it to my Christmas collection. Kudos to cousin Stan and the Harp Essence Quintet for a job well done.

Stan says, "I'm just proud to be sharing the Davis musical heritage. Music has given me a great deal of joy all my life and I think music lessons were the greatest material gift my parents gave me... People can get information on ordering "Christmas Joy!" from the CD page at our website"
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Something Steady in a Confusing World, December 4, 2014

Family traditions counter alienation and confusion.
They help us define who we are;
they provide something steady, reliable
and safe in a confusing world.
~Susan Lieberman

Tomorrow, December 5, is the 24th birthday of my nephew Patrick Shepard who lives with his wife Nicole and son Logan in Bothell, Washington. Patrick is the son of my brother Darrell and his wife Mary Shepard. Pat is the Administrator of a Health Care facility in the Seattle area. 

He and his wife Nicole are scheduled to welcome their second son into the world next Friday, December 12 at Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland, Washington. Their older son is Logan Joseph Shepard who was born in July of last year. Needless to say Pat and Nicole are staying very busy these days with Pat's full time job, a 16 month old son, and another son due in a matter of days. Happy Birthday and best wishes to Pat and his family!

The first picture, taken this fall, shows Pat with his wife Nicole and their son Logan in costume, as well as one of the family chickens.

Remembering Hank Gower. This coming Monday, December 8 is the anniversary of the birth of my uncle Hendrix "Hank" Gower, who was born in 1922 in Mountain View, Arkansas. He is the brother of my mother Maida Gower Shepard and her sister Vicki Gower Johnston. The second picture shows Hank (in the blue shirt), with his second wife Aurora. Also in this picture are his niece Heather Robson, his sister Vicki and his brother-in-law Gene Shepard. This picture was taken in Anacortes, Washington in 1990 on the top of Mount Erie, with picturesque Mount Baker in the background.

The first of the 3 children of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower, Hank was a young man when he migrated from Oklahoma in 1942 with his family to San Diego which is where he lived the rest of his life and where he died 10 years ago. He was a young child when his parents moved in 1925 to Okemah, Oklahoma where he was raised and where he met and married Starlene Bass. Their two sons Hershell and Jimmie Gower were born after their move to San Diego during World War II.

He was an integral part of our family life in San Diego throughout the second half of the 20th century. Hank retired from Railway Express in San Diego, in addition to owning a card room on University Avenue. He and his second wife Aurora Agnibene lived for many years with his mother Nola Gower in San Diego caring for her in her later years. One of his life long interests was fishing, hence this next picture taken in 1964, showing him at a scenic fishing location, probably somewhere in San Diego area.

Most of Hank's descendants still live in the Southern California area today, including two of his grandsons Shaun and Lloyd Gower and their families. Hank's sons Hershell and Jimmie Gower are retired and live with their spouses in Arizona along the Colorado River. Hank is buried today alongside a number of other Shepard and Gower family members in Greenwood Cemetery in San Diego.

One of my not so pleasant but very important families memories regarding Hank took place 10 years ago. Cindy and I were visiting in Anacortes, Washington where Nola Gower lived at the time, when the family got the news that Hank had died suddenly in San Diego. I had the task of telling Grandma Gower -- 102 years old at time -- that her only son Hank (81 at the time) had passed away. Her response was quick but very thoughtful: "We all have that debt to pay."
- - -
Steve Shepard