Milo Shepard, a relative of Jack London, expert on the author and a guardian of London's legacy, died at his home on the London ranch last Sunday after a long illness. He was 84.
Shepard was a fifth-generation Californian whose grandfather was a gold miner in 1848.
Shepard's grandmother, Eliza London Shepard, was Jack London's half-sister. She also was the manager of London's ranch and of the author's personal and business affairs.
"She was the glue that kept it together, managed Jack's affairs, dealing with the editors and keeping the ranch running," said Brian Shepard, one of Milo Shepard's two sons. "It was a working ranch."
In 1960, part of the London ranch that included the Wolf House ruins and House of Happy Walls was donated to the state and became the original Jack London State Historic Park.
The Shepard family still has a 178-acre ranch that was part of Jack London's original ranch and is adjacent to the state park.
Milo Shepard was born on the London ranch in 1925, nine year's after Jack London had died. London's widow, Charmian London, however, lived at the ranch at the House of Happy Walls until her death in 1955.
Milo Shepard received a bachelor's of science degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, then enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II and served in the Pacific on the USS Moore, a destroyer escort.
After the war, Shepard returned to the London ranch and ran the dairy farm with his brother, Jack, then became a California State Park ranger in 1966, working at Annadel, Sugarloaf and Millerton Lake state parks.
In 1972, Milo and his father, Irving, converted the dairy ranch to a vineyard, planting what is now 125 acres of grapes. Milo managed the vineyard until 1990.
Along with the ranch work, Milo took over from his father the unofficial role of promoting and protecting Jack London's legacy, acting as the literary executor of the author's estate.
"He sort of took that over from grandfather, who died in 1975," Brian Shepard said. "I think he really enjoyed it. It was kind of interesting. He would keep you off guard. He would come across as a very agrarian farmer, hardworking dairyman, vineyard person, yet he liked that academia stuff."
From 1975 until his death, Milo worked with the Huntington Library, the Jack London Historical Society and authors worldwide to provide information on the author and access to London's papers.
He also co-published a three-volume set of London's letters, for which he was given an honorary doctoral degree from Centenary College in Shreveport, La.
"You become an expert by studying subjects, by spending time and working with people and reading letters," Brian Shepard said. "He took a lot of pride in setting the record straight on certain things."
Sharing London's historical artifacts and promoting London is a family value, Brian Shepard said.
"Everybody in the family has this or that, some artifacts, but the majority went to the Huntington Library," he said. "Milo enjoyed that, it was different than driving the tractor and doing the agrarian stuff. There was a sense of preservation that he got from his father."
Having been Being born and raised in the Valley of the Moon and involved in agriculture, Shepard was a steward of the land, his son said.
"He was a straight shooter, you knew where you stood with him," Brian Shepard said. "And in talking to people, his generosity always comes out, his willingness to help."
Shepard was a director of the Sonoma Valley Grape Growers Association, the Glen Ellen Fire Protection District and the Resource Conservation District.
In addition to his son Brian Shepard of Agua Caliente, he is survived by son Neil Shepard of Glen Ellen; a daughter, Lisa Shepard of Calistoga; sisters Joy Shaffer of Santa Rosa and Sister Jill Aigner SB of Mt. Angel, Oregon; and five grandchildren.
Services were private. A memorial service will be at 10 a.m. Nov. 8 at Jack London State Historical Park. Donations to Vineyard Workers Services, 17560 Greger St., Sonoma, Ca. 94576, are requested.