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Sheperson worked behind the scenes to improve his community

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By Stephen Lega

John "Jack" Sheperson may have preferred to stay out of the limelight, but he was still working throughout his life for his community, according to his friends. "John was very unique," Gene Lanham said. "He liked to stay behind the scenes." Sheperson's work included serving as a Kentucky State Trooper and Lebanon police chief, helping start the Marion County Rescue Squad, organizing the Gravel Switch Fire Department and leading the effort to build the Gravel Switch Community Center. The July 22, 1976, edition of the Enterprise included a story reporting that Sheperson, Hayden Johnson and Jimmy Carrico wanted to start a rescue squad in Marion County in response to a series of drownings that had occurred in the county. The next week, the Enterprise reported that 32 people had signed up to be part of the squad. At that initial meeting, Sheperson explained that the squad would be divided into two areas: drownings and wrecks. J.T. Whitlock also announced that he knew where the rescue squad could get funding for training and equipment. By the next year, the Marion County Fiscal Court was purchasing equipment for the rescue squad as well. Once the rescue squad was up and running, Sheperson kept working on another project. He, Johnny Robertson and Lewis Shannon organized the Gravel Switch Fire Department, according to Lanham.  Wayne Holland, who had been Sheperson's neighbor since 1969, said Sheperson was instrumental in the formation of the fire department. The department became a reality in 1976, according to the book, "Gravel Switch, Kentucky Community History."   Holland said Sheperson actually helped construct the first Gravel Switch fire station, and he was one of the 23 original members of the department. "We had used equipment, a pair of boots, a coat and a helmet," Holland said. Sheperson put in a lot of hours and never got credit for it, including working to acquire equipment and helping train the members of the new department, according to Holland. "He taught us to take water from a farm with ponds or lakes," Holland said. In the 1980s and 1990s, fund-raisers helped make additions and renovations to the fire department possible. Sheperson retired from the state police after a 26-year career in July of 1998. The next year, he was hired as a patrol officer by the Lebanon Police Department. He rose through the ranks and served as the police chief from 1994 to 1996. Sheperson was a sergeant when Mike Luckett was hired by the Lebanon Police in 1991. "He was my mentor," said Luckett, who is now a sergeant himself. "He taught me everything that I know today. He showed you the ins and outs." Luckett added that Sheperson was a people person who was well-versed in law enforcement and treated everyone fairly. "We need more like him," Luckett said. After he retired from police work, Sheperson continued to work in and on behalf of his community and for his family. "He got a lot done for this community," Donna Simpson said. "He was a fine fellow." One example of that work was his dream to build a community center for Gravel Switch. It was a dream Sheperson and others in the community shared for decades, even though the fire station served as a de facto community center for much of that time. In 2000, Lanham received a phone call from State Sen. Dan Kelly asking if there were any projects in need of funding, according to the Gravel Switch history book. That rekindled the enthusiasm for the community center project, and when all was said and done, the state provided $80,000 toward the project. Finding a site proved a bit difficult until Lanham and his wife donated some of their land for the center. "Jack [Sheperson] took it over then as a project," Lanham said. "He did all the legwork and did the things that had to be done." That included running errands for the construction crew, bringing them water and even lending a hand at times, according to Lanham. "Some people will do if they will get all the glory and praise, but [Sheperson] was just the opposite," Lanham said. "He wanted someone else to be out front while he stayed in the background."