Still greeting thankful LaPorteans to the end, educator, intrepid bicyclist, community leader and war hero Ralph Howes passes away

Just an hour or so before he passed away at his home, Mr. Howes (in red jacket) enjoys some social time at Back Road Brewery with his son Ralph (blue shirt) and grandsons Matt (dark shirt) and Jonathan (white shirt).

WNLP column by Mike Kellems

LaPorte lost a legend Thursday.

Many folks will be sad to learn that Ralph Howes Sr. passed away at his home a little after 5 p.m. I recently have found myself spending an hour or so at the Back Road Brewery every Thursday after work. I’m not a big fan of beer, however I’ve found that there is a really good group of people who enjoy hanging out there. One of the highlights each week is seeing Mr. Howes.

A photo Bob Wellinski took of Mr. Howes in 2017.

You see, he was “my” principal. I attended Crichfield Elementary in the mid-1970s when Mr. Howes served as principal, having taken over for Mr. Crichfield himself. Back then he was an imposing figure who helped me toe the line. Mr. Howes paddled me once, if I’m not mistaken, for not having my spelling assignment done. I’m guessing that my good friend, classmate and fellow photog Bob “Animal” Wellinski, also received the business end of the “board of education.”

Many, many people will also remember seeing Mr. Howes logging thousands of miles on his bicycles, right up until fairly recently.

Our association continued later in life when Mr. Howes served as a member of the Sheriff’s Merit Board, a position he held from 1993 until 2015. There are dozens of police officers who were hired and served after a careful and thorough interview by Mr. Howes and members of the merit board.

So this afternoon (Sept. 13), I arrived at the brewery, ordered up a beer and sat down next to Mr. Howes and visited for a few minutes. I told him that it was great to see him and that I hoped he was able to enjoy this fantastic weather. I joked with him that it was amusing for me to watch people come into the brewery and pay homage to him like he was the Godfather. I told him the only thing that was missing was people kissing his ring! We laughed and he commented that the highlight of his week was stopping in at the brewery, sharing a beer and a handful of peanuts with friends while discussing his beloved Cubs. Today was very special, too, because his two grandsons, Jonathan and Matt, were there to join him along with his son, Ralph, Jr.

When Mr. Howes was leaving the brewery a little before 5 p.m., the 20 or so patrons all said goodbye to him. I took note of his bright smile and a twinkle in his eye … he seemed incredibly happy.

Shortly before 6 p.m. I got a call from LaPorte County Sheriff’s Captain Tim Shortt informing me that just after arriving home, Mr. Howes collapsed on the floor and passed away. I arrived at the home a short time later and offered my condolences to Ralph Jr. We stood together along with Captain Shortt and Deputy Jim Fish, waiting for the funeral home representatives to arrive. Deputy Fish has the honor of being the last deputy to be hired prior to Mr. Howes leaving the merit board.

Ralph Jr. explained that he was walking with his dad into the house and that they were headed for the television to see the outcome of the Cubs game when his dad seemingly tripped on the carpet and onto the floor … gone from his earthly bonds and into the heavens, where he would see the face of God and join his beloved wife, Margaret. They married in 1947 and remained constant companions until she passed away on December 4, 2013.

Mr. Howes holds his Silver Star in 2017 at his home, in a photo taken by Sharon Kirkham.

Born on Christmas Day, 1921, Mr. Howes spent his entire life in LaPorte, first farming with his dad at the family farm on Goldring Road and then starting his career in education as a teacher at Door Village School in 1960. He served his country in the European Theater during World War II as a Captain in the U.S. Army and was awarded the Silver Star.

I started this missive with the bold statement the Mr. Howes was a legend, and I don’t use that title lightly. In the coming days, as his family completes his obituary and many, many others weigh in with their memories, I’m confident my statement will be affirmed over and over again.

I have a couple more thoughts to add, however I’m going to wait a few days and collect myself when I’m a little less sad. For now, I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to share a beer with Mr. Howes, I’m thankful he was enjoying himself less than an hour before he passed away, I’m thankful for having known this true hero and gentleman. May God Bless your memory, Sir!

MIKE KELLEMS is a retired LaPorte County Sheriff’s Captain and current Manager of Safety and Security for the Duneland School Corporation.

50 Responses to “Still greeting thankful LaPorteans to the end, educator, intrepid bicyclist, community leader and war hero Ralph Howes passes away”

  1. Jerry Craven

    Sep 14. 2018

    What a nice tribute, Mike.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Carolyn Johnson

    Sep 14. 2018

    Thank you, Mike, for your loving salute to a dear person. Those of us who worked with Mr. Howes held him in the high esteem that he deserved. Those who knew him socially enjoyed being in his presence. LaPorte has lost a citizen who enriched the fabric of our lives.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Linda Kiger Howell

    Sep 14. 2018

    I am so very sad to hear this. Mr Howes was my 6 th grade teacher at Johnson Road School before he became principal Although I was never spanked by Mr Howes he did put me in the Hall for talking. Ha I don’t think he ever forgot a student either. Always called me by name when I would see him He was a great man and and will be missed by many. My Condolences to the family!! Rest In Peace Mr Howes!!!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Tim

    Sep 14. 2018

    I have fond memories of Crichfield and Mr Howes. He was a great example to the kids. Upright and honest, he was the real deal. My older sister had him when he was a teacher she too recalls him fondly. God bless Mr Howes.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Faith Miller

    Sep 14. 2018

    Years ago I worked at Western Inn. The Lion’s Club had their meetings there and Mr. Howes was always my favorite customer! A real genuine person who always had a kind word. May his family have wonderful memories.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Sharon

    Sep 14. 2018

    Rest In Peace Mr. