Twice Lost, a personal memoir by Harry Milner Howard
So that’s it, my Dad’s story. When he died, not long after he finished his memoirs my brothers wrote this for his funeral. Lou
I’ve finished typing up my dad’s memoirs on Saturday 4th January 1997. He died suddenly but peacefully in his sleep six weeks ago. Below is the speech given by Mike at his funeral service at St Joseph’s Church in Wetherby, which was packed to the rafters with his family and friends. The following lyrics were from a song Michael wrote and he and I recorded and gave to Dad on his sixty fifth birthday. It was played at the crematorium in Harrogate after the service.
And from Mike:
A Homage to Harry Howard – My Dad
When my dad used to talk about times before we children were born, he’d say ‘”that was before you were a twinkle in your dad’s eye”. Well we all knew that twinkle. It shone out and brightened up all our lives.
The last time I saw him, we went for a walk around Wetherby together. I was amazed at how many people he knew, not only to stop and talk to, but to hug and kiss and even dance with. More often than not he’d come out with some outrageous comment – but everybody would walk away laughing.
My mum told me that a couple of weeks ago they were walking together and my dad stopped to talk to a woman. They had quite a long chat, laughing and joking – as always. After she’d gone, my mum asked him who it was. He replied “I’ve no idea”.
Right to the end he always loved to negotiate little deals with the local shops and businesses, perhaps a hang over from his sales manager days. I’ll always remember the barber whom Dad had asked for the price of a haircut and when the barber gave him the standard price, my dad turned to him and, pointing at his head, replied “Yes, but how much is it for me?”. He got his bargain.
Dad always said he didn’t want us to cry and be miserable at his funeral, but to be happy and celebrate his life. He would often talk about his death and wasn’t afraid of facing up to it, but for him grief was something very private. Well its not very private today Dad.
I think he felt this way because of the enormous loss he had suffered as a child when firstly he lost his father and then his grandfather, who had been like a father to him, both in the space of two years, and then, as a young man of nineteen, when he witnessed the true horror of war and saw friends cut down standing next to him. After the war he was a nervous wreck. But then something very special happened that was to transform his life completely. He met my mum. Forty seven years later they were still walking hand in hand. In the past year he wrote his life history. For the dedication he wrote ‘This is for my family, but especially for Irene, my darling wife, whom I have loved since first we met’.
I know what a great comfort it was to him to know that should he go first, which is what he wanted, my mum would be surrounded by so many loving friends and he was so happy in this warm and caring community that meant so much to him. In the past week we’ve received over one hundred and fifty cards and every one of them has been a great comfort to my mother. They all talk not only about his great sense of humour, but of the kindness and the warmth that lay beneath the joking. He helped us all to feel good about ourselves. You see, people were his specialist subject. He understood us ordinary people and that’s what made him so extraordinary.
Everybody has their favourite Harry story. I wanted to finish with one that I felt might sum up the way he was and I’ve chosen one that happened before we children were born, before we were a twinkle in his eye.
When my mum and dad were first married and living in Manchester, Dad had a rather annoying habit of coming home from work and throwing his hat and coat over the banister instead of putting them away in the wardrobe. This incensed my mother. One day when he did this she went mad. She picked up his hat, threw it on the floor and started jumping up and down on it, screaming. Once she’d calmed down, she sheepishly looked up, wondering what on earth she’d done, and there he was, sternly looking down at his best Trilby, crushed on the floor. He slowly bent down, picked it up and very carefully pressed it back into shape. He then turned to my mum and said “Why should you have all the fun?”, threw his hat back down on the floor and proceeded to jump up and down on it himself. At this point Mum joined and there they were, the pair of them, hugging, kissing and laughing – and jumping up and down on my dad’s best hat!
Smile on Dad and we’ll be smiling with you, knowing that your spirit lives on, through your children, your grandchildren and everybody who knew and loved you.
Father’s Day (Sunday Afternoons)
3 Worcester Road was our starting place,
And the strongest memory is your smiling face,
And all the love we’d known in our childhood days.
Blackpool beaches and yellow spades,
Riding on mowers as you heaved away,
All these things will never fade.
Like the first time you went away
We cried so much I still see your face
As you drove down the drive and far away.
Dad we were bad we bumped the car, and hid
When the hoe was dropped right down the grid,
But you forgave us, you always did.
Sunday lunch we’d be at our solemn place,
Then you’d volunteer the grace
We laughed out loud,
Only Mum kept face.
But we knew one day we would leave this place,
And all we’d known and your lovely face
And catch the late night train far away.
I laugh so much when I recall the time
On soft settees curled round and warm
And loudly snoring in your place we two would slowly suffocate,
We grew too soon, give me back those Sunday afternoons.
Father’s day, (Sunday afternoons).
Now the time comes when we leave our place
And think once more of your lovely face,
And catch the morning train home again