Wednesday, February 27, 2019

February Celebrations, February 27, 2019

Think how really precious
is the time you have to spend with your family.
Every minute should be enjoyed and savored.
~Earl Nightingale

My brother Darrell Shepard with wife Mary
and grandchildren Finley and Kellan
Birthday Wishes to Darrell! Happy Birthday today to my brother Darrell Shepard whose milestone birthday is today. Darrell and his wife Mary live in Monroe, Washington in the Seattle area. They live not far from their three children and their five grandchildren who are an important part of their lives. Darrell was born in 1954 in San Diego and, like his five siblings, was raised there and attended Kearny High School. He met his wife Mary at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. They eventually settled in Western Washington where they have lived for over 25 years. 

This first picture, taken last year in Seattle, shows Darrell and Mary with two of their grandchildren, their son Chris's daughter Finley and their daughter Rachel's son Kellen. Congratulations and best wishes to Darrell on his birthday!

60 years ago today was an important time in the life of our family. It was on this day in 1959, when Darrell turned 5 years old, that my parents Gene and Maida Shepard moved into the very first home they ever owned. I was just 10 years old, but I remember well what an important and happy time it was for my parents and us four kids. We finally had a home that "fit" our family comfortably instead of 6 of us trying to fit into a two bedroom apartment as we did when Darrell was first born and we lived on Ulric Street in San Diego. 

My brother Darrell on the steps of our old home
on Armstrong Street in San Diego, 1970
This second picture shows my brother Darrell at 16 years old, with guitar, on the front steps of our old home on Armstrong Street in San Diego.

Mom and Dad had four children at the time of our move to Kearny Mesa, with the last two, Barbara and Russ, arriving in the following three years. I remember the excitement build as we watched that new home on Armstrong Street being constructed in the new and growing community of Kearny Mesa in what was then the northern part of the city. The city has expanded northward so much in the last 6 decades that the northern part of the city is now much farther up the freeway. 

That home on Armstrong Street still holds many important memories for all of us who lived there. It served our family well for almost 20 years until Mom and Dad sold it in 1978. Shortly thereafter they moved to Anacortes, Washington, and bought a home where Mom still lives today. Though it has been 60 years since we moved into the house on Armstrong Street, the importance of that special event in the life of our family remains.

My cousins Hershell and Jimmy Gower, 1962
Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary! Last Thursday on February 21 my cousin Jimmie Hendrix Gower and his wife Cheryl Hazard Gower celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary! They were married in San Diego February 21, 1969. Best wishes and happy anniversary to both of them. Jim and Cheryl live in Fort Mojave, Arizona along the Colorado River.

This final picture is a real gem that I stumbled upon by accident just a few days ago. It is from 1962 and shows my two Gower cousins Hershell and Jimmy Gower when they graduated from Mission Bay High School in San Diego.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Monday, February 18, 2019

A Birth Day and A Death Certificate, February 18, 2019

There is something unique about the first born.
~Raymond Feist

First the Good News. Tomorrow is the 76th birthday of Hershell Gower, the oldest of the 12 grandchildren of my Grandparents Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower. Hershell was the first child in our family to be born in California when he came into the world in San Diego during World War II in the winter of 1943. It was obviously a very happy time for the Gowers when baby Hershell was born into their family, the first of their 12 grandchildren who would be born in the following 19 years. Hershell was raised in San Diego but lives today with his wife Shelly in Bullhead City, Arizona. Best wishes and happy birthday to Hershell!

Maida Gower holding nephew Hershell Gower
in San Diego, California, 1943
My mother Maida Gower Shepard was a senior at San Diego High School when her nephew Hershell was born. Six years ago, when she was still able to post to Facebook, she sent this message to him: "Hi Hershell. This is a voice from your past. I remember the day you were born. I thought you were the cutest baby in the whole world. I said if I had a dozen babies I could never love them more than I do you. Of course I was only 17 at the time! Have a very happy birthday. Love you. Auntie M."

Mom is no longer able to communicate on Facebook and probably does not even remember that post from 2013. But she still loves her family, and given the opportunity would even today speak as glowingly about Hershell and the joy the Gower family felt at his birth 76 winters ago.

