Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Bright Light of Exemplary Lives, April 27, 2019

It's not where you live, 
it's the people who surround you
that make you feel at home.
- J.B. McGee

Beverly Jean Russell Wilk
with Granddaughter Emma Beverly Jean Wilk
This weekend is the occasion to celebrate the lives of three people who will forever be linked in our family's collective conscience. The three whose birthdays are this weekend are my cousin Beverly Russell Wilk, my father Eugene Shepard, and my grandmother Nola Shannon Gower. These three were beloved parts of our family in San Diego for many wonderful years. Bev was the last of these three to be born, but unfortunately the first to die at just 35. Ironically Nola was the first of these three to be born but the last to die just 15 years ago at the age of 101.

My Cousin Beverly. Today would have been the 80th birthday of my late cousin Beverly Russell Wilk (1939-1974). She was born in 1939 in Two Buttes, Colorado, the second child and only daughter of Bill and Pauline Russell Shepard. Bev moved with her family to San Diego at just a year old. That year, 1940, was when the first members of our family arrived in the Golden State. After graduating from San Diego High School in 1957, Bev married Phil Wilk in 1965 and with him had two children, Karl and Shannon. Bev died unfortunately at just 35 years old in 1974 of a brain aneurysm in San Diego, leaving husband Phil to raise two young children.

For each of the three persons being celebrated today -- Beverly, Eugene and Nola -- I have created a composite picture showing each of them with one of their present day grandchildren. The first picture shows Bev with her granddaughter Emma Beverly Jean Wilk. Emma lives with her mother Shannon Wilk in Atchison, Kansas.

Eugene Shepard 
with his Granddaughter Rachel Shepard
My Father Eugene. Tomorrow is the 98th anniversary of the birth of my father Eugene Shepard (1921-2003). Dad was born in 1921 in the Beaver County community of Logan, in the panhandle of Oklahoma. He graduated from High School in 1939 in the tiny Southeast Colorado town of Two Buttes. The very next year as the world was ramping up for World War II, the Shepards moved to the military city of San Diego, where Gene and his brother Elmer both involved themselves in the war. Gene and wife Maida lived in San Diego for 38 years, raised their 6 children there and then retired to Western Washington in 1978. After 25 enjoyable years in rural Washington, Dad passed away at 82 years old at their home on Wildwood Lane in Anacortes, Washington.

This second picture shows Eugene with one of his 9 grandchildren, Rachel Shepard of Seattle, Washington, the daughter of my brother Darrell and his wife Mary Shepard.

My Grandmother Gower. Tomorrow is also the anniversary of the birth of my maternal Grandmother Nola Shannon Gower (1903-2004). Born in 1903 in Mountain View, Arkansas, Grandma Gower and husband Leroy moved to Okemah, Oklahoma and lived there for 17 years before settling in San Diego where she lived for nearly 60 years. She lived the last few years of her life in Anacortes, Washington with her daughter Maida Gower Shepard and family.

Nola Shannon Gower
with Grandson Michael Harrell
This third picture shows Nola with one of her 12 grandchildren, Michael Harrell, son of Vicki Gower Johnston. Today Michael and his wife Carole live in Tokyo, Japan on a work assignment.

The Bright Light of Their Exemplary Lives. Nola, Eugene and Beverly: all of us who knew them will agree that they represent the very best in the history of our family. They were quality people of outstanding faith who loved life, their families and the world in which they lived. They helped shape our family in ways that are still being felt today. I am proud to honor them on this weekend of their birthdays. The grandchildren pictured above are just a sampling of their many descendants through whom the bright light of their exemplary lives continues to shine.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Reynolds Connection, April 20, 2019

Happy Easter weekend to all of you! May Easter tomorrow be a wonderful time for you to be with friends and family and celebrate the joy of spring, newness and the risen Christ. On this holiday weekend I want to share with you about an important person in our family tree who is probably unknown to most of you: Matilda Reynolds Sheppard (1814-1876). She was my GGG Grandmother, and the mother of Civil War soldier William Shepard (1835-1862). Even though our Reynolds ancestors are relatively unknown, they are an important part of our family heritage and worthy of our consideration.

The Sheppard and Reynolds Neighbors. In the early part of the 19th century the Reynolds' family migrated to the Ohio frontier from Maryland and Southeastern Pennsylvania. They moved westward at about the same time our Sheppard ancestors did and settled in the same community: Kirkwood, Ohio in the northern part of Belmont County. The Sheppards and the Reynolds were neighbors and founding families of the Kirkwood community. Belmont County was the early 19th Century home of a number of our ancestors, including the Davises, the Spears, the Buskirks, and the Sheppards. We can now add the Reynolds family to that list.

The family of Matilda Reynolds brought with them to Ohio a strong affiliation with "The Society of Friends" (Quakers). I wrote in a recent blog post that the Reynolds were such devout Quakers in Pennsylvania that Matilda Reynolds' parents had to get permission from Church leadership to get married in 1812.

The April 1833 Marriage Record for
James Shepherd and Matilda Reynolds
Belmont County, Ohio
Disowned By the Quakers. On April 15, 1833 the Sheppard and Reynolds families became more than simply neighbors when young James Sheppard at 19 married Matilda Reynolds who was just 18. It was a marriage with built-in challenges because the Sheppards were not Quakers like the Reynolds. In that day, marrying outside the Quaker fellowship was frowned upon. As a result, in 1834, the year after James and Matilda got married, the Quaker leadership disowned Matilda for what they said was "marrying contrary to discipline." Matilda did something the Church fathers did not approve.

