Friday, March 23, 2018

Happy Birthday to Gary Shepard, March 23, 2018

Spring has returned.
The Earth is like a child
that knows poems.
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Greetings to all of you, wherever you may be, from beautiful San Diego on this first week of spring, 2018!

Happy Birthday today to my older brother Gary Lee Shepard. He and his wife Cindy Ann Shepard live in Oak Harbor, Washington. Gary, like all my siblings and I, was born and raised in San Diego. Gary, however, unlike his siblings, remained in San Diego for almost his entire working life. It was not until 2003 when he retired from the County of San Diego, that he left Southern California for the Northwest. He and his wife Cindy have lived on Whidbey Island in Western Washington now for 15 years.

Gary is the oldest of the 5 children of our parents Maida Gower Shepard and the late Eugene Shepard. Gary and our sister Barbara have accepted the largest share of the responsibility for caring for our elderly mother Maida, who lives in nearby Anacortes, Washington. These days in addition to his own health concerns, Gary is one of the primary caregivers for our mom. It is a very important job that does not get all the thanks that he and Barbara so richly deserve.

Leroy Gower, Maida Gower Shepard, Gary and Jason Shepard, 1973
Gary was given the middle name "Lee" by our parents as a nod to our maternal Grandfather Leroy Ertin Gower (1899-1974). Leroy was a native Arkansan who had moved his family to San Diego in 1942, just 4 years before Gary was born. Grandpa Gower often went by the name "Lee" among his friends. It was also the way I remember Grandma Gower referring to him. Lee is also the middle name that Gary gave to his son Jason Lee Shepard who lives today in Fort Worth, Texas.

This first picture (above) was taken in 1973 and shows Gary on the right holding his son Jason Lee Shepard. Grampa Leroy Gower is on the left with his daughter Maida Gower Shepard in the middle.

Our Grandfather Leroy was named after his uncle Leroy Monroe Gower (1875-1965) who went by the name "Babe" (think Babe Ruth) presumably to avoid confusion over all the "Leroy Gowers" in the family. Uncle "Babe" Gower was a young man of 23 and a neighbor of Grandpa Gower's when our Grandfather was born just months before the start of the 20th century. They all lived in the small farming community of Newnata, a few miles west of Mountain View, Arkansas.

Leroy Monroe "Babe" Gower with daughter Vergie, about 1900
This second picture, taken about 1940 in Arkansas, shows Leroy Monroe "Babe" Gower with his special needs daughter Vergie Gower.

Yet another of Gary's namesakes in our Gower family tree is Grandpa Gower's Grandfather, who was also named Leroy Gower (1854-1909). As best as I can tell this Leroy Gower was the first one with the name Leroy in our entire Gower family line. Born before the Civil War in 1854, he was the very first Gower to be born in Izard County (later renamed Stone County), Arkansas. His parents Jackson William Gower and Mary Anderson Gower had come to the hills of Northern Arkansas about 1850 from Wayne County, Tennessee about 100 miles southwest of Nashville. They may have been the very first Gowers to settle in Stone County, Arkansas.

Leroy Gower with wife Ellen Taylor Gower about 1900
This last picture shows my GG Grandparents Leroy Gower and his wife Ellen Taylor Gower. The source from whom I received this picture claims that "this is the oldest known picture of any Gowers in Arkansas." I could find no date for this remarkable photo, but both these folks died in their early 50s in 1906 and 1909, respectively. It may have been taken around the turn of the 20th century.

The following is a map showing the 168 year, 3,348 mile journey of the folks mentioned in this post. It begins with GGG Grandparents Jackson and Mary Gower who, in 1850, left Wayne County, Tennessee. It concludes with Gary and Cindy Shepard who have lived in Oak Harbor, Washington since 2003. The stops along the way include a 75 year stop in Arkansas, a 17 year stop in Oklahoma, and a 71 year stop in San Diego. 

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Steve Shepard

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