Sunday, May 24, 2020

Love In a Time of War: May 24, 2020

Love doesn’t make the world go round.
Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.
~Franklin Jones

On this day, 75 years ago my parents Eugene Shepard and Maida Gower were married in San Diego. Dad passed away in the summer of 2003 in Anacortes, Washington, not long after they celebrated their 58th anniversary. But Mom is still living in the home they bought when they moved from San Diego to Anacortes in the spring of 1978. Though Dad is gone, and Mom is a frail 95 years old, this anniversary is still significant and worth remembering and celebrating. The last 75 years are a witness to the love of these two who have had an amazing impact on innumerable lives. 
A Critical and Uncertain Time. The day they married, May 24, 1945, was during a critical and uncertain time in the history of our country. Our nation had been engaged in World War II for 3 1/2 years, ever since that fateful day in December, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed. The very existence of the United States was on the line. Countless young men had been sent to a conflict far away, many of them never to return. Families were under great stress as they awaited word about their loved ones. The war eventually took the lives of over 400,000 Americans. World wide over 70 million people died, making it the deadliest conflict in human history.

A young Eugene Shepard about 1942
in San Diego with his '41 Ford Sedan
By the spring of 1945, World War II was winding down. On April 30, 1945 Hitler committed suicide, realizing all was lost for the Third Reich in Germany. On May 7, Germany officially surrendered, which began the process of liberating the horrendous Concentration Camps. The War did not actually end until August, 1945 when atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. But things were definitely looking good for America in May of 1945. Spirits were high even though there was work to be done to bring a complete end to the war. So in late May when Mom and Dad were married the War was not over, but it was nearing its end. It was still a time for concern, but optimism and hope ran high.

A Commuter's Romance. In the spring of 1945 my father, 24 year old Navy man Gene Shepard was stationed in Los Alamitos, California, 100 miles north of San Diego. He drove to San Diego every chance he got in his 1941 Ford Sedan. He wanted to visit his family who lived in the Hillcrest neighborhood. But even more he wanted to be with Maida, his betrothed, who lived with her parents, Leroy and Nola Gower, on Arizona Street, not far from where the Shepards lived on Albatross Street. On his visits to San Diego he and Maida dated and their romance blossomed.

Maida Gower and Eugene Shepard 
about 1944
Mom and Dad met in 1944 at a social gathering at the El Cajon Blvd Church of Christ, just a short walk from where Maida lived with her parents and her young sister. Maida had graduated from San Diego High School the previous year. It was a High School friend named Janelle Davis who had introduced the two of them. 

A Simple Ceremony in the Minister's Home. In September of 1940, just a year out of High School, 19 year old Eugene had moved with his family from Colorado to San Diego. They had promptly joined the El Cajon Blvd Church which then became the family's church for many decades. So it was only natural that Gene and Maida would choose that church in which to marry. Because of Gene's limited amount of leave from the Navy, their options were limited. They contacted the minister of the church who was available to marry them on a Thursday afternoon. It was not a big church wedding, but a simple ceremony in the minister's home behind the Church. I do not remember Mom or Dad ever saying why they did not plan a Church wedding with family and friends and a reception. With Dad commuting back and forth a formal event may have been impractical. In any case the deed was done that Thursday afternoon and their life together as husband and wife began. 

Eugene and Maida, 1992
Lake Wallowa, Oregon
Their wedding took place at the beginning of the Memorial Day holiday weekend. So their honeymoon may not have been much more than the few days of that long weekend. It included a visit to a new Amusement Park that had recently opened in Orange County by the name of Knotts Berry Farm. After their marriage Gene continued to commute to San Diego from Los Alamitos until December of 1945 when he was finally released from the Navy. He and Maida then settled into life together in their own place in San Diego. 

A Genuine Love, Grounded in Grace. The first 33 years of their married life they lived in San Diego. Their final home in California was the house they owned on Armstrong Street in Kearny Mesa, where they finished raising their 6 children. In 1978 they moved to Anacortes where they lived the rest of Gene's life and where Maida lives today. Over the 58 years that they had together they influenced many lives in countless ways. They had a happy marriage, provided a stable family life for their 6 children, and were always devoted to their local Church wherever they lived. Theirs was a genuine love, grounded in the grace of God and generously shared with family and friends. The 40 members of their family today are a living legacy to the quality of their lives. On this occasion of remembering their wedding 75 years ago, I give thanks to God for their lives and their witness.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Happy Birthdays, May 14, 2020

A good many family trees are shady.
~Robert Gonzales

Happy Birthday tomorrow to our grandson Logan Alexander Shepard of San Diego. Born in San Francisco in 2011, Logan is now finishing up third grade in public school. Like all kids in San Diego schools these days, he is engaged in distance learning. He interacts with his teacher and classmates by video conference, and does much of his learning on his personal computer. The Corona Virus is making this a very different school year for everyone, a year that none of us will forget.

Despite the shut-down that is affecting us all, we are planning a happy celebration for Logan's birthday tomorrow. The following is a music video celebrating his 9th birthday. These images of Logan were taken over the course of the last year.

Happy Birthday Aunt Thelma! Today is the birthday of my aunt Thelma Shepard Boyd. Born in the spring of 1936, Thelma is the youngest of the last three members of her generation in our family. The other two are my mother Maida Shepard of Anacortes, Washington, and Maida's sister, my aunt Vicki Gower Johnston of Chandler, Arizona. Those three women are the senior members of our family and are to be honored for their place in our larger family.

I connected with my aunt Thelma earlier today. Unfortunately she is in Grossmont Hospital here in San Diego having had some surgery. She is planning to go home soon. I assured her that being in the hospital is not the best way to spend her birthday. She agreed. Best wishes to Thelma for a speedy recovery!

The picture on the right shows Thelma (second from the left) with her three siblings and her parents in San Diego in 1973. This was one of the last pictures of these 6 all together. Granddad passed away in 1976, just 3 years after this picture was taken. Also in the 70's Eugene and his family moved from San Diego to Washington, while Elmer and his family relocated from San Diego to Texas. Sitting in front are Thelma's parents William Shepard and Bura Davis Shepard. Standing in the back are their children, Eugene Shepard, Thelma Shepard Boyd, Pauline Shepard Russell, and Elmer Shepard.

Birthday boy Logan, who is pictured above, is one of the 25 Great Great Grandchildren of William and Bura Shepard. Those 25 are dispersed throughout San Diego, the Seattle area, North Texas, and Northeast Kansas. They range in age from 30 years old to 1 year old. Unfortunately Will and Bura Shepard were two people Logan never had the opportunity of meeting. 

My aunt Thelma is our last remaining family link to Two Buttes, Colorado, a small town in the Southeast corner of that state, where our Shepard family lived from 1928 until 1940. Thelma was born in Two Buttes but moved to San Diego with her family in the fall of 1940 when she was just 4 years old. In 1958 she married Terry Boyd (1937-2013) in Southern California and with him had two children, Kim and Darren, who were raised in San Diego. Thelma lives today in a comfortable apartment complex in El Cajon, very near some of her 6 grandchildren who assist her as needs arise. Best wishes to Thelma on this, the occasion of her 84th birthday!

Related Celebrations. Today also happens to be the 30th birthday of Thelma's Granddaughter Courtney Boyd Slaughter who was born in 1990, on her grandmother's 54th birthday. And to make it a trifecta, today is the 36th birthday of my nephew Christopher Shepard of Seattle, the son of my brother Darrell and his wife Mary. Best wishes to all of them!
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

An Ancestor Named Kitty, May 6, 2020

My gift of John Marshall 
to the people of the United States 
was the proudest act of my life.
~President John Adams (1735-1826)

In a recent post I wrote about Cindy's Civil War era ancestors Julius Caesar Vessels and his wife Narcissus from northern Alabama. The Grandmother of Narcissus Vessels was a woman named Katharine "Kitty" Keith, Cindy's 4X Great Grandmother. She is the link to our impressive Keith ancestors of early America. Below is a 12 generation lineage that includes Kitty Keith, and traces this family line back to 17th Century Scotland. I included this in a recent post but I am sharing it again to highlight two of the oldest individuals in this lineage.
  • Preslea Maida Shepard, b. 2010, the daughter of...
  • Nathan Shepard, b. 1977 (wife Chenda Sou) the son of...
  • Cindy Harris Shepard, b. 1948 (husband Steve Shepard), child of
  • Sammie Joe Harris, 1922-1999 (wife Paula Hicks), son of...
  • Mary Lee McGowan, 1899-1985 (husband Fred Harris) child of
  • Edna Pearl Vessels, 1882-1967 (husband S. A. McGowan) child of
  • Fannie Narcissus Bradford, 1845-1891 (husband Julius Caesar Vessels) child of
  • Jesse David Bradford, 1813-1885 (wife Mary Chandler) son of...
  • Katherine Keith, 1779-1831 (husband James Bradford) child of...
  • Alexander Keith, 1748-1822 (wife Margaret Harned) son of...
  • James F. E. Keith, 1696-1752 (wife Mary Isham Randolph), son of...
  • William Keith, 1663-1712 of Peterhead, Scotland
Katherine "Kitty" Keith was born in 1779 just 3 years after the establishment of our country, and was born into one of the founding families of the United States. The Keith Family was from Fauquier County, Virginia, 60 miles southwest of Washington, DC. 

