John Bowles Shepard III
John Bowles Shepard III. Children: Three.
[The following was submitted by Mr. Shepard's son, Benjamin.]
John Bowles Shepard III died on March 27, 2014 of natural causes. Known to his friends as Jack, he was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 22, 1937, the oldest son of Kirk and Harriet Shepard. Jack grew up primarily in Thomasville, Georgia, although he graduated from the boarding school Episcopal High in Virginia in 1956. While at Episcopal, he started on a state championship football team and was admitted to Harvard University. Jack made two of his best friends in the world, John Adams and Fred Mayer, his first year at Harvard, that fall of 1956. The next ten years of Jack's life were rebellious and eventful. After reading the poem "Howl" by Allan Ginsburg, he left school, hitchhiked to San Francisco, California, and lived and asked questions, writing poetry in Haight-Ashbury. While the Beat Movement made a lasting impression, he eventually left it behind to enter the military, where he completed Officer Candidate School - the first of a long series of schizophrenic moves. Who was Jack - the Beat poet or the soldier? Could he contain multitudes and be both? He'd have to.
In 1960, while at Fort Benning, Georgia, Jack met Dorothy Mayher and they were wed in 1963. He went back to Harvard to finish his degree in 1965. The couple sandwiched the birth of their first son, John, in 1966 and Jack's admission and completion of Harvard Law School in 1968 with two adventures in the Middle East, traveling from London to Berlin, Istanbul to Calcutta. Outside of Kabul, they visited the Buddhas of Bamiyan, immense sixth-century statues of Buddha literally carved into cliffs, which the Taliban destroyed in 2001. Most everyone they met was kind and friendly. They met a man named Mohammet Ali, on quasi-business, asking him for a translation, but ended up becoming fast friends. These days traveling with his best friends were some of the happiest days of his life.
Jack practiced law in Atlanta for three years and had his second son, Ben, before deciding to change careers. In 1972, he began a PhD in English literature at Princeton University. In 1972, he had his third son, Will. In 1974, Jack's health derailed his aspiration to become a university professor. Despite returning to Georgia and law in 1976, he finished his PhD in 1978. Life soon led Jack and his family to Dallas, Texas, in 1979, where he spent the next decade practicing labor law and raising his family with Dorothy. After putting their last son through high school, Jack and Dorothy divorced in 1990. And he changed courses again, married Beverly Smith in 1991, left the law for good, and entered Chicago Theological Seminary (1993-96). He became an ordained UCC preacher in Long Beach, California, and retired in 2002. After retiring to Santa Fe, he moved to Houston, Texas, so Beverly could receive help for Alzheimer's. She moved into hospice in 2009. Jack remained married to Beverly until her death in 2013. In 2010, Jack met and moved in with Linda Sharp, with whom he happily spent the remainder of his life.
While he spent the majority of his days searching for the meaning of life, with each year, Jack felt more and more comfortable enjoying movies and meals, poetry and stories, watching the leaves and seasons change, alive and loving for a moment in time. So who was Jack Shepard? He was obviously more than a list of accomplishments. He was a person who asked questions. What was the meaning of life he asked over and over again. What was the connection between poetry and the sacred? What was the sublime? He was acutely aware existentialism was in the air in Moultrie, Georgia, in the summer of 1945, he wrote in his constructive theology from 1996. He reminded us all to ask questions as we walked. He spent years and years driving and hanging out with his sons, saying hello and reading Robert Frost. "The Lone Striker" was a favorite. He really was the thought that wanted further thinking.