Friday, January 29, 2016

Remembering Sadie Shepard Pruett, January 29, 2016

Tradition means giving votes 
to the most obscure of all classes
-- our ancestors.
It is the democracy of the dead.
~Gilbert Keith Chesterton

This week celebrates the birthday of my Great Aunt, Sadie Shepard Pruett, the only sister of my Grandfather William Shepard. She lived from January 27, 1892 until January 29, 1980.

My Granddad William Shepard was 3 years older than his sister Sadie, both of whom were born in Madison County, Illinois, just across the river from Saint Louis, Missouri. They were teenagers when their parents William Elmer Shepard and Elvira Owens Shepard, moved the family in 1905 to Beaver County, Oklahoma.

The United States Census of 1910 shows that, in the small farming community of Logan, Beaver County, Oklahoma, the William Elmer Shepard family was a close neighbor of the Charles Edward Davis family. One of the Davis granddaughters was Bura Davis, who in 1915 became the bride of Sadie's brother William Shepard. That union created a bond between the Davis and Shepard families that continues to this day.

(Side Note: on this day 167 years ago -- January 29, 1849 -- the aforementioned neighbor of the Shepards', Charles Edward Davis, was born. He was the grandfather of my grandmother Bura Davis Shepard.) 

I never knew my great aunt Sadie Shepard Pruett despite the fact that our lives overlapped by several decades. She visited her brother William Shepard and his family in San Diego in the 1940s, this second remarkable family picture having been taken on one such visit. It shows Sadie (in the dark dress in the middle) and husband Levy (middle of the top row) with other Shepard and Russell family members while visiting the border town of Tijuana in 1946. 

Though she visited family in California, Sadie never lived any farther west than rural Beaver County. In 1910, at just 18 years old, she gave up her teaching job in the local public school to marry Levy Pruett who was 12 years older than her. They had 3 daughters: Alberta, Gayle and Twila. The first picture (above) shows the beautiful young mother and wife Sadie at 23 years old with her first two daughters Alberta and Gayle. This lovely picture may actually have been taken on the occasion of the marriage of her brother William Shepard to Bura Davis.

Sadie is buried alongside her husband Levy Pruett in the Sophia Cemetery near Elmwood, Oklahoma. That cemetery is just around the corner from the South Flat Church of Christ, a congregation which was dear to the hearts of many of our Shepard and Davis family members in the early years of the 20th century.

Unfortunately there has been very little communication over the years between the descendants of Sadie Shepard Pruett and her brother William Shepard. Today, many of the Shepards live on the West Coast, while many of Sadie's descendants live in and around Oklahoma. Perhaps that lack of interaction will change as generations go by and as the internet makes possible greater communication between distant relatives.

Seeking Valentine's Day Pictures. As I mentioned last week, I am putting together a family photo presentation for Valentine's Day. If you have a "kissing picture" including family members, you are welcome to send it to me for inclusion in this fun photo slide show.
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Steve Shepard

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Prelude to a Kiss, January 20, 2016

If you hear a song in blue,
Like a flower crying for the dew,
That was my heart serenading you,
My prelude to a kiss.
~Craig Lucas

Valentine's Day is Coming Soon. In a few short weeks we will celebrate Valentine's Day. I plan to compile a musical photo presentation to celebrate love in our family. I invite you to send me a photo of members of your family kissing, to be included in that presentation. 

It could be a dad's peck on a baby's cheek, a warm smooch on an unsuspecting ear, a familial peck on a grandparent's forehead, a warm kiss in a loving embrace, an old photo, a recent snapshot, etc. I think you get the idea. The possibilities are endless. Are you up to the task? Pucker up and give it your best shot. Have some fun. Be creative and send me your photo in an email before Valentine's Day.

Birthday Wishes to Dane and Nathan! Tomorrow, January 21, is the birthday of my cousin Dane Shepard and his son Nathan Ross Shepard who were born on the same day of the year. One would think that would be a highly unusual occurrence, since the odds of it happening are 1 in 365. It happened to Dane and Nathan, when the latter was born in 1996. Oddly enough it also happened to my brother Russ when his son Steven was born on Russ' birthday in 1990: twice in the Shepard family in 6 years! What are the odds of that happening?

