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Opinion: Remembering Joe Howell

By Mark Douglas Ray

Hartselle recently lost one of its best citizens, but readers of this newspaper likely know that already. I am blessed to have known Mr. Joe Howell as a longtime friend, community leader, and fellow church member for a brief season of our lives this side of heaven.  His memorial service was a fitting tribute to an outstanding Christian businessman and servant leader.  For those gathered at First Baptist Church to hear the magnificent eulogy delivered by Dr. Ron Wilson, it was far too soon to be saying goodbye again, having just done so for Jody Wilson, our former pastor’s wife.

Among the other speakers that day, Joe‘s daughter Regina asked that his memory be kept alive through the retelling of personal stories. I immediately recalled my own favorite:Something that Joe Howell and I proudly shared in common is that we were possibly the last two individuals in the United States to carry a cell phone, or even wish to own one. Family and friends gave us constant grief about it, of course.  One day Mr. Joe and I were standing in the church office while Virginia, his wife, was scolding us – surely not for the first time – about that very subject: “Don’t you two realize that not only your loved ones, but other people in your life, need to have a way of keeping in touch and finding you whenever necessary?” Before I could even chime in and defend myself (not that it would have done any good), Joe paused for a moment as he always did, then tossed back this dry observation: “Virginia, have you never considered the fact that men sometimes don’t WANT to be found?

To be sure, our lives are continually enriched and renewed with every joyful experience and precious memory of the wonderful people with whom our earthly paths are blessed to overlap.  Joe Howell is certainly one I will remember fondly and with gratitude. Perhaps my friend Mike Reeves, his son-in-law, said it best during the memorial service: “Mr. Howell may have been born on the ‘young end’ of what we call America’s Greatest Generation, but his life and character certainly made him worthy to be included among that list.”