Monday, February 19, 2018

75 Years of Cousins, February 19, 2018

Home is where love resides,
memories are made,
friends are always welcome,
and families are forever.

Today is the 75th birthday of my cousin Hershell Gower who lives in Bullhead City, California. Hershell is the first of the 12 Grandchildren of our Grandparents Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. The 12 of us were all raised together in San Diego back in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

Leroy and Nola had moved to San Diego during the Second World War in 1942 from the small town of Okemah, Oklahoma. Within a matter of months the grandchildren began arriving on the scene. Hershell, his brother Jimmie, my brother Gary and myself were the first four, born in the decade of the 1940s. Over the 20 year period from 1943-1962 the Gower children, Hendrix, Maida and Vicki, gave their parents a total of 12 Grandkids. Hershell was the initial Gower Grandchild, born in 1943 to Hendrix and Starlene Gower, while my brother Russell Shepard was the last one, born in 1962.

Leroy and Nola Gower and Family, 1968
All 12 of us kids frequented the Gower home on Lynn Street in East San Diego for family events, or for a weekend stay, or just to stop by and visit. Some of us even lived there for periods of time. It was a happy place where we all felt welcome and where familial love was in abundance. In that modest 2 bedroom home the Senior Gowers lived for almost 50 years. It still remains an important place for all us in our remembering of our Gower grandparents. From Grampa's cigarette smoke, to Grandma's Tommy Tarts and other culinary delights, it was a house of memories that will never leave us.

The first picture shows Leroy and Nola Gower in the front yard of their home on Lynne Street in San Diego in 1968. Pictured here are most of their family members, especially their first two Great Grandchildren, Kerri Shepard and Sean Gower -- both less than a year old -- sitting on Grandpa's lap.

Hershell, Hendrix and Nola Shannon Gower, 2003
It has been 75 years now since the start of that generation of those dozen Gower grandkids. Two of those 12 have passed away: my sister Linda Shepard (1950-1971), and my cousin Gloria Harrell Watson (1953-2016). Today the other 10 live scattered around from Western Washington to Southern California to Arizona to Tokyo, Japan. We cousins don't get to spend as much time with each other as we did back in our youth, but our connections remain the same, with an historical bond that will always be there.

The second picture I am including shows Hershell on the left with his father Hendrix Gower and his grandmother Nola Shannon Gower. This picture was taken in 2003 in Anacortes, Washington at the 100th birthday celebration of Nola Gower.

Happy Birthday and best wishes on this day of a milestone celebration to Hershell Gower, the senior member of those dozen cousins. I spoke with Hershell earlier today. He is doing well and enjoying life with his wife Shelly and their dogs "in the sticks", as he calls it, in Bullhead City, California.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, February 12, 2018

Valentine's Day Approaches, February 12, 2018

We do not find the meaning of life
by ourselves alone -
we find it with another.
~Thomas Merton

Happy Valentine's Day! This is the week of Valentine's Day, which is on Wednesday. It is a day to celebrate and honor love, whether you are a senior, a child, or anywhere in between. It seems to me that this makes Valentine's Day the perfect time to celebrate family love.

For most of us it was, and is, those familial relationships that have meant the most to us throughout our lives. In families we first received unconditional love, we learned about love, and we discovered the importance of extending love to others. It was also in family relationships that it became clear to us that loving those closest to us was gratifying and the pillar upon which all love is based. On the other hand, in families we also learned that love can be challenging and even heartbreaking. So on this week of Valentine's Day we celebrate family love, not just warm fuzzy feeling we get with our family, but the realistic, tough kind of love as well. 

Eugene, Gary, Maida Shepard, 1946
"Show Me The Love" Award for 2018. For the last several years on Valentine's Day I have selected one person in our family who receives a "Show Me The Love" Award. It is a member of our family whose life exemplifies family love in an extraordinary way. The more I learn about the history of our family, the more I marvel at the people from who we are descended. In many instances they are people who sacrificed a lot for their kin. They are people who gave up much to better their station in life and that of their children.

You can look back in the archives of this blog to the last several Valentine's Day posts that have referred to individuals who won the "Show Me The Love" Award. They were mostly people who lived before our time, but what we learned about them shows they were clearly deserving of this Award. This year, however, I want to select a person for this Award who is still with us: my mother Maida Gower Shepard. 

Maida Gower Shepard, at 93 years old, has lived in Anacortes, Washington for the past 40 years. She and her sister Vicki Gower Johnston of Chandler, Arizona are today the senior members of our family. Originally from Arkansas, mom moved with her family from Oklahoma to San Diego during World War II. There she met Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) and lived with him in San Diego for over 30 years. In San Diego they raised their 6 children. In 1978, their life changed dramatically when Eugene retired and they moved 1,500 miles to Skagit County, Washington.
Steve, Maida, Gary Shepard, 2018

The first picture (above) was taken in San Diego in 1946 and shows Mom with young husband Eugene and their first child Gary. The second picture shows Mom in the middle with me on the left and my brother Gary Shepard on the right. This picture was taken just last month at Mom's home on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes, Washington.

Mom has showed extraordinary love her whole life long. She learned that kind of extraordinary family love from her parents, especially her mother Nola Shannon Gower. Maida's home has been a place of welcome throughout her life, a place where she has shown how much family means to her. 

For the last 72 years Mom has had one or another child or grandchild living with her without a break. For over 7 decades her home had been a place of love and acceptance. Talk about loving dedication to her family! Even today, at 93, Mom has 4 family members living with her. Two years ago she was diagnosed with memory loss and is now in need of her family's assistance, rather than the other way around.

So with all the foregoing in mind, I suggest to you that Maida Shepard deserves the "Show Me The Love" Award for 2018. I cannot imagine another person more deserving.   

Paula Harrell Tuzzolino, 2015
Happy Birthday Paula. Last week on Feb 7 was the birthday of my cousin Paula Harrell Tuzzolino of Sun Lakes, Arizona. Paula is married to husband Frank, and together they are the primary caregivers for Paula's mother Vicki Gower Johnston. Best wishes for a very happy birthday to Paula!

This second picture shows Paula and was taken a few years ago in Oak Harbor, Washington at the home of her mom Vicki Gower Johnston.

Make it a happy Valentine's Day for the ones you love!
- - -
Steve Shepard