Sunday, May 20, 2018

Celebrating Elmer Shepard, May 20, 2018

An ounce of blood is worth more
than a pound of friendship.
~Spanish Proverb

Celebrating the 100th birthday of the late Elmer James Shepard (1918-2012).

Elmer Shepard with his sister Thelma Shepard Boyd, 2009
100 years ago today my uncle Elmer James Shepard was born in Logan, Oklahoma. The second child of William and Bura Shepard, Elmer had one older sibling, a sister Pauline, two years his senior. His younger brother Eugene (my father) was born three years later. Elmer's last sibling, Thelma, was born 18 years after him. When Elmer was born the Shepards lived on a farm in the sparsely populated community of Logan in Beaver County, in the panhandle of Oklahoma. Will and Bura were still a young couple at 29 and 21 years old, and had been married less than three years.

Elmer's maternal grandparents, James Brooks Davis and Callie Davis, were also dirt farmers and lived nearby. His widowed paternal grandmother, Elvira Owens Shepard, also lived in close proximity. 1918, the year Elmer was born, she married Cal Williams, a neighbor and church friend 17 years younger than her. (Read more about that conflicted tale here.)

Elmer James Shepard probably believed he was named after his grandfather James Brooks Davis (1870-1928). But little did he know that among his Shepard ancestors, James was also a common name. Elmer's Great Grandfather (who he probably never knew about) was named James Cross Sheppard, Jr. (1813-1887), as was his Great Great Grandfather James Cross Sheppard, Sr. (1775-1843).
Elmer Shepard, 1940s

Elmer was raised on a farm in Oklahoma and then in Southeast Colorado where his family moved when he was 10 years old. His father had several different jobs during those depression years of Elmer's youth and was away from home for periods of time. Elmer became the man of the house and did a good job of being responsible for the family. He came to adulthood just in time for World War II and was a pilot during the war. That conflict was one factor in the family's 1940 move to San Diego where Elmer and his wife Beryl Swinney Shepard lived for 30 years. In San Diego during the 1950s their two children, Dane and Joan were born and raised.

Dane emailed me a few days ago with the following comments:

Thanks for your continuing efforts in chronicling our family's past and your consideration of my father. I have a few comments to offer regarding Elmer.

As many who were born early in the last century, he saw and experienced great and life-altering changes. From the humble beginning of dry-dirt farming in the panhandle of Oklahoma, he never dreamed of co-piloting a B-17 and being an aircraft examiner in the civil service in San Diego, California, specializing in helicopters. He was one who accepted responsibility willingly, and being the oldest son, he found himself walking behind a team of plow horses at an early age. In fact, he missed a year of elementary schooling working the farm in his father's absence. Fortunately, he had already skipped a grade so he remained on track. His love of farming remained with him as he enjoyed growing various kinds of fruit trees and plants on our terraced property in Lakeside. When he and Beryl moved to east Texas on his retirement, he purchased a tractor and continued to farm there as well. His willingness to serve and his devotion to God was seen in his role as a deacon/treasurer and elder for the church of Christ for around 40 years. He was a good provider to the family in many ways, and I will always be thankful for his dedicated, willing service to us and others. For myself, growing up and working in southern California for 55 years, I never dreamed I would now be residing in Oklahoma! We must grow where we are planted as we have seen in many who were before us.

Gratefully, Dane.

Elmer is just one part of our wonderful family history. I am grateful for his life on this the 100th anniversary of his birth. It is important to remember family members like Elmer so we can be reminded of those who went before us, people whose DNA we share, and whose lives and hardships, whose dreams and aspirations, continue to inspire us. They ground us in our values and customs and show us the way to quality living.
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Steve Shepard

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