James F. E. Keith (1696-1752)
A Missionary to the Colonies. Kitty was the granddaughter of an immigrant from Scotland named James Francis Edward Keith. Born in the town of Peterhead on the east coast of Scotland, James Keith was ordained an Anglican minister in January, 1729. Just two months later he received a grant from the King enabling him to secure passage to America. He was in essence a Christian missionary from Europe to the American colonies. He arrived in 1728 and settled in Virginia. His first assignment was at St John's Church, located on the plantation of the esteemed Randolph family, where he spent 4 years. At 35 years old James married the teenage daughter of the Randolphs, a 17 year old named Mary Isham Randolph, but not without questions raised about its appropriateness.

The Elk Run Church. James then served as the first minister of the historic Elk Run Anglican Church in Catlett, Virginia. He served the Elk Run Church faithfully for nearly 20 years, during which time he and his young wife Mary brought 8 children into the world. Rev. Keith died sometime in the winter of 1752 leaving his wife Mary with eight children between the ages of 18 and 4 years. Of their five sons, James Keith Jr. spent his life as a lawyer, while the other four fought in the American Revolution. James and his wife Mary are buried under the chancel of the old Elk Run Anglican Church.

Katherine "Kitty" Keith
Their youngest son Alexander Keith was a child of 4 when his father died. In the early years of America, Alexander Keith, like several others in his family, migrated westward down the Shenandoah Valley along the Cumberland Trail and settled in Kentucky and Tennessee. It was a popular westward route made famous by Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. In Kentucky Alexander Keith married Margaret Harned, with whom he had 14 children, the second of whom was the aforementioned Katherine "Kitty" Keith.

One of 83 Cousins. James and Mary Keith had 8 children, each of whom married and had large families resulting in at least 83 grandchildren. Kitty Keith was therefore one of 83 cousins, spread out from Virginia to Tennessee. With communication being slow in the early 19th century, and with all those Keith descendants spread out all over the frontier, those cousins may not have even know each other.

We do know, however, that many of those 83 Keith grandchildren were notable citizens on the young American frontier. Kitty's brother was Judge Charles Fleming Keith who studied law in Virginia before spending his life as a Circuit Judge in McMinn County, Tennessee. Other Keith grandchildren included Elder Benjamin Franklin Keith and Elder Enos Keith, who were well known Baptist ministers in Hardin County, Kentucky.
Supreme Court Chief Justice 
John Marshall (1755-1835)

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The most famous individual in this part of our family tree was John Marshall, a Grandson of James and Mary Keith, and a cousin of Kitty Keith. He entered the Continental Army in 1775 at age 20 and was appointed lieutenant. He fought with George Washington during the harsh 1777-1778 winter of Valley Forge. After the Revolutionary War, at the age of 24 John studied law at the College of William and Mary. In August 1780 he was admitted to the Bar in Fauquier County, Virginia. In March 1801 President John Adams appointed John Marshall as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, a position he kept until 1835. Prior to serving on the Supreme Court, he was Secretary of State during the Presidency of John Adams. Later Adams said, "My gift of John Marshall to the people of the United States was the proudest act of my life." 

An Ancestral Journey Across America. Kitty Keith's father Captain Alexander Keith served honorably in the Revolutionary war in the Virginia 10th Regiment. After the war he made his way with his family to Hardin County, Kentucky. It was there that their oldest daughter Kitty met James Bradford and together they made a life for themselves and their 7 children. Kitty and husband James moved the family on westward into Tennessee and finally into Alabama. After the Civil War their descendants moved to North Texas and Oklahoma where Cindy's parents were born. World War II brought the family into California, first to the San Joaquin Valley, and finally to San Diego. The image below shows the route of the 300 year, 3,300 mile, migration of this part of Cindy's Keith ancestors from Catlett, Virginia on the East Coast to San Diego on the West Coast.

The route of a 300 Year Migration 3,300 miles across America
from Northern Virginia to Southern California
This is just one of the many family stories that can be told of our ancestors as they made their way across this great land of ours. It is one more story of kinfolk whose lives teach us, inspire us and give us hope.
- - -
Steve Shepard
(he, him, his)