Wednesday, August 08, 2018

The Gibbs and the Shepards, August 8, 2018

I was not raised with a fortune.
Something more was left me,
and that was family values.
~Dikembe Mutombo

Remembering Our Dads. Today Cindy and I are remembering our fathers. Ironically, Aug 8 is my Dad's death day, and Cindy's Dad's birthday. My Dad Eugene Shepard (1921-2003) died August 8, 2003, 15 years ago, in Anacortes, Washington after a long time struggle with COPD. Born in Logan, Oklahoma, he lived the longest part of his life -- 38 years -- in San Diego. The last 25 years of his life he lived happily in retirement, on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes, Washington.

Joe Harris and daughter Cindy
San Diego, 1968
Cindy's Dad, S.J. (Joe) Harris was born August 8, 1922 in tiny Leon, Oklahoma. Like my Dad, Joe served in World War II, which was part of the reason he moved to Southern California. He lived in San Diego from 1950 until his death in 1999.

Our Dads had a lot in common. Both were born in Oklahoma, both came to California in the World War II era, both spent the biggest part of their lives in San Diego, where they both raised their families, and both were devout Church of Christ members. But most importantly they were both fine men who loved their families and will be long remembered as quality individuals of great faith who gave of themselves generously to others.

The Gibbs and the Shepards. I received word recently from Ron Gibbs, a member of the Gibbs family who were close friends of our Shepard ancestors in the early and mid 20th century. Ron who is a Justice of the Peace, has lived in Searcy, Arkansas for over 30 years even though he grew up in the San Diego area in Escondido. He is the son of Raymond Gibbs and a nephew of Rod and Violet Gibbs Ramirez.

Ron Gibbs and I had a very good conversation about the connections between our Shepard ancestors and his Gibbs ancestors in Southern California, and before that in Two Buttes, Colorado, and in Beaver County, Oklahoma. He reminded me that both the Shepards and Gibbs, who knew each other in Oklahoma, moved in 1928 to Two Buttes, Colorado. Some Kilpatrick family members also moved to Two Buttes that very same year. These folks brought with them their devotion to the Church of Christ. Ron told me of a Gospel Meeting that was held in little Two Buttes in 1928. As a result of that meeting, a Church of Christ congregation was started in Two Buttes with founding members being from among the families of the Shepards, the Kilpatricks, the Gibbs, as well as others. The dust bowl made life in Southeast Colorado unbearable in the ensuing years. So it did not take long for a number of those living in Two Buttes to move on westward to California.

Violet Gibbs, Eugene Shepard 
Two Buttes, Colorado, about 1935
The Gibbs were among the first of these folks to leave Colorado and move to Southern California where they settled in San Diego in the late 1930s. In 1940 the Gibbs' wrote to the Shepards, who were still languishing in the dust bowl of Colorado, and said there was a San Diego boarding house looking for someone to run it. Would Will and Bura Shepard be interested in relocating to San Diego to be in charge of this boarding house? 

It was just what Will and Bura Shepard (my grandparents) were waiting for. They packed up and made the 1,200 mile drive to California in September, 1940. The two of them were actually a part of a clan of 9 who made the transition. Along with Will and Bura Shepard came their kids, Elmer (22), Eugene (19) and Thelma (4). Some months later they were joined by their oldest daughter Pauline, her husband Bill Russell and their two young children Rex (4) and Beverly (1).

The move in 1928 from Beaver County, Oklahoma to Southeast Colorado, in retrospect, had been ill advised. Who could have foreseen the hardships they were to encounter in tiny Two Buttes? But as ill advised as that move was, the move to San Diego was just as fortuitous. The Shepards and the Gibbs rode the wave of prosperity in the years following World War II and made good lives for themselves in  Southern California. 

Through the middle years of the 20th century the Shepards and the Gibbs remained good family friends in California, through their Church of Christ affiliation, as well as through family gatherings and other times of being together. Born in 1948 I was one of the first of Will and Bura Shepard's 12 grandchildren to be born in California. I still have fond memories of the kids of our families getting together for play times and BBQs and swim parties, and hearing the older generation talk about the Colorado and the Oklahoma days. Many of us have scattered in various directions in recent decades but those family experiences in Oklahoma and Colorado, and then in San Diego, will remain formative and an important part of our families' shared history.

Thanks to Ron Gibbs for making contact and for stirring some important memories of years gone by.
- - -
Steve Shepard

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