A civic leader and agricultural business owner, Byron Martin Shepard died on November 30, 2022. He was 96 years old.
Byron and his wife of 73 years, Barbara Grafton Shepard, lived in Troy since 1954, first on Penn Road, and since 1961 on Ridge Avenue. His ancestors were some of the first pioneering settlers in the Dayton area.
Born April 2, 1926, in Troy, Ohio, to Ottis Martin Shepard and Lillian Deaton Shepard, Byron was the youngest of three children. Ottis was the founder, owner, and operator of Shepard Grain Company, and president of the Farmers and Merchants Bank, in Christiansburg, positions his son Byron would eventually hold.
Byron was sent to Troy for his education and attended the first kindergarten class at Heywood Elementary School, where he met Walter “Bo” Meeker, who was a lifelong friend. He graduated from Troy High School in 1944, where he was on the football team, the track team, the tennis team, the choir, student council, and was president of the Hi-Y Club, as well as in lead roles in plays and musicals.
Byron attended Ohio Wesleyan University his freshman year, where he joined the fraternity Beta Theta Pi. He then applied to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he transferred in 1945. He excelled at the Naval Academy, earning awards for his performance on the varsity pistol team, including a first-place medal, and commendations for his singing in the choir. He also played for his First Battalion teams in golf, track, and football.
In 1947, after going to the football game between Navy and the University of Pennsylvania at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, he attended a tea dance for the midshipmen hosted by the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. It was there that he saw Barbara Louise Grafton across the crowded room. He walked her to the trolly and then later sent a telegram asking the Penn senior to a dance at the Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
The couple dated, with Barbara regularly taking the train down from her parents’ home in Secane, Pennsylvania. They married in Philadelphia on June 4, 1949, the day after his graduation from the Academy. Relatives traveled from Christiansburg to attend.
For five years he served on a series of ships during the Korean War, including the U.S.S. Lake Champlain and the U.S.S. Wisconsin, and was the Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. PC-579, later named the U.S.S. Wapakoneta. Byron was awarded several medals and citations during his service, traveling throughout Asia, rising to the rank of Lieutenant.
Their first child, Jonathan Martin Shepard, was born in September of 1950, when they were stationed at the naval base in Pensacola, Florida.
After completing his tour with the Navy, Byron returned to Ohio, settling with the family in Troy. He joined his father and his brother, Bruce Shepard, in operating Shepard Grain Co., becoming the president. Byron’s office was in Christiansburg, at the original wooden grain elevator that his father bought in 1912, and just a few blocks from the home on Main Street where he grew up. The company at that time also operated a grain elevator in Thackery, and soon bought another in Fletcher.
Byron and Barbara added to their family, with Jeffrey Grafton Shepard born in 1954 and Mark Byron Shepard in 1956 while they lived on Penn Road. Daughter Louisa Jane Shepard was born in 1962 just after they moved to a historic house on Ridge Avenue. All four children graduated from Troy High School.
The family spent a lot of time at the Troy Country Club, where Byron had been going throughout his life, as his father was one of the first members. He was an avid golfer and enjoyed participating in the Tuesday night men’s league. He also enjoyed his cabin-cruiser boat that was docked in Sandusky, at the Cedar Point amusement park, where the family spent summer weekends.
Life changed when son Jonathan died on April 3, 1976, as the result of an accident on an aircraft carrier. He had joined the Navy ROTC while at Miami University and went into the Navy after graduation, becoming a fighter pilot, earning his wings in 1974.
Byron was a leader in the Troy Rotary Club, serving as president, and in 1983-1984 as District Governor, planning and leading the district meeting in Lexington, Kentucky. He received Rotary’s highest honor, the Paul Harris Fellow Award. He had perfect attendance for more than 30 years, often making up meetings at other clubs while traveling. The family hosted several Rotary exchange students from nations including South Africa, Japan, and Guatemala. Byron also volunteered for the Court Appointed Special Advocate program in Miami County.
Byron read several daily newspapers throughout his life, including the Troy Daily News, often clipping out articles to save and to share with his children. Byron and Barbara were leaders of a group of friends who met to discuss world events based on a series called Great Decisions.
Although raised a Methodist in Christiansburg, Byron joined Barbara’s Lutheran faith, as a member of the Troy Lutheran Church as their children were growing up, and later at the First Lutheran Church in Dayton.
Byron stepped down from day-to-day operations at Shepard Grain in the late 1990s. The company at that time operated four grain elevators – in Christiansburg, Thackery, Fletcher, and West Liberty – and three feed mills, as well as a gas and tire service for farm equipment. A leader in the agriculture industry in Champaign and Miami Counties, Shepard Grain and the Shepard family were well known to farmers throughout the area.
The Shepard family still farms more than 200 acres outside of Christiansburg, farmland that Byron’s grandfather, George Washington Shepard, started to assemble in 1882.
Byron and Barbara spent their later years visiting with their children and grandchildren and attending events in Troy and the surrounding area. Every other month Byron would meet
with classmates from the Troy High Class of 1944. In their last years, Byron and Barbara were at StoryPoint in Troy.
Survivors include his wife, Barbara Shepard; son Jeffrey Shepard and his wife, Marybeth O’Mara; son Mark Shepard and his wife, Julie Shepard; and daughter Louisa Shepard and her husband, Gabriel Escobar. Also surviving are eight grandchildren: Luke Shepard and his wife, Nicole; Scott Shepard and his wife, Madison; Nora Shepard, Abigail Shepard, Phillip Shepard, Nicholas Escobar, Alexander Escobar, and Gabriel M. Escobar; and great grandchildren Alexis, Zachary, Frances, and Charlotte Shepard. In addition to his son, Jonathan Shepard, also preceding Byron in death was his granddaughter, Carolyn Ella Shepard; and his siblings, Bruce Shepard and Bernice Shepard Wilgus.
Plans for a memorial service are pending.