Saturday, February 27, 2016

Hello From Old Mexico, February 27, 2016

We are all motivated, far more than we care to admit,
by characteristics inherited from our ancestors,
which individual experiences of childhood cannot erase.
~Agnes E. Meyer

Greetings to all of you from the West Coast of Mexico where Cindy and I are cruising with our mothers, Paula Hicks Harris and Maida Gower Shepard. Paula and Maida, Cindy and I are all enjoying ourselves as we take in the sites of our various ports of call. Today we are in the city of Puerto Vallarta, a beautiful bustling town full of lovely beaches, enjoyable restaurants and endless shops. It is our first stop on this four stop journey.

It is a joy to spend nearly two weeks traveling with the two people who are together the most experience filled individuals in our entire extended family. Paula and Maida represent 184 years of family life. These two women, who have known each other for over 50 years, have had life journeys that are remarkably similar. Both of them spent most of their growing up years in Oklahoma, they both married Navy men (both of whom are gone now) in 1945, during the closing period of World War II, and they both settled in San Diego as young adults, where they raised their children. Both of them, by the way, have had a long time affiliation with the Church of Christ, including many years each at the El Cajon Boulevard Church in San Diego. And, most importantly, they had children who married each other, namely Cindy and me.

The first picture, taken here on the ship just a few days ago, shows Paula and Maida as we were on our way to dinner on our formal night.

Birthday Wishes to Darrell. Happy Birthday to my brother Darrell Shepard, the fourth of the six children born to our parents Eugene and Maida Shepard. Darrell and his wife Mary live in Bothell, Washington, not far from where their 3 children live, Christopher, Rachel and Patrick. They are the proud grandparents of 4 grandkids: Logan and Mason, Kellan, and Findley.

Darrell, like all his siblings, was born and raised in San Diego, where he graduated from Kearny High School. He then went on to Abilene Christian University where he graduated and met his wife-to-be Mary Medina. He and Mary have lived in the Northwest now for over 30 years.

This second picture shows grandpa Darrell with young Mason, son of Patrick and Nicole Shepard of Bothell, Washington. This is one of Darrell's favorite family pictures and was taken last fall. Happy Birthday to Darrell!
- - -
Steve Shepard

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Long and Proud History, February 19, 2016

A person represents each of several of their ancestors
as if there were seven or eight of us
rolled up in each one’s skin —  
and they constitute the variety of notes 
for that new piece of music which each life is.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Hershell Gower. Happy Birthday today to my cousin Hershell Gower. Hershell was born in San Diego, the first of the 12 grandchildren of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. He came along just a year or so after his parents Hendrix and Starlene Gower, and his grandparents Leroy and Nola Gower, first moved to San Diego in 1942. Though a native San Diegan, Hershell is retired and lives today with his wife Shelly in Bullhead City, Arizona. His sons are Shaun and Lloyd Gower and still live in the San Diego area.

This first picture is from 1972 and shows Hershell on the left with his Grandparents Leroy Gower and Nola Shannon Gower. It was taken in the kitchen of their home on Lynne Street in San Diego where the Gowers lived for nearly 50 years. Grandpa Gower developed very poor eye sight later in his life which helps explain the stern and expressionless look on his face in this picture.

A Long History. The Gower family line is one of the most remarkable in our entire family tree, and can be traced 9 generations before my Grandfather Leroy Gower, all the way back to Abell Gower (1640-1689), of Henrico, Virginia. He is the oldest relative of ours that I can find anywhere, who was born in the new world. 

The GGG Grandson of the aforementioned Abell Gower, was his namesake Abel Gower (1796-1870). He and wife Rachel Lay Gower (1800-1860) were Tennesseans who furthered the westward movement of the Gowers by migrating westward within Tennessee and then to Izard County (later to be renamed Stone County), Arkansas just prior to the Civil War. Stone County is, of course, where our Gower relatives lived for several generations before moving to Oklahoma and then California. Stone County, Arkansas is also where some of our Gower kinfolk still live today.

