Gordon Leo “Flash” Shepard passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, at his home in Petoskey, Michigan. He was 79 years old. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife Rita Gasco Shepard in 2008. He is survived by his daughters Carrie (Tony) Kerns; Michelle (Peter) Hernek, parents of Stephen, Robert, Sergei, and Jenah; and son, Gordon (Angela) Shepard II, parents of Madison, Kaitlyn and Gordon, III. Also surviving are sisters Sally Page and Rebecca Shepard Fenrick, brother Bill Shepard, and Rita's children Vicki (Chris) Lynn, Regina (Brian) Carver, Stella (Dave) Kay and Harvey Brubaker, as well as several grand and great grandchildren. In addition to his wife, Flash was preceded in death by his parents, and three siblings, Nancy, Tuff and Jim.
Gordon was born on March 9th, 1940 in Owosso, Michigan and was one of seven children of Marion and Lola (Koivuniemi) Shepard. He grew up in Grand Ledge, Michigan and graduated from GLHS in 1958. After graduation he joined the Navy and flew missions as a submarine spotter. He served tours of duty in Hawaii, Japan and Key West.
After leaving the Navy, Gordon went to work for Dudley Paper Company, later Copco Paper, and Unisource until he retired. If you were a customer, you could set your calendar to his route schedule. He traveled up and down the State of Michigan and had the same customers over his forty plus years before his retirement.
Flash loved motorcycles and loved taking trips on his road bike. In 1981, Gordon renamed himself “Flash Gordon” after surviving being struck by lightning while driving his motorcycle on I-75 after his Finnish family reunion in the U.P. Flash was like a cat with nine lives. He kept beating the odds. He was SISU. A doctor in a car that was following him administered first aid, and he was taken by ambulance to the hospital. The lightning actually improved his eyesight. He was told he couldn't play golf for the rest of the year because he had to stay out of the sun. Possessed of a delightful quirkiness and more than enough ingenuity, and not one to let anything interfere with his golf game – he lived and breathed golf – he bought himself a good covering beach umbrella and played on.
Seems like golf was always a connector. He met the love of his life, Rita Gasco Brubaker in 1991 and they later married. Their first blind date was as partners in a charity golf tournament in Harbor Springs, Michigan. Perfect. What could be better? They fulfilled each other's needs, were both bargain shoppers, and best of all, Rita was a really good golfer. They played golf as much as possible, and she beat him as much as possible. They had a small miniature doberman named Duke, and he was often seen on the golf course in St. Ignace running the fairways and chasing the geese away. Duke became Flash's connection to Rita after her death from cancer in 2008. You never saw Flash on the golf course without Duke walking with him or riding in the cart.
Flash was a bird lover. He prided himself in being "the bird man" of Petoskey. He had a balcony loaded with bird feeders, bird houses, tons of seed, and devices to chase away the squirrels while his birds were hanging out. He had five bird clocks that tweeted the quarter hour, half hour and hour. All different bird calls, and he knew them all.
As a widower, Flash kept very busy doing volunteer work of all kinds. He loved people, and they loved him. A greeting always required a hug. He volunteered at the Friendship Center in Petoskey, delivered blood all over the State of Michigan for the Red Cross, and drove the Elder's bus for the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. He was a recycler. He kept any highway he drove clean by picking up bottles and cans that people threw out of their cars.
The word quirkiness describes Flash and his many wonderful idiosyncrasies. A flyswatter was always within reach. This inspired his daughter to present him with a unique flyswatter bouquet for Father's day. He was loved by anyone who knew him. He was mostly a man of few words, but if compelled, the expletives would give George Carlin a run for his money.
Food: He loved pasties, he was a Finn, but his greatest love was …... peanut butter. He ate it on everything. He kept an emergency jar in his car in case he was having dinner where there might not be PB for his hamburger, or even his ice cream for dessert. It was for Flash that the peanut butter lappan, a Hungarian dessert was invented. Apple lappan, blueberry lappan, cherry lappan – and now peanut butter lappan.
He will be missed by many people whose lives were made better by knowing him. Rest in Peace, Flash. Charitable donations in memory of Flash are asked to please be directed to the Harbor Hall Treatment Center in Petoskey.
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