STORIES OF OUR FAMILIES
To forget one's ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.
Joseph Alfred Sheppard
written on August 16, 1989
by my father, Andrew D. Sheppard
(transcribed from personal family memorabilia)
Born in Trinidad, February 28, 1912. Died in California, U.S.A. August 16, 1989.
In fond memory of Joseph Alfred Sheppard, my eldest brother and best friend.
When he returned home from his first day’s attendance as a pupil of Queen’s Royal College at Port- of-Spain, Trinidad, he found a newborn brother, born of Charles and Elsie, at the family residence at Stone Street, Port of Spain. I was the new arrival, being number ten of eventually thirteen children. “Boysie”, as he was affectionately called, felt proud somehow, and thereby started a close affinity between the eldest and the youngest male members of this large family.
He was my friend and big brother, being ten years my senior. I followed him everywhere, within certain limits. Boysie was my hero. He could do no wrong. I helped him to clean and lubricate his bicycle and eventually, his motorcycle. I watched as he painted beautiful pictures of cowboys and Indians, ships, airplanes, birds and flowers. I saw him make rocking horses of wood, beautifully painted like those at Coney Island, complete with upholstered seats. I admired him in his college’s military cadet’s uniform. He looked so tall and handsome. He was an excellent marksman and won several prizes for his skill. Boysie was a good student and studied hard. He achieved passes with distinction in the Junior and Senior Cambridge Examinations. He enjoyed woodwork and photography as hobbies.
Boysie, or Joseph, if you wish, had the ability to become a professional man of his choice, but unfortunately it was not then possible for him to satisfy such ambitions because of financial constraints, being the eldest son of a large family with heavy commitments. So Boysie had to go to work at the age of seventeen, accepting a job as an office clerk at a firm of traders and shipping agents, William H. Kennedy & Co Ltd. His natural flair for detail and neatness was soon recognized by his employers and he was placed in charge of the company’s accounts. Boysie became an Accountant, sans certificate, but responsible, able and proud. His personal appearance and exemplary conduct proved to be an asset to this firm, who appreciated his services.
At this stage of his career, fate caused him to take a sharp turn into the arena of harsh reality. Our father died, leaving our mother with twelve children to look after. Our youngest brother died three years previously, as a baby. Our eldest sister Jessie and Boysie were the only two children who were working. Jessie earned twelve dollars per month and Boysie was drawing a salary of fifteen dollars. The others were at school. Young Joseph Alfred (Boysie) rose to the occasion in his inimitable manner. He faced up to the facts of life. Here was a mother with no husband and a large flock with 24 eyes looking to her for everything. Boysie immediately assumed command of the financial control of the family. He was the helmsman of a large and leaky ship at the age of seventeen, but he stood steady and helped to steer our lives, which established his skill. We did not end on the rocks, thanks largely to a serious, dedicated and responsible young man named “Boysie”.
Especially at this time, I, like his adopted son, looked to Boysie for almost everything within reason. He befriended his youngest brother and he took me for many rides on the pillion of his motorcycle. I have not ridden one since. He showed me how to draw and imbued in me a sense of compassion for our fellow human and animal beings. His kindness led him eventually to become a director and treasurer of the local zoo.
One day, he drove home a Ford sports car, which he bought from his savings. He was so proud of this mechanical marvel, which had a folding soft-top and a tumble seat for two, with a total capacity of four persons. He was “King of the Road”. He was the best customer for “Simoniz” wax polish. We all discovered the meaning of elbow grease. Boysie’s car had to work and look the best. He did everything with style. Joseph’s reputation as a gentleman was complemented by his tasteful and impeccable attire, at all times. Today he would be called “Mr. Threads”.
His sense of humour was sharp and subtle. His tales and jokes were always accompanied by his almost perfect art of mimicry and his performances at family parties and lodge meetings met with universal acclaim. They were always done in good taste and with a sense of timing. Even old jokes were polished and changed to suit the audience present. Boysie was good company. However, his choice of language was always good and he abhorred cursing, swearing and vulgar behaviour. I said “damn” at home once and received a lecture on “mouth control” which I have never forgotten.
Boysie loved the sea, and with some help, built a wooden rowing boat in which he took members of his family and friends for cruises and fishing in the Gulf of Paria. He was an excellent and strong oarsman. We younger brothers helped him with the caulking and painting of the boat, which always had to look the best. As Boysie progressed in his work, he accepted employment with Alcoa Steamship Company’s local office and became their Chief Accountant. He represented Alcoa at many shipping conferences in the Caribbean area as well as in South and North America. Boysie was a great favourite with the executives and staff as with his business associates in the general community. His reputation as an accountant and office manager attracted favourable comments from the heads of the company and staff.
Joe did not confine his interests to work only. He always extended a helping hand to his children, who considered him to be the best father anyone could have. His emphasis on good family relationships had a profound effect on all of us and we always tried to preserve a feeling of mutuality and cooperation. His advice on important matters was generally readily accepted because his judgment was fair and uncluttered by prejudice. Boysie always preached fairness and Christian charity and his honest utterances cleared the clouds from our vision and enabled us to see the right way. Rather than condemn the actions of another, he chose to question and analyze the reasons for failure and to offer advice and correction in the true spirit of Christianity. Boysie was an Elder of the St. Ann’s Presbyterian Church of Scotland and read the lessons on many occasions. Unfortunately, his wife Elsa and their four children, three sons and one daughter, were adherents to the Roman Catholic Church and could not nor did not attend their father’s church. However, love, mutual respect and understanding prevailed.
He became involved in community affairs and was a member of the Rotary Club. As a Free Mason, he became Master of the Prince of Wales Lodge, Port-of-Spain, and his three sons David, Keith and Ronald, eventually joined their father in the Lodge and, in turn, became Masters of the Lodge. Boysie was a source of joy to behold in his Masonic Master’s regalia. He could have been a prince going to meet his subjects. He was strikingly handsome, always immaculate and appeared to be taller than his 5’9”. At times he appeared to me as 6’6”.
The saying “the course of true love never did run smooth” proved to be the case with Boysie’s and Elsa’s marriage. The “impossible” had occurred. Elsa sought a divorce. Naturally, the traumatic effects of this unexpected turn of events upset everyone and especially Boysie. He was sent by the Alcoa Company to Dutch Guyana (Suriname) to be administrator of their Aluminium Company there. God, in His Divine Wisdom, arranged for Boysie to meet Winifred Van Amson, and they became married and later returned to Trinidad. Winifred has proven her love for Boysie in so many ways and has stood by him during his most difficult periods and has remained faithful and caring to the very end. It was Boysie’s very good fortune to have met and married Wini, whose courage, devotion and dedication to her husband are to be admired and emulated. She is truly a Christian lady. They produced two wonderful boys, Howard, now 27, and Clifford, 23. At the time of their marriage, Wini also had a twelve-year-old son, Jules, who now works for Universal Studios, and also owns a photography studio and custom lab. Howard is recently married, and is a highly rated singer, with several awards to his credit, and also a Computer Programmer by trade. Clifford is a Flight Engineer of a Lockheed L1011 passenger aircraft for T.W.A., domiciled in New York.
Last, but by no means least, are the first four wonderful children of the first marriage – Janet, David, Keith and Ronnie. It was a terribly sad day when Ronnie passed away on May 7th of this year after a long and painful illness. God rest his soul. David and Keith are married and live in Trinidad with their children; so do Janet and her husband and family. They are all greatly admired and respected for their unity as a family and for their loyalty and devotion to their father.
I almost omitted to mention that Joseph also held the positions of General Manager of Trinidad’s only flour mill as well as of the largest ice factory, which jobs he performed with his usual efficiency.
Finally, I commend all members of this enormous family and everyone who had the privilege of knowing Boysie, Joe, Joseph Sheppard, to consider him to be the ideal human being he endeavoured to be. We all know that Boysie is with the Angels, who will forever take care of him as directed by the Great and Divine Architect of the Universe. Rest in peace, dear brother.
Written with love by Andrew Desmond Sheppard
August 16, 1989
Children with Elsa Carmen Fernandes
Janet (Sheppard) de Lima
Ronald Sheppard (1945-1989)
Children with Winifred Tilly (Winnie) van Amson