Dane lives in New Castle, Oklahoma with his wife Cindy and daughter Kaylan, while their son Nathan will celebrate his 20th birthday tomorrow while in college in Florida. This first picture shows Dane and wife Cindy in a recent photo that Dane graciously sent me recently.

Dane: Yes, it's that time of year again for Nathan and me. We have had a very eventful year which has kept us busier than ever. Turning 65 is a milestone. You definitely know you are a senior citizen when you join Medicare and are eligible for senior discounts when you fly. I haven't slowed down at all and I'm grateful for the continued health to keep up with Nathan and Kaylan, and the rest of our extended family here. Cindy and I certainly enjoy the progress they are making.

Nathan continues to do well getting his business degree with an emphasis in behavioral science. He is in his third year at Florida College and plans to remain in Florida to attend USF for graduate work. He has managed to balance being in two performing groups, working part time, and dating while keeping up with his studies. 
Thanks for your continued work with an ever expanding family legacy. "Roots and wings" go well together. ...Gratefully, Dane

Nathan: Hey there! Thank you for the birthday wishes! It has been a little while since the family reunion in OK! I hope you are doing well! I will actually be at school in Florida for my birthday however my parents will be coming down the following week. I would like to give a warm hello to all the Shepard family and best hopes for a good year!

Happy Anniversary Havilah and Kevin. This Saturday, Jan 23, 2016, is the 6th wedding anniversary of Havilah and Kevin Wardle. Havilah is the daughter of my cousin Joan Shepard of Dixon, California and Art Colgain of Salt Lake City, Utah. She is also the niece of the aforementioned Dane and Cindy Shepard. Best wishes to Havilah and Kevin for a wonderful anniversary celebration.

Happy 90th Birthday Bernice Johnson Beckham! Also, best wishes go out today to Bernice Johnson Beckham of Mountain View, Arkansas who turns 90 years old today. Bernice is the first cousin of my mother Maida Gower Shepard. 

Bernice and Maida are among the last surviving grandchildren of my Great Grandparents Samuel Pickens Shannon and his wife Finetta Clementine Dearien. Bernice, who has lived her whole life in Mountain View, Stone County, Arkansas, is an important connection to that part of our Shannon and Gower families that have roots in the hills of Northern Arkansas that go back almost 200 years.
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Steve Shepard

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Relentless Hope, January 13, 2016

Success is to be measured
not so much by the position one has reached in life
as by the obstacles which have been overcome.
~Booker T. Washington

Happy Anniversary to Jeff and Kim Clark! This coming Monday, January 18 is the 9th wedding anniversary of Kim Boyd Ortiz-Clark and Jeff Clark. Kim is a cousin of mine and one of the Grandchildren of William and Bura Shepard. 

Kim and husband Jeff were married in La Jolla, California in 2007 but have lived their entire married life in Blue Springs, Missouri. Best wishes to Kim and Jeff for a wonderful anniversary!

Remembering Samuel and Finetta Shannon. On this day in 1881, two of my Great Grandparents were married in Stone County, Arkansas. They are one more couple in our family tree who chose to marry in the dead of winter. It was undoubtedly cold in the hills of Northern Arkansas on that Thursday, January 13, when my Great Grandfather Samuel Pickens Shannon and Great Grandmother Finetta Clementine Dearien tied the knot. At the time their families were living in the small farming communities of  Sylamore and Timbo, 13 miles west of Mountain View, Arkansas.

I never knew either one of them personally. Sam died before I was born. And although Finetta lived until 1960, I lived in California and never had the opportunity to meet her. But we do know quite a bit about the lives of both of them. The historical record is kind to us in this regard. Both Finetta and Sam had amazing, yet tragic childhoods in their own ways.

Tragic Childhoods. Sam was the 7th of the 9 children of David and Peggy Shannon. Of those 9 children, 2 died in their first year. The other 7 lived in rural Louisiana during the Civil War. Their father died in that conflict when Sam was just 5 years old, leaving mother Peggy and her 7 children in poverty in the post war South, a terrible fate in itself. Fortunately Peggy's brothers from Stone County, Arkansas came to the rescue and moved Peggy and her fatherless children, to live near them in Northern Arkansas. Though Sam's mother was a young Civil War widow, at least he had the stability of a larger family that cared for him, his mother, and his siblings.