A Century Ago. 100 years ago yesterday my Great Great Grandmother Mary Shepard Ragsdale (1840-1919) died in Indianapolis, Indiana. Hers is one of the most fascinating, mysterious, heartbreaking, yet inspirational stories in our entire family tree.

I have written numerous times in The Shepard's Crook about her. Born in Indiana in 1840, she married William Shepard (1835-1862) in 1860. As a mother with 2 baby boys, she lost her husband in the Civil War in 1862. Then in 1880 she lost her teenage son William Elmer Shepard when he left home and never reunited with her and the family of her second husband William Ragsdale. She was then widowed a second time in 1887 and outlived her second husband by 32 years.

1919 Death Certificate of my Great Great Grandmother
Mary Sprague Shepard Ragsdale (1840-1919)
At the turn of the 20th century Grandma Mary Shepard Ragsdale entered her 60s and felt the need to move from the Ragsdale family farm west of Indianapolis into the city. In those days, when one turned 60, it meant you were well into old age and in need of being cared for. Mary spent her last 15 years with her eldest daughter Cora Ragsdale Stevenson and son-in-law Dora Stevenson in Indianapolis.

Recently I found online Mary's death certificate which gives us some important information about her. This copy of her death certificate is not very clear and nearly unreadable. But in it is important information about her that we would not have otherwise. The discovery of this document is typical of what happens in family research. Old documents of this sort are regularly becoming available for the first time, with information heretofore inaccessible to the general public.

This death certificate tells us that she was born Jan 25, 1840, that she died at 79 years old, and that she is buried in the Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. It tells us that her mother's maiden name was Chapman, and that she was born in Kentucky. It also reveals that her father's last name was Sprague and that he was born in Indiana. And it also tells us that Mary Shepard Ragsdale was living with her daughter and son-in-law on South Arsenal Avenue in Indianapolis when she died of "Arteriosclerosis" (hardening of the arteries).

Family research is a never ending endeavor. It is always gratifying when new documents like this death certificate become available and one more puzzle piece falls into place. With it the story of our family becomes just a little clearer.

When Mary Shepard Ragsdale died in 1919 she was survived by nine step children that she had helped raise, plus 5 children of her own, all of whom who were married and had their own families. The church where her funeral was held could have been filled just with her descendants -- her children and step children and their families. One of her children we know for certain was not in attendance. Unfortunately, she had not seen her son William Elmer Shepard in 40 years, ever since he had left home angrily about 1880, never to return. Unbeknownst to her, he had actually died in 1915 in Oklahoma. Nor did she know about her two Oklahoma grandchildren William Shepard and Sadie Shepard Pruett who had married and had children of their own by 1919. Mary Shepard Ragsdale had a full life, a difficult life, a life filled with much joy but also more than her fair share of sorrow. She is remembered even today, with humility and great gratitude for all she endured.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Happy Valentine's Day! February 14, 2019

The greatest thing
you'll ever learn
is just to love,
and be loved in return.
-eden ahbez

Happy Valentine's Day! Today is one of the happiest and most family-friendly days of the entire year. It is a day all about love, which is what our families -- when we are at our best -- are all about. My wish for all of you is that you will feel the love of friends and family this year like never before. And that you will share the love as well!

Grandmother Nola Gower (left) celebrating 
with Gloria Harrell Watson in the 1990s
Show Me The Love. For the last several years I have given a "Show Me The Love Award" on Valentine's Day to a person in our family, from the present or the past, who has exemplified love in a remarkable way. Our family is a mixed bag, of course, as are all families. Our family tree includes some infamous people who were less than reputable. I have told some of their stories in this blog. They have been worth telling simply to remind us that families are not always full of wonderful people. Fortunately we have many family members, past and present, who do show us in a unique way what family love and devotion are all about. For them we will always be eternally grateful. Their stories are a joy to tell and will continue to be a staple for my posts here in The Shepard's Crook.

In the Valentine's Day posts for the last several years I have made a point of honoring people in our family tree who exemplified love. They have included people such as Gloria Harrell Watson (pictured above, whose 66th birthday would have been yesterday), and well as my mother Maida Shepard. Previous recipients have also included lesser known people from long ago like my 3x Great Grandfather Richard Gray who showed incredible family love and devotion during the Civil War. The stories of their exemplary love need to be told and retold.

