Tribute to John Howard: Our Dear Friend and a Great Man

By January 1, 2021

It is with very heavy hearts that we announce that John Howard, FUMCFW Executive Director, mentor, friend, model of compassion and kindness, and cheerleader for all, died Wednesday night due to complications from COVID-19. The grit and determination with which he fought the virus, and his optimism up to the very last moments of his life are both testaments to the faith and goodness with which he lived his life.

As his church family, we are awash in shock and grief, trying to imagine how to cope with this loss. Funeral arrangements are pending; watch for details as soon as they are available. Our hearts and prayers go out to John’s family: Liz, Rob, Anne, Maggie, and their families.

Knowing John means remembering his smile, his gentle demeanor, his quick wit, and his quiet and unassuming wisdom. For a deeper look into John’s full life, here’s an excerpt from, “John Howard! Who Knew?” an article published on September 5, 2017 as John took the reins as FUMCFW Executive Director.

Born and raised in Michigan, John’s circuitous path to his adventures as our First Church Executive Director began in Grand Rapids, stopped off for a while in New Hampshire (had so much fun in college he needed to take a break), and ended up as a Military Police officer in 1968 Saigon (where, among his rougher duties he also managed to play poker each week at the British Embassy). After returning to the states on leave, then staying to help care for his gravely ill father, John returned to college at Dartmouth (he hitchhiked there from Grand Rapids in the dead of winter . . . at night) just in time to meet Liz (also no stranger to First Church leadership, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves). Each of these things prepared him well for his role as fearless and jovial leader of our First Church Staff.

Sporting a history degree from Dartmouth, John married Liz (because he’s a smart man) and while Liz taught preschool, John took the textbook publishing world by storm. They lived coast to coast, calling places like New Jersey, St. Louis, Ann Arbor, and Burlingame, CA home, with John rising through the ranks (working for publishing moguls such as Prentice Hall, Holt, Rinehart, Winston, and Harcourt Brace) from sales to regional, district, and then national sales manager. Then the call came to move to Fort Worth, Texas.

They visited First Church and knew right away they had found their church — the perfect place for raising and nurturing their young family that had grown by that time to include Anne, a third grader, Rob, a kindergartner, and baby Maggie, an 18-month-old. The Howards were among the 1990 charter members of the Good Neighbors Sunday school class, forming lifelong friends and settling into the faith community that John knew was where they needed to be, or, as he loved to say, “All the moving around we did was so we could end up here!”

Through the years, John and Liz became well-known, active members and leaders of the church who established trust and deep connection with both the congregation and the staff.  After serving on most if not all church leadership committees, some more than once, John’s leadership experience and institutional knowledge of our church, along with his professional background of managing sales managers in the publishing industry, positioned him perfectly to serve as our Executive Director.

To serve his church in a new way, John came straight out of retirement from the promotional products industry to apply what he knew to the church that he loved. While John’s talent as a leader, heart for service, and love for our church and its future were evident from the day he became our Executive Director, it became more apparent every day that followed that for John, this was a deep and true calling. John greeted this new role with cheerful optimism, extreme patience, wise counsel, and steady guidance for the entire staff to help facilitate the goals and vision of our church.

No matter how busy he was, John always found time and energy for service, volunteering untold hours at the First Street Methodist Mission and on its board, mentoring children and young teens through KidsHope, wrangling volunteers and wielding hammers, paintbrushes, and snacks for Habitat for Humanity and Cowtown Brush-Up, and generally lending a hand wherever and whenever it was needed.

None of these activities, however, took precedence over his devotion to his family as husband, father, and “Danun” — and to the many deep friendships he and Liz formed in the Good Neighbors Sunday School class. John’s life was as full of love, laughter, and deep connection as he was, and his absence will be profoundly felt in all the lives he touched.

 

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