Saturday, June 09, 2018

A Tribute to Paula Harris (1923-2018), June 9, 2018

Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his saints.
~Psalm 116:15

My mother-in-law Paula Harris passed away last Saturday night, just two months short of her 95th birthday. She died of a heart attack at her home on Burgundy Street in San Diego. I have known Paula for over 50 years. As my wife Cindy's mother, she has been an integral part of my family life for over half a century. 

Paula (left) with sister Juanita, 1940s
Paula and her late husband Joe Harris, were very much like my own parents: transplanted Okies who had come to California in the mid 20th century and raised their family in San Diego. Also like my family, they were devout Church of Christ folks who had a strong connection to the El Cajon Blvd Church of Christ in San Diego, where Paula's memorial service will be conducted in two weeks.

Her husband Joe Harris died 19 years ago, but Paula did well on her own these last two decades, with her sister Juanita as a housemate. The house on Burgundy Street in San Diego had been Paula's home for 61 years. She and husband Joe were a young couple in 1957, with two grade school kids, Cindy and Joe Paul, when they bought their house in the new San Diego Community of Allied Gardens.

Paula was one of the most independent seniors I have ever known. Especially in recent years she wanted her and sister Juanita to manage on their own. She did her own shopping, visited friends and drove her own car as long as she was physically able. She attended church regularly until she was in her 90s. And she took care of her yard and garden longer than one would have expected. She was tough and self assured, and exhibited an independent streak that worked well for her, especially after the death of husband Joe. But Paula knew her limitations and acted accordingly, adjusting gracefully to the life changes that came to her as they come to all of us as we grow older.

Recent months were difficult for her health-wise. She had dealt with heart issues for years. But after a heart attack this past January, her health concerns increased. She made several visits to the hospital in the weeks before her death. When she eventually passed away last Saturday night, she was in her own home, in her own bed, with close family members at her side.

Paula with daughter Cindy on her 94th birthday last summer.
Paulena Hicks was born in Durant, Oklahoma in August of 1923. She was proud of her Native American heritage that she inherited from her full blooded Chickasaw Grandmother. She remained an active part of the Chickasaw Nation her whole life. After graduating High School she attended Southeastern Oklahoma State University for a year. She then responded to the call of service and entered the military, serving for two years in the Army during World War II, along with her sister Juanita. After the war, she married fellow veteran Joe Harris in September, 1945.

Paula leaves a daughter: Cindy Harris Shepard, 4 Grandchildren: Nathan, Cadence, Jared and Charles, and 8 Great Grandchildren. The family home on Burgundy Street will never be the same without her. Later this summer Paula will be laid to rest alongside her son Joe Paul Harris in the relatively new Miramar National Cemetery in San Diego.
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Steve Shepard

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Celebrating My Grandparents, June 2, 2018

A wedding anniversary is the celebration
of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity.
The order varies for any given year.
Paul Sweeny

William and Bura. 103 years ago today my grandparents William Shepard and Bura Emerald Davis were married in Beaver County, Oklahoma. She was a teen of 18; he was 8 years older. They were both from farming families who had migrated a few years earlier from Indiana and Illinois. They went on to have 4 children, 12 grandchildren, and a large assortment of other descendants who today are scattered around the Western US. 

William and Bura Shepard, 1950s San Diego
Their youngest child, Thelma Shepard Boyd is the last surviving member of the original family. She lives with her daughter and husband Kim and Jeff Clark who are traveling the U.S. these days in their RV. Will and Bura's 2 youngest descendants, both born in 2015, are Camryn Slaughter (daughter of Courtney Boyd Slaughter) of San Diego, and Finley Shepard (daughter of Chris Shepard) of Seattle.

Will and Bura were married in the spring of 1915 in the country home of their Church's minister in rural Beaver County, Oklahoma. In 1928 they moved their family to Southeast Colorado, then on to San Diego in 1940 where they lived the largest part of their lives. I am grateful for these two who are an important part of our rich family history. It was 103 years ago that they were married but their influence continues to be felt every day, in numerous obvious and subtle ways.

Anacortes Shepard Family, Memorial Day 2018
Gary and Cindy. Today is also the wedding anniversary of my brother Gary and his wife Cindy Ann Shepard, of Oak Harbor, Washington. They were married 39 years ago in the backyard of our home in Los Alamitos, California. I spent last weekend with family in Washington and caught up with a number of my relatives in Western Washington, included Gary and Cindy. Our Memorial Day gathering was an enjoyable time of being with family and some family friends at the Anacortes home of our mother Maida Shepard.

This second picture was taken last Monday and shows Gary and Cindy, along with the others who enjoyed our afternoon Barbeque. Seated in the middle of this picture is our mother Maida Gower Shepard. At 93 she is the senior member of our Gower and Shepard families. Behind her is her oldest son Gary, with his wife Cindy kneeling on the left. Kneeling on the right is granddaughter Linda. Across the back, right to left, are me, Russell, Steven Paul, Pam, Barbara, and family friends Vicki and Virgil.

Also worthy of note as this month of June commences, are the following:
  • Today is the 148th anniversary of the birth of James Brooks Davis (1870-1928), father of my grandmother Bura Davis Shepard. On his 45th birthday his oldest daughter Bura was married.
  • Yesterday was the 16th wedding anniversary of Jeremy and Desiree Ortiz. Jeremy is the great grandson of Will and Bura Shepard.
  • This past Tuesday was the 63rd birthday of my cousin Michael Harrell, grandchild of Leroy and Nola Gower and oldest son of Vicki Gower Johnston. Michael and wife Carole live in Tokyo and would love to welcome any of us if we happen to be visiting Japan. 
Best wishes to all these folks as they celebrate these important milestones!
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Steve Shepard