Nathan Ross Shepard and Kara Ward
A Uniquely Qualified Choice. This year's "Show Me The Love Award" goes to one of the younger members of our family: Nathan Ross Shepard. He is the 23 year old son of my cousin Dane Shepard and his wife Cindy of Blanchard, Oklahoma and a graduate of Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Nathan and his fiancĂ© Kara are getting married tomorrow, making him a uniquely qualified choice for this award. He wrote to me recently and said, "Oh thank you so much! It’s great to hear from you! My fiance's name is Kara Ward and she’s from Athens, Alabama. We are getting married in Webster, Florida and will be honeymooning in Orlando! We plan to visit Harry Potter world while we are there! Hope you are well otherwise!"

It has been a while since we have had a wedding in our larger family. Especially one that appears to be as conventional, beautiful and exciting as the wedding of Nathan and Kara. They even have a website about their wedding! There is little doubt that weddings are changing dramatically these days, in some ways for the better. Even so I find it very encouraging to learn of Nathan and Kara's love and their willingness to devote themselves to each other in marriage.

Congratulations to Nathan and Kara and best wishes to both of them for a bright future together. We wish them and their families the very best.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Ground Hog Day, February 2, 2019

Retirement is when you stop living at work
and begin working at living.

Greetings to all of you from cold, dreary, rainy San Diego on this Ground Hog Day 2019! Ground Hog Day happens to be the very midpoint of winter. Best wishes to all of you who live in places that are experiencing some harsh freezing winter weather. The harsher the weather today, the earlier the good weather of spring, right? We'll see.

Cindy A. Shepard's Birthday and Retirement! Congratulations to Cindy A. Shepard (my brother Gary's wife) whose milestone birthday is today. Cindy and Gary live in Oak Harbor, Washington and are among the Shepard family members who are providing care and support to our 94 year old mother Maida Shepard in Anacortes, Washington.

Cindy A. Shepard (left) 
with Maida Shepard and Gary Shepard
Cindy has been anxiously looking forward to this birthday for a long time. Back in 2003 after Gary retired from the County of San Diego, the two of them moved from Southern California to Western Washington to be with family. At the time our father Eugene Shepard was very ill, and as it turned out, would only live a few more months. Cindy has worked at Schenk Packing Company in Mount Vernon for over 15 years, ever since they relocated to Washington. Today she retires from the working life, and begins a new chapter in her and Gary's life as they celebrate the joy and freedom of retirement. Congratulations to Cindy and best wishes to her and Gary in this next chapter of their lives!

On the right is a family picture showing retiree Cindy Shepard bottom left, with our mother Maida Shepard on the right and Cindy's husband Gary Shepard behind Maida. Also pictured in the back are friends and family Vicki, Barbara, Pam and Steven Paul. This picture was taken at the family home on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes.

Remembering William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915). Today is also a day for remembering my Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard. He was born on this wintry February day in 1862, 157 years ago, in the midst of the Civil War. Ironically it was also in February, 1862 that William Elmer's father William Shepard was injured in a Civil War battle in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He was taken to a military hospital in Evansville, Indiana where he languished for 5 months before finally succumbing July 22, 1862. Great Grandfather William Elmer never got to know his father, probably never even met him. That sad reality may have contributed to William Elmer's bitter conflict as a teenager with his mother and step-father, a conflict that led to his estrangement from them for the rest of his life. On the upside, young William Elmer married Elvira Owens in Madison, Illinois and together they made a family of their own that eventually settled in Beaver County, Oklahoma.

On the left is a picture of William Elmer Shepard's grave in Sophia Cemetery in Beaver County, Oklahoma. This headstone says that William Elmer was born February 5, 1862. But my records from family members say that he was born February 2, 1862. It is a minor point to be sure, but it does illustrate how there are discrepancies in the historical record occasionally, and we simply do our best to sort it out, sometimes without great certainty.

On this day of remembering his birth, we honor Great Grandfather William Elmer Shepard and his unique life as a fatherless Civil War victim, a runaway, a pioneer, and a hardworking family man. It is hard to imagine the heartbreak, the struggles, the family dysfunction of his early life, and the adversity he encountered in his 53 years, but through it all he endured. Between the families and descendants of his two children, William Shepard and Sadie Shepard Pruett, there are over 150 people today who can be proud to count him among their ancestors.
- - -
Steve Shepard