John’s Uncle Howard, 97, died in his sleep last night. As recently as two weeks ago he recognized John’s cousin Harold on the telephone, so he was quite sharp almost to the end.
We met Howard when he married Aunt Kay, both in their mid-60’s at the time. The first thing we noticed was that he loved Kay deeply. They had many years to enjoy each other and travel before she had a stroke, and he took care of her until her death. Howard had no children of his own, but he was a much loved grandfather to Kay’s grandchildren.
He was a man of faith and a man of high principles. Within an hour of meeting him, you’d know that he was dedicated to serving others in his church and that he was a Navy man, through and through. He was a Pearl Harbor survivor, one of the last living ones in Memphis. He was always available to talk about Pearl Harbor to groups, especially school children. He became a pilot in the Navy and a stock broker after retirement.
My children remember Howard as a fun person who insisted on being addressed as sir. He came from Indiana, but the sir came from Navy discipline and years of living in Memphis. You didn’t give him a naked yes or no. It was yes, sir and no, sir. Adhering to standards made the children respect him without lessening their enjoyment of him.
We saw Howard one month ago and suspected we were saying goodbye for the last time. He had a hard time placing us, but he said all the socially correct things. He was caring and disciplined to the end.
I was chatting with college friend Bonnie a few minutes ago and mentioned that John’s uncle had died.
“Was that Howard?” she asked. “I’ve heard about him for years.”
That’s when I knew I should let everyone know that their e-mail acquaintance had gone to his eternal home.