The 19th Century Quakers were a closely knit fellowship with strict requirements for their followers. We do not know for sure what Matilda did to cause the Quaker leaders to disown her. She may have failed to get their permission to marry, or she may have chosen to marry outside the Quaker Fellowship, or in some other way she may have simply refused to submit to their oversight of her personal life. Whatever offense she committed, it was deemed worthy of ousting her from their fellowship. The meeting at which they issued that decree was dated December 25, 1834. On Christmas Day (!) the Quaker leadership took action to remove from their fellowship one of their own -- a 19 year old girl from one of their long time families, the Reynolds.

It is hard for us to imagine what it was like 200 years ago among religious groups on the American frontier. It was not uncommon for Churches of all kinds to be very strict in their demands of members. Even Restoration Movement Churches (the heritage of many of readers of this blog) placed demands on their members in those early years. To be sure, the Quakers and other religious institutions have evolved considerably over the last two centuries. Most of them are not nearly so narrow and heavy handed today as they were in the early 1800s.

Richard Reynolds and wife Mary Hissey Reynolds
Brother of Matilda Reynolds Sheppard and among
our Reynolds ancestors of Kirkwood, Ohio
Quite the Rebel and Romantic. I can't help but be curious about the teenagers James and Matilda. What were they like? At 18, Matilda must have been quite the rebel and romantic to have given up her religious association, and probably the good will of her biological family, for this neighbor boy James Sheppard Jr., the love of her life. Kirkwood, Ohio was a frontier community in 1833 when they married, a place where the open-minded, adventurous, frontier mentality flourished. At the same time there were those who were more conservative and sought to preserve the old ways. At times those two ways of thinking clashed. Matilda's life was a good example.

Westward Ho! Matilda's marriage to James Sheppard in April, 1833, and her resulting ouster in December, 1834 from the Society of Friends, began a series of memorable events for this young couple. Six months after her ouster, in June, 1835 their first child was born. They named him William Sheppard, after James' brother William who was 2 years younger than James. In 1837 their second child Elizabeth Sheppard was born, named after James' sister Elizabeth who was just 16 when her namesake niece was born. Then in 1840 with two young children in tow, James and Matilda packed up and left Kirkwood, Ohio and migrated westward. I wonder how much her ouster from the Quakers had to do with her willingness to leave Ohio. It was a time to make a new life for herself and her family as she and James made the trek farther into the American frontier.

James and Matilda were in their 20s when they and their children made their way 350 miles along the famous Cumberland Trail across Ohio and Illinois to Western Indiana. They eventually settled in Tippecanoe County, northwest of Indianapolis, and the movement of the Shepards across the U.S. took a major step forward. There is more to be said about James and Matilda, but that will have to wait for another blog post. For now let us be grateful for the courage and foresight of these two, James and Matilda Reynolds Sheppard, as they take their place among our honored ancestors whose lives we celebrate and whose legacy we claim.
- - -
Steve Shepard

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Siblings Day, April 10, 2019

I don’t believe an accident of birth
makes people sisters or brothers. 
Sisterhood and brotherhood
is a condition people have to work at.
~Maya Angelou

Today, April 10, is an opportunity to recognize and honor our siblings. Siblings Day is indeed an actual holiday, although it is not recognized very widely, which is unfortunate. Our brothers and sisters are people who are important to us. The relationships we share with them deserve to be recognized, honored, and lifted up. Our relationships to our siblings are often the longest lasting relationships of our lives. They are relationships that go through changes throughout our lives. Over the years they can go from peaceful and harmonious to strained and tumultuous.

Three of one of the younger sets of siblings in our family:
our Grandchildren Preslea, Logan and William Shepard
of San Diego
As I think about the relationships that I have had with my 5 siblings over my 70 years, the ups and downs have been many. There have been various evolutions in our relationships over the decades. Part of that has been simply a result of proximity. There have been periods when we were very close geographically or emotionally, and times when we were not. Today my siblings Russ, Barb, Darrell and Gary all live in Western Washington. There were times we did not see each other very often, and then times when we spent lots of time together. But through it all they have remained among the most important people in my life.

We have not always seen eye to eye on things, whether related to our family, our faith, or any other matter in life. But despite our varying perspectives, we have remained in relationship. Because first and foremost we are family. That is the thing that keeps us in relationship regardless of what else is happening in our lives. That love of family is a value that was instilled in us by our parents, and for that we are eternally grateful.

Senior Siblings Maida and Vicki
with their late brother Hank in 2003
So on this Siblings Day 2019 I encourage you to honor your siblings. If they are no longer alive, remember them and be grateful for what they meant to you in life.

This year, once again, the oldest pair of siblings among us is my mother Maida Gower Shepard and her sister Vicki Gower Johnston. They have been siblings for 86 years! First in Oklahoma when they were children, then in San Diego for over 30 years, and then in Western Washington for over 35 years.

Today Maida lives in Anacortes, Washington with her family, while Vicki lives in Chandler, Arizona near her daughter Paula Tuzzolino. But for most of their 86 years as sisters they lived in close proximity to each other. These days they both struggle with issues of aging, but they still occasionally talk on the phone and enjoy a conversation that way. Our best wishes go to both Vicki and Maida and their family members who care for them.
- - -
Steve Shepard