This Sunday is the 200th anniversary of Abel Gower and Rachel Lay Gower, who were married in Roane County, Tennessee on Wednesday, February 21, 1816. The "Early Land Records for North Carolina and Tennessee 1753-1931" show that Abel and Rachel Lay were land owners. In 1827 the young parents Abel and Rebecca Gower purchased 45 1/2 acres of land in Warren County, in Eastern Tennessee. The above image is the record showing the purchase of those 45 1/2 acres in Warren County. 

For reasons unknown to us, they didn't do much with that land purchase. By 1830 the Gowers had moved even farther westward, and were settled in Wayne County in Western Tennessee. Eventually they migrated out of Tennessee and into Northern Arkansas.

The marriage of Abel and Rachel witnessed the birth of 8 children between 1819 and 1840. Their 4th child was Jackson William Gower who fought for the south in the Civil War, and survived to live into the 20th Century. He is the one from whom we are descended.

This quick summary is just one slice of the proud heritage of our Gower ancestors, whose history is rich and varied, and as lengthy as America itself.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day Tomorrow! February 13, 2016

Love doesn't make the world go round.
Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.
~Franklin Jones

Gloria Harrell Watson. Today is the birthday of my cousin Gloria Harrell Watson of Knoxville, Tennessee. She is the second daughter of my aunt Vicki Gower Johnston of Chandler, Arizona and is the sister of Paula Tuzzolino and Michael and David Harrell. Gloria was born and raised in San Diego, but has lived most of her life now in Tennessee. Happy Birthday on this Valentine's Weekend to Gloria!

This picture, taken last year in Oak Harbor, Washington, shows Gloria on the left with her mom Vicki and her sister Paula.

Happy Valentines Day! Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, an opportunity to celebrate love, especially within our family. The following slide show includes images of various members of our family, all of whom are kissing, one of the most common expressions of love. You will see wedding day kisses, pecks on the cheek, baby smooches and some other crazy kisses that reflect well this diverse, oddball family to which we all belong. The pictures are of kids and adults, young parents and older lovers, wedding moments, birthday celebrations and everything in between. Each picture includes at least one member of our extended family. How many of these folks can you identify?

"Kiss Me." Enjoy this homage to love within our family, to the music of the 90s band Sixpence None the Richer. 

Show-Me-The-Love Award. Each Valentine's Day I give a "Show-Me-The-Love Award" to a person in our family tree who exhibited extraordinary love in their life. This year the award goes to my 5X Great Grandmother Elizabeth Van Hook Warford (1746-1805).

Elizabeth Warford was a genuine American pioneer, whose life was intertwined with the history of our country and whose loving sacrifice was remarkable as she gave herself for her family and her expanding nation.

She was born in 1746 to Benjamin and Lydia Van Hook, of Monmouth County, New Jersey just 50 miles south of New York City. By the time Elizabeth was 18 she had made her way half way across Pennsylvania to Fulton County where she married Henry Warford, who had served in the Revolutionary War, as did Henry's brother Joseph Warford. Wikipedia says that as a result of their military service, George Washington deeded to Joseph 100 acres of land in southern Pennsylvania that the Warfords turned into a village which later was named Warfordsburg, an historic town that exists to this day.

Much of Elizabeth and Henry's married life was occupied with the Revolutionary war, but Henry spent enough time at home so that he and Elizabeth brought into the world 9 children in the 20 years they were together. Just about the time the Revolutionary War ended husband Henry died, perhaps from war wounds. In any case it created a real problem for Elizabeth who now had 8 mouths to feed and no husband to help.

Elizabeth was a genuine frontier woman. We don't know the details of how she did it, we just know that sometime after her husband Henry died in 1784, she packed up the kids -- who ranged in age from 2 and 18 -- and with help from family and friends, made her way westward across some 500 miles of rugged American landscape. She journeyed through Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio and into Kentucky where she and her family settled. They may have traveled by steamboat down the Ohio River which was something of a "superhighway" for pioneers making their way across the western frontier.

They traveled as far as Louisville, Kentucky, possibly because Louisville was the site of the Ohio River Falls, making it impossible for river boats to travel any farther. Elizabeth and her family then settled just east of Louisville in the town of Shelbyville. It was there that Elizabeth lived the last 10 or so years of her life until she died just short of her 60th birthday in 1805. She did live long enough to see her daughter Lydia Warford, in 1803, marry Kentuckian John Williams. Lydia and John are the two from whom we Shepards are descended.

It is hard to imagine the love, courage, and strength of character that it took for Elizabeth to move her family across America and begin a new life. She clearly had a strong love of the frontier, a longing to settle this new land and discover the opportunities available to those who traveled westward. Hers is a remarkable American story with great adversity as well as great accomplishment. She receives the "Show-Me-The-Love Award" for this year.

Here is Elizabeth's lineage for the last 275 years:
  • Elizabeth Van Hook Warford (1742-1805) and Henry Warford (1741-1784)
  • Lydia Warford Williams (1782-1829) and John Williams (1782-1813)
  • John Pouty Williams (1802-1898) and Sally Richardson Williams (1801-1877)
  • Margaret Williams Spear (1845-1904) and James Spear
  • Caroline Spear Davis (1865-1951) and James Brooks Davis (1870-1928)
  • Bura Davis Shepard (1896-1986) and William Shepard (1888-1976)
  • Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) and Maida Gower Shepard (b. 1924)
  • Steve Shepard (b. 1948) and Cindy Harris Shepard (b. 1948)
- - -
Steve Shepard

Sunday, February 07, 2016

"Tragedy as a Source of Strength", February 7, 2016

There is a saying in Tibetan,
'Tragedy should be utilized
as a source of strength.'
~Dalai Lama XIV

Happy Birthday Paula. Today is the birthday of my cousin Paula Harrell Tuzzolino of Sun Lakes, Arizona. Born and raised in San Diego, Paula lived most of her growing up years in Southern California. She has one daughter, Heather Robson Cotten, and two Granddaughters, Tori and Lexi, who live in Austin, Texas. Paula is one of the 12 Grandchildren of Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower.

For many years Paula lived in Oak Harbor, Washington where she met and married Frank Tuzzolino. She and Frank spend most of their time these days in Sun Lakes, Arizona, outside Phoenix, although they still go back and forth to Oak Harbor. Last summer Paula's step dad Duke Johnston passed away in Washington, and as a result Paula's mom Vicki Gower Johnston moved to the Phoenix area to be near Paula.

This first picture was taken last summer when the family gathered in Oak Harbor for Duke's funeral. In this picture are Paula, on the left, and her sister Gloria Watson of Knoxville, Tennessee on the right.

The second picture was taken in Oak Harbor some years ago and shows Paula on the left with her daughter Heather Cotten.

Remembering Phil Wilk. Tomorrow is the 81st anniversary of the birth of Phillip Wilk, the husband of my cousin Beverly Russell, and the father and grandfather of Shannon and Emma Wilk of Atchison, Kansas. Phil passed away in 2007 in his hometown of Leavenworth, Kansas. 

When Phil and Bev were married, back in the 1960s and 1970s, it was a time when most of our Shepard and Russell family members lived in San Diego and were a close knit clan. When Beverly tragically died in 1974 of a brain aneurysm at just 34 years old, she left Phil with two young children, Karl (5 years old) and Shannon (17 months old). It was obviously a very difficult time for Phil and his children, as well as for our whole family, but Phil accepted well the task of fatherhood and is remembered today for his commitment and dedication to his family. 

This third picture shows Phil on the left, next to his mother-in-law Pauline Shepard Russell. Next to them are William and Bura Shepard, with Phil's father-in-law Bill Russell on the far right. This family picture was taken in 1975 just a year after Bev died.

This story is one more reminder that tragedy strikes every family. How a family responds to it determines the quality of the family life. We can be grateful for family members in our past, like those pictured here, and their strength of character.

- - -
Steve Shepard

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

"I Don't Need Google", February 2, 2016

There is something about
reviewing the lessons of the past
that prepares us to face
the challenges of the future.
~L. Tom Perry

On this Ground Hog Day, I am celebrating three different but important celebrations among people within our family tree.

Cindy Ann Shepard. Today is the birthday of Cindy Ann Dillon Shepard, the wife of my brother Gary Shepard, who lives in the town of Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, Washington. Cindy was actually born in Rhode Island, but was raised in Southern California. She and Gary were married in Orange County in 1979, and then lived in the San Diego area until they retired to Washington in 2003 where they live today. Cindy has worked for several years in nearby Mount Vernon, Washington at Schenk Packing Company. 

Gary and Cindy Shepard
This first picture shows Gary and Cindy and was taken this past Christmas at the home of Maida Shepard in Anacortes, Washington. Happy Birthday to Cindy!

William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915). Today is the birthday of my Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard. His is one of the more remarkable stories to be found in our entire family tree, that I have written about numerous times in this blog. His father was a Civil War soldier named William Shepard who died just 5 months after William Elmer was born.

The widow and mother Mary Elizabeth Sprague Shepard rebounded by marrying an older man in Montgomery County, Indiana who already had his own family, but was kind enough to take into his household this young widow and her two sons, 3 year old William Elmer and 4 year old Frank. This united family did not blend well and by the time William Elmer was an older teenager he struck out on his own. He hightailed it out of Montgomery County, then out of the state of Indiana, and landed in Madison County, Illinois, where he met Elvira Owens and his wandering days were over. After marrying Elvira and having two children with her, he moved to Beaver County, Oklahoma where he and Elvira lived out their days. He died in 1915, also in the month of February, at just 53 years old.

We know from the stories of his son, my Granddad William Shepard, that William Elmer died from what was diagnosed at the time as stomach cancer. He was a good father, husband and church member (South Flat Church of Christ), and made a great impact on his son. He died just 4 months before his son married Bura Davis. We remember him today for the witness that he was to his family and his church.

John and Sally After 190 Years. Today is also the anniversary of two of my GGG Grandparents, John Pouty Williams (1806-1898) and Sarah (Sally) Richardson (1801-1877). They were married on this day in 1826, 190 years ago. 

John was born in Kentucky but after his father died in 1813 when young John was a child, his mother Lydia Warford Williams took their 4 children and moved them to Indiana where their family settled for several generations. In Indiana young John met Sally Richardson and even though she was 5 years older, married her when he was 19 and she was 24. Sally was originally from Virginia but had moved as a young woman to Washington County, Indiana, where she and John tied the knot. 

Headstone of Sarah (Sally) Richardson Williams
We don't know much about the wedding of John and Sally, other than it took place in Southern Indiana, on this day, the very midpoint of winter, Ground Hog Day (although the Puxtahawny Phil tradition did not even start until some years later). Indiana was still very much frontier America at that time, the state itself was still very young, Indians were still a major challenge, and travel was very primitive and difficult through this rugged, untamed landscape. 

John and Sally's marriage lasted 51 years -- an amazing length of time in those days -- and endured the build up to, the fighting of, and the rebuilding after the Civil War. Their love resulted in 9 children and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren, including Bura Davis Shepard, my grandmother. Sally died in 1877 while John lived until 1898. Grandmother Bura was born just 14 months before the death of her Great Grandfather John Pouty Williams, with the real possibility that the two of them may have actually spent some special moments together.

John and Sally Williams are yet another remarkable couple in our family tree whose lives are worth remembering, and whose love and devotion to one another is deserving of our gratitude. Their final resting place is in the beautiful Pleasant Grove Cemetery in the hills northwest of Spencer, Indiana.
- - -
Steve Shepard