Finetta's childhood was also very difficult, but for different reasons. Born in Stone County, Arkansas she was the child of an abusive stepfather Gus Dearien who had molested his own stepdaughter, Finetta's mother Roena Norton. In those days Finetta was considered "illegitimate", which carried a burdensome stigma. She was raised in the hills south of Mountain View, Arkansas by her biological father and her Grandmother Liza Mitchell Dearien.

A Relentless Hope for the Future. So on that Thursday, 135 years ago, when Finetta and Sam married, they came together with lots of painful history, but a relentless hope for the future that led them to a wonderful life with one another. They bore 9 children, the last of whom was my Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower. I remember Grandma Gower talking about the home in which she was raised: a place where hard work was valued, where dirt floors were common, where the most was made of the simplest things, where family life was respected, where long dusty walks to church and community was normal, and where allegiance to the local Baptist Church was important.

It may have been in that little Baptist Church in their local community that their wedding occurred. Samuel was 22 and Finetta was 19 when they said their vows and began a journey of love that would last 49 years. Sam died at 72 in 1930, while Finetta lived till 1960 when she died just 3 months short of her 100th birthday. They are buried next to each other in Gray Cemetery, a humble, at times hidden, family burial site off Happy Hallow Road within walking distance of Timbo.

From painful, humble beginnings, they lived a resilient life, overcoming great odds and leaving a wonderful family legacy. On this anniversary of their wedding, may God bless the memory of Sam and Finetta Shannon and their place in the history of our family.
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Steve Shepard

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Watching the Stars Come Out, January 6, 2016

Happy are those who don't fear to see the sun go down,
but instead look forward to watching the stars come out.
~Mary's Motto

January 6 is celebrated throughout the Christian world as Epiphany, the day that commemorates the bright star that led the three wise men to the manger in Bethlehem. Three girls of our larger family are celebrated in today's post. Their ages, where they live, and their immediate families vary considerably, but they are all shining lights of this growing clan that unites us all.

Carsyn Slaughter. Yesterday, January 5, was the third birthday of Carsyn Slaughter, daughter of Cody Slaughter and Courtney Boyd, who is a Granddaughter of Thelma Boyd. Carsyn is one of the Great Great Grandchildren of my grandparents William and Bura Davis Shepard. Carsyn and her immediate family live outside San Diego in Alpine, California. Her proud grandfather is Darren Boyd of Coronado, California.

This first picture shows "Ninja Turtle" Carsyn being held by her dad Cody, alongside her mom Courtney and little sister Camryn, the newest member of their family, who was born last summer. "Happy Birthday!" to Carsyn and best wishes to her family.

Cindy Harris Shepard. Tomorrow, January 7, is the birthday of my wife Cindy Harris Shepard. Born in Visalia, California in the San Joaquin Valley, she came with her family to San Diego as a baby. Today Cindy and I live the retired life in San Diego and enjoy our kids and grandkids. Cindy is proud of her Native American (Chickasaw) heritage, which she can trace for at least 5 generations through her mother Paula Harris and maternal Grandmother Rosa Krause.

This second picture was taken back in November and shows Cindy in the middle with her mom Paula Harris on the right, her son Nathan on the left, and our 3 grandchildren William, Preslea and Logan Shepard scattered throughout.  

Mary Medina Shepard. This coming Sunday, January 10, is the birthday of Mary Medina Shepard, the wife of my brother Darrell Shepard. Originally from Worth, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), Mary lives today with her family in Bothell, Washington. She is the Executive Director of Emeritus Senior Living in nearby Everett, Washington, and loves to spend time with her and Darrell's four grandchildren, Logan, Mason, Kellan and Finley. As Mary puts it, "the biggest joy in life is being a Grandma!"

This third picture shows Mary with sister-in-law Cindy Shepard, taken in San Diego last spring when Mary and Darrell were visiting in Southern California and having dinner at a restaurant in Mission Beach.
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Steve Shepard