Through the years I’ve told many stories in this column about my dear friend Jim Shepperd. He was a hometown Coeur d’Alene boy who described himself as an “east ender,” the reference to growing up between 10th and 11 streets on Sherman Avenue. A Navy veteran of the Greatest Generation of World War II, he like many of his generation felt a responsibility to make a life that had meaning if they were fortunate enough to return from the war.
On Tuesday morning after I received a phone call with the sad news of Jim’s passing so many memories came flooding in. Poignant memories of decades watching Jim solemnly cast a handmade floral wreath adrift at the Third Street docks to honor those service members who were lost at sea. The half century of him wielding a heavy sledge hammer to ring the Third Street Bell on Veterans Day, including just this past November.
Then there was the incredible story of Jimmy Randall’s flag that I’ve shared here and in speaking publicly. Jimmy was a childhood friend of Jim’s and they both went off to war. Jimmy was killed in action. Jim Shepperd came home to make a life. Just 20 years ago Jim came across the flag that had covered Jimmy's casket all those years ago and not a Fourth of July passed that Jim didn’t fly Jimmy Randall's flag on his front yard flag pole. And not a Fourth of July passed that Jim Shepperd didn’t participate in the Fourth of July parade with his fellow Veterans of Foreign Wars.
When Nick Newby was killed in action in Iraq in 2011 and he was escorted to Yates Funeral Home on Fourth Street, there on the sidewalk standing at attention to pay his respects was Jim Shepperd.
But beyond the solemnity of so many of those veteran-related activities, my memories of Jim will be of laughter and a capacity for joy that he exuded. He was the youngest and last surviving Shepperd sibling, for many years filling the role of patriarch to a large extended family. In August I was privileged to be included in a most incredible family gathering to celebrate Jim’s 90th birthday.
Five generations of Shepperds in one place, the first time in 50 years that the Baby Boomer generation of cousins, including Jim’s children Linda and James, had all been together. The red, white and blue themed party was befitting a man who was a patriarch, a patriot and a man of honor. Jim told the best stories and the worst jokes, which was part of his charm.
As this week unfolds I know there will be many tributes paid to this most extraordinary ordinary man. I’m grateful to have known him and grateful to his family for always making me feel a part of their family. Jim filled a hole in my heart after I lost my own father a dozen years ago. I will miss his smile, his hugs and his humanity.
Anchors aweigh my friend ... “until we meet once more, here’s wishing you a happy voyage home.”
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Connie Haggerty, local veterans representative for the Department of Labor, served 21 years with the Washington Air National Guard before retiring in 2015. She’s vice president of the Association of Civilian Technicians and it was in that capacity that she spent two days on Capitol Hill in D.C. last week.
Connie was walking in the Senate building to drop off a folder to Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office and came face to face with Dr. Ben Carson in front of an elevator. They chatted about Idaho and moose and elk. Dr. Carson’s aide held Connie’s folder and took a couple of photos of the two of them before he and the boss stepped into the elevator and left, with Connie’s folder!
A woman standing behind Connie had watched the scene unfold and said, “no problem” as she used her cellphone to call Dr. Carson, handing the phone to Connie when he answered. He told Connie where he was headed so she could pick up the folder.
“So I had to go chase him down to another building,” said Connie. “What a super nice guy!”
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Things to Do: Post Falls High School drama department presents the final weekend of “Treasure Island” in the PFHS auditorium, Thursday-Saturday at 7 p.m..
Red Hot Mamas auditions for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Peak Fitness 4:30-7:30 p.m. on Saturday and at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Ages 18 and over.
Sons of Norway Lutefisk, Meatball and Lefsa luncheon, Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Jacklin Arts and Cultural Center. Open to the public.
Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy third annual Soup and Chili Cook-Off, 5-8 p.m. on Saturday at the school.
Post Falls High School Senior Class Auction/Dinner at American Legion Post 143 from 6-9 p.m.
Around the World International Food and Drink Festival at Silver Lake Mall, Sunday from 5-8 p.m.
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Happy 100th birthday yesterday to Helen Walton Naslund. Most of those 100 years have been spent in Coeur d’Alene and Helen still lives on North 15th Street where she’s made her home for 65 years. Helen was a founding member of the Lt. George Farragut Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution a half century ago. When you’re celebrating a centennial birthday, that celebration definitely lasts for more than a day!
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Happy birthday today to Mark Sales, Tami Crawford, Joseph Louck, Billie Jo Campbell, Jim Clark and Jack Lash.
Celebrating tomorrow are Sydney Knox, Shawn Telford, Corinna Hunter, Diane Mort, Louise Robeson, Bill Kaufamn, Holly McNee, Denise Wilbanks and Marion Brendis.
Friday birthdays belong to Ingrid Allen, Sheila Wooley, Betty Leonard, Tamara Booth and Barb Koerner.
Nathan McLeod, Barb Dietrick, Rosalie True and Jimmy Conrow take another trip around the sun on Saturday. Brad Medlock, Tina Hough, Jeremy McComb, Carolyn Peterson, Peter Braunlich (80!), Clara Hester, Ivy Fox, Sherry Wallis, Sunny Day and Ron Gonzales will celebrate on Sunday.
John Darlas, Karen Cocoran, David Sheridan, Tawny Brown, Camille Hutchison, Steve Lux, Eddie Jerome, Hailey Pierce and Mary Herrick are blowing out the birthday candles on Monday.
Don Pischner, Bridgette Lowry, Dave Brubaker, Gary Dagastine, Bob Flowers, Bill Reese, Al Telles, Maurie Bruce, Dean Walsmith, Allison Gerzina and Robin Gerzina celebrate their birthdays on Feb. 28.
And even though there’s no Feb. 29 in 2017, happy birthday to Boston Smock, Kris Helstrom, Dean Walsmith, Dr. Jim Anderson, Lana Johnson Fensky, Nancy DiGiammarco and Charlet Hannon.
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Kerri Rankin Thoreson is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the former publisher of the Post Falls Tribune. Main Street appears every Wednesday in The Press and Kerri can be contacted on Facebook or via email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kerrithoreson.