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DOWNEY – Raymond Shepard will never forget the summer of ’69.
Fresh out of the U.S. Air Force, the spry 22-year-old Ohio native headed straight for Southern California and found himself on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles among the hippies, drugs, and protests against the Vietnam War.
But unlike the popular Bryan Adams song, Shepard says those weren’t the best days of his life.
Now nearing 70-years-old, Shepard says he can’t die in peace until he finds the long lost child he abandoned in Downey more than 40 years ago.
“It was a terrible thing, I lost my job and had no place to stay so I stuck my thumbs out and hitchhiked back to Ohio,” said Shepard, known as “Skip” in those days. “Donna was five-months pregnant at the time. I assume the child doesn’t know anything about me — and she may not want him to know.”
Shepard recalls meeting Donna Schrodoer with his brother Michael on the Sunset Strip between Christmas and New Year’s Eve 1969.
“Michael met this girl Mattie and they set me up with her friend Donna,” Shepard said. “She was a country girl with brown hair from Minot, North Dakota. She was staying with her girlfriend Mattie and Mattie’s parents in Downey.”
While Shepard cannot remember the exact address, he insists one could see the front of then-Downey Community Hospital from about a mile down the street.
“She was 20, I was 22 when I kissed her goodbye on that Downey doorstep,” Shepard said. “Without a job and a car, I went back to Ohio, but I lost Donna’s phone number and address.”
Before losing the number, however, Shepard says he called Schrodoer after the child was born and learned that it was a boy.
“As long as I can remember I always wanted a son. Why did I leave that one? I was into drugs and alcohol at the time and they helped me forget my lost children,” admitted Shepard, who has a relationship with only one of his children today.
“Out of five children, two are dead, one is missing, and one is estranged. I have a terrible history with my children and I buried them in my mind for years.”
Over the last few years, Shepard, who currently lives in Merced, California, has made several attempts to locate his lost son, but with little success. However, he’s hopeful someone in Downey has information about the whereabouts of his son, who would be around 43-years-old.
“People have said, ‘Donna’s not going to want to see you’ — and that’s probably true,” he said. “But I want to say, ‘hey look, I’m sorry. What I did was wrong.’ This is a guilt I don’t want to die with.”
Any information regarding the whereabouts of Donna Schrodoer or her son can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.