Tuesday, 16 December 2014

A Special 100th Birthday

Last Wednesday, December 10th was the 100th anniversary of my father’s birth. My sisters and I celebrated the occasion together with a special lunch. It is an interesting experience to so closely connect with an event a century old within one’s own family.

My father packed a lot of activities and events into his life, and went through a lot of ups and downs along the way, before he died at the relatively young age of 68. I have now gone beyond him in longevity, something which I value and appreciate, as would he I think.

William Calvin Shepheard was born in 1914, just after the start of the Great War. Growing up on a farm east of Calgary, Alberta, I doubt whether he would have been aware of, or affected much by that conflict although I do know there were members of the community who participated in the war efforts, both here and overseas. What more concerned the people were building new homes, raising families and surviving the harsh winters on the prairie, as many of them were newcomers to the region and the country.
Bill Shepheard as a two-year old in 1917
My father’s extended family was very close-knit, not uncommon in rural communities. He went to school and participated in many social activities with all of his cousins. One of them actually introduced him to his future wife at a local community dance. Farm work was shared among family members, all of the children having chores to do when they were young. As they grew into adulthood they also became part of the workforce operating the family enterprises.

He married, Norma, his sweetheart on October 1st, 1939, about which I wrote in my blogpost earlier. They spent almost 35 years together before her untimely death in 1974.

Bill left the farm in the late 1930’s to study electronics with Coyne Electrical School based in Chicago, Illinois. For most of his life he worked as an electronic technician: fixing radios, televisions and all manner of electrical appliances. He was naturally independent and entrepreneurial, something he likely learned in his early days tending to a myriad of farm jobs and responsibilities He established his own businesses on a couple of occasions during his electronic career.

He volunteered during the Second World War, joining the Royal Canadian Air Force. For several years, as a member of the force, he participated in, and taught courses to others concerning electronic-related equipment and methods, in particular related to aviation.
William Shepheard, LAC - 1942
He loved to take on new projects, and even built a home from scratch in the late 1940s. He was a ardent photographer and was one of the early users of the home-movie camera. We have countless photographs and hundreds of hours of 8 mm movies of family picnics and vacations, Christmas celebrations and general family activities. I have mostly converted them all now to digital formats – just in time, as many of the old films and negatives have deteriorated badly.

Dad was involved in community activities with the Kiwanis Club and the Calgary Movie Makers Club. All of us kids remember the many Christmas and other parties with friends he and my mother developed with members of those groups, and the fund-raising activities for which we were enlisted. He was even, for a short time, part of the Calgary Auxiliary Police program.

He was very much a family man, a trait developed during his farm upbringing. He was always very pleased when all of us, along with several cousins on many occasions, got together.
Bill with his family at Christmas 1981
I cannot begin to describe or list here all of the things my parents were involved with over the years but it seems that, looking back, they were always busy with friends or family doing something.

In later life, he left the electronics world and bought a golf course business located in central British Columbia. It was a sort of return to the land but, more importantly, another chance to run his own business.

Over the years he had medical problems to deal with, some very serious. They all interrupted his work and family-life but he persevered through all the setbacks. The one thing he could not fight successfully was the cancer that took his wife, my mother, at the age of only 57. It was a devastating blow that I believe he never entirely recovered from. He did marry again, I think for the companionship he had missed, but that union did not work out as both of them hoped it would.

He died in 1983, just nine years after my mother’s passing, succumbing to heart disease brought on, partly I am convinced, by a life-long smoking habit. His early death does not diminish what he accomplished or what kind of man he was. What good character traits I have come in large part from him (the bad ones cannot be blamed on either parent I’m afraid).

It was a hundred years ago that William Calvin Shepheard arrived on the planet – quite an amazing number when I think it was only one generation back from me.

Happy Birthday Dad!
Bill Shepheard – 1982

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.