Saturday, June 25, 2016

Celebrating Leroy Gower, June 25, 2016

We're all ghosts.
We all carry, inside us,
people who came before us. 
~Liam Callanan

Kyle Sauvage. Tomorrow is the 12th Birthday of Kyle Sauvage, son of James and Kelly Shepard Sauvage of Weatherford, Texas. Kyle is the Grandson of my brother Gary Shepard and Jackie Perry, and the Great Great Grandson of Leroy and Nola Gower mentioned below.

The first picture shows Kyle, with his parents Kelly and James, at a Texas Rangers baseball game in Arlington, Texas earlier this month.

Leroy Ertin Gower (1899-1974). Today is the 117th anniversary of the birth of my grandfather Leroy Gower, who was born near Mountain View, Arkansas on June 25, 1899. He was the last of our ancestors born in the 19th century.

Grandpa Gower, along with his wife Nola Shannon Gower, originally from Mountain View, were among the first in our family to live in California when they migrated here in 1942 from Okemah, Oklahoma. They came with their 3 children: Hendrix, Maida and 9 year old Vicki (known then as Melva), and Hendrix' young wife Starlene.

The Gower family came to San Diego in two installments. Leroy, his son Hendrix and pregnant wife Starlene came in mid-1942 to get jobs and get settled. Then Nola and their two daughters, 18 year old Maida and 9 year old Vicki, came in December of that same year.

Having the family separated during the move to California was very difficult for them, especially for the girls who remained in Oklahoma. For that reason Maida was willing to move to California in the middle of her Senior year in High School. So in December of 1942 Nola and the two girls took an arduous, 1,400 mile bus ride to California. Maida then graduated from San Diego High in the spring of 1943.

The snippet on the left is taken from the 1943 San Diego High School Yearbook which I found online. It shows Maida Imogene Gower on the left surrounded by several of her classmates. Most of the graduates have a few clubs or activities associated with their listing. For Maida, the only thing mentioned is "Okemah High", the school in Oklahoma where she attended all but the last half of her senior year. Maida has the distinction of being the first in our family to have graduated from a school of any kind in California.

Maida's father Leroy came to San Diego when he was 42 years old, worked for Railway Express for many years, and lived the final 33 years of his life here. He was a life long smoker and for the last several years had very poor eyesight. Like many of his generation, he developed respiratory problems which led to his death in 1974 at 75 years old. His wife Nola outlived him by 30 years.

Grandpa Gower's lineage can be traced back to the early 17th century in Virginia, to Abell Gower (1640-1689) and his wife Jane Hatcher Gower (1640-1710), our earliest known ancestors born this side of the Atlantic.

On this anniversary of his birth, I remember Grandpa Gower as a committed Churchman, an honorable though strict father, a loving Grandparent, a hard worker, and a lover of the San Diego Padres. He is to be commended for making the difficult adjustment to city life in San Diego, after being rooted in small towns in Oklahoma and then Arkansas before that.

This final picture shows Leroy with his wife Nola Gower in front of him, surrounded by some of their church friends at the Balboa Park Baptist Church. This picture was probably taken in the late 1960s or early 1970s. They were committed, long time members of this San Diego congregation.
- - -
Steve Shepard

No comments: