The column that says what a radio show today on 92.1 FM because we didn’t know John Fuqua was going to bring Lawanda Reid, widow of Jerame Reid, who made national headlines when he was shot to death by a Bridgeton policeman, and she is trying to turn tragedy into triumph by holding a “Lay Down The Guns” concert at the Frank Guaracini Center at Cumberland County College on Saturday, Dec. 10, and we taped today’s show and through the magic of Carl Hemple Sr., we’re going to put it online.
By Jack Hummel
Radio: 92.1 FM WVLT Saturdays noon to 2 p.m.
U.S. Army: RA13815980
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Lawanda Reid is going to start a home for at-risk mothers, and she has the house picked out, and it’s going to include everything a mother would need to stay on the right track.
Speaking of trying to turn things around, now many of you know the big gang in Bridgeton is called OTS — Only The South?
We barely knew that 30 Deep’s favorite meal at Wendy’s back in the day was No. 6 with an orange drink.
Anybody know OTS’ favorite meal?
Anybody know the leader(s)?
We heard a sad story about one of the triggermen in a Bridgeton shooting.
He was in juvenile detention for two years with two men older than him, and they even broke out.
Then came the home incarceration where he went to school, played sports, earned his GED and did all the things kids are supposed to do.
But, said the teller, after those two years of $210,000 home living with maybe six other guys, he was “dropped off” back in Bridgeton with a hard-working mother and a good stepfather, but with no hope for a job.
When the teller later saw him, he was hanging around good kids — hallelujah!
Two weeks later, he got a phone call how to an easy score, and it wound up a tragedy.
That was all part of today’s show.
We asked Bridgeton City Councilman Mike Zapolski if the highly touted city park plan is going to die.
“Frankly, I haven’t got a clue.
“The mayor hasn’t shared any thoughts or plans for the park with us. As an example, the information he may have discussed at the meeting he had at Piney Point earlier this year has never been shared with the council.
“In fact we never were informed about the meeting. I only found out about it from an online news article after the fact.
Shep is a Vietnam veteran, monitors seven bald eagle nests and knows Greenwich Township like the back of his weathered hands.
As Edward Sheppard drives around in his pickup truck, adorned with Marine bumper stickers, he refers to himself as a watchdog, quixotically keeping an eye on Greenwich. He remembers a time when the township wasn’t in constant danger of washing away.
Greenwich is regularly flooded by salt water from the bay because of faulty dikes, which have historically protected the town from the Cohansey River. Now, the river that helped establish Greenwich as an early New Jersey port is looking to claim the township.
The historic township of Greenwich, established in 1748, was one of the first
ports in New Jersey. It hosted the first court and jail house in the county and, in 1774, was inspired by Boston to have its own Tea Party.
Abraham Sheppard, one of the members of the Greenwich Tea Party, is an ancestor of Shep. His name can be seen on the monument dedicated to the tea burning on Ye Greate Street.
Shep’s family came to America from England and Ireland in 1680. Since then, members of his family have stayed in the area, first settling in Fairton and then moving to Greenwich. One relative was a colonel in the Revolutionary War and both of his great-grandfathers fought in the Civil War.
Shep is now the oldest Sheppard in Greenwich. He, along with his two brothers, still live in the town they grew up in.
“I’ve been here damn near 67 years, right on the same road,” Shep said as he sits on his screened in porch, protecting him from Greenwich’s many flies, and takes a drag off his hand-rolled Bugler cigarette.
He started smoking in Vietnam just to try it out. Smoking, however, was the only thing from Vietnam he really regrets.
“I lost a lot of friends and went through a lot of hell and my life has been hell ever since, but I wouldn’t change it for anything,” Shep said.
He makes his living on the bay crabbing. He started crabbing with his father and has been doing it ever since. He enjoys being his own boss.
“I can’t work for nobody else,” Shep said. “I’m too damn independent and don’t get along with people.”
He used to be able to catch bass, bluegill, catfish, white perch and silver roach. But now, with the salt water intrusion, the fish are not as plentiful.
“Now the only thing in there is carp,” the grizzled resident said.
Greenwich Township isn’t what it used to be, according to Shep.
“This isn’t the town I grew up in,” Shep said. “It’s changed too much.”
He remembers when there used to be four stores in Greenwich. Now the post office isn’t even opened for more than a few hours a day. Farms that used to make money growing asparagus are now inundated with salt water. Even the wells and irrigation ponds are in danger of salt water encroachment.
“Now, farming is about done in Greenwich,” he said.
The wealthiest resident in the township was William Shillingsburg. Now, the old Shillingsburg house is vacant and decrepit on Delaware Avenue.
“We’re the poorest township and the highest tax in Cumberland County,” Shep said.
Delaware Avenue itself is home to some of the worst flooding. Since the Pine Mount Dike breached, every high tide and spring moon floods the residents’ property completely. And, as of yet, nothing has been done to stop the flooding.
“Nobody should have to live that way,” Shep said.
For more than a decade the dike issue has had Greenwich on its knees. High tides, storms and full moons mean damaged property and inconvenience for its 804 residents.
Despite promises from elected officials, nothing has yet been done to stop the flooding. Shep has lost faith in both his township, county and state politicians and, being a part of the dike committee, hopes to make a difference before it is too late.
“I’m tired of people looking at you and smile and tell you, ‘Yeah we’re going to get the job done.’ And never hear nothing out of them,” Shep said. “They’re not as good as their word. They ain’t worth the money they’re paid.”
Though Greenwich is a small township, Shep postulates that the government is paid to help the people and, here in Greenwich, people’s property and livelihood are in danger.
“It depends on how important you are, I guess,” he said. “They can keep replenishing the beach at Atlantic City and all those places for the tourists but they can’t maintain one or two little dikes along here? There’s something wrong with that.”
He has grown impatient with the township governing body and plans on working with the dike committee, which is made up of concerned residents looking for a solution to the flooding, to help find some answers to Greenwich’s woes. He has a voice and damn well are people going to hear it.
“This dike issue I’m not going to give up on,” Shep said. “It’s either going to get fixed or I’m going to die trying.”
And as the town battles nature and bureaucracy, they wait for help from anybody.
They wait for help to save their town.
— Don Woods
Edward S. Sheppard went to war in the mid-1960s and came home changed forever.
The Marine spent 13 months in Vietnam and couldn’t forget the horror, so he started drinking and fighting when he was discharged at age 19.
“I cleaned out many a bar,” said the 69-year-old veteran everybody calls Shep.
One morning, his wife came out to the car to drive to work and the door was smeared with blood.
“Don’t worry, honey, it’s not mine,” he told her after the night of drinking.
“The people here couldn’t believe I was the same man who went into the Marines,” he said. “I was drinking a case of beer and a quart of whiskey a day. Maybe a half-gallon on a Sunday afternoon.
He started to black out and couldn’t remember the bad things he had done.
“I was banned from every speakeasy in Millville,” he said.
A truck used to come to his house to pick up his crabs. Shep figured he was being cheated on the price.
“I came out of the house with an AR-15 and straightened it out,” he said. “The truck never came back again.”
Day of reckoning
One day in 1992, a friend came calling and Shep offered him a drink.
“I sucked one glass down and had started on another one and he was only half finished his first one,” recalled Shep. “When I watched him stagger out the door, that was it for me.”
“The next six months were the worst in my life,” he said.
He’s been sober since 1992.
Good deeds follow
“I took over the bell ringing for the Salvation Army in Greenwich when they were having the Battle of the Mayors and our mayor was Wally Goodwin,” recalled Shep. “He died on his way to ringing it on Dec. 17, 2005.
“The bell and kettle were packed away in the back, so I hauled them out around 11 a.m. and we collected about $400 with the late start.”
This year, on one Saturday morning, he collected $2,700 standing in front of Aunt Betty’s ringing the bell.
“I put in $90 to round it off,” he said.
It broke his old record of $2,400.
When somebody came with $20 and a tale of woe, Shep told them to keep their $20 and he gave them $50.
In past years, he has also rung the bell in Cedarville “because the people are so nice there.”
Helping older friends
Jack Horner is 95 years old and lives in Bridgeton.
He wrote the newspaper and said he wondered what Shep looked like.
“I looked him up and listened to his stories — his family used to live down here — and I’ve been taking him a home-cooked meal every day since,” he said. “About six years.”
Shep’s wife, Carolyn, does the cooking.
“She just cooks a little bit more,” he said. “He loves crab cakes and fish.”
Shep walks Jack’s dog, Toto, around Oakview Heights and knows what doors to go to for treats.
Carolyn is the back-up deliverer if Shep gets sick.
Shep has known an 89-year-old farmer in the area forever.
“He won’t go to the doctor,” said the equally stubborn Shep, who has been known to travel 40 miles to the VA and walk out if he has to wait too long.
“One day, I was cutting wood for him and he collapsed. He stayed in the hospital for six hours and decided to go home.”
Starting in April, Shep has been helping the farmer, planting watermelon and pole bean, and hoeing them as needed.
He’s has 200 acres he could put into open space, but he “has too much pride because it’s been in his family forever.
“I had to pay somebody to do my work,” said the long-time crabber
Coming to terms
On this day in Aunt Betty’s, in Greenwich, the man who has been working since he was old enough to look over the side of his father’s fishing boat, said he has come to terms with his life.
He once flew “100 yards” over a truck in a motorcycle accident and has been shot in the face with birdshot.
“I was spit on in California and again in Washington D.C.,” he said of his return from Vietnam. That, he can’t forget.
Over the years, he has written to the newspaper about “not being thanked.”
Every time he does, an outpouring of support occurs.
He can still write a nasty letter now and then.
Bu the old Shep is gone.
“I’m getting content,” he smiled. “Finally.”
Call these two stories a belated Veterans Day thank you for your service, Shep, although that shouldn’t just be limited to one day.
Bethany Grace Community Church will be serving Thanksgiving dinner again this year from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Turkey, ham, and all the trimmings.
Fonzy, Tonya, and crew will be cooking up a storm on Tuesday and Wednesday. Fonzy has been prepping for two weeks. Everyone is welcome to come and have a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.
Fonzy, Tonya and the Crew has a ring to it.
YOU CAN BOOK IT: Thanksgiving is no reason to break a diet just because two tons of food are on the table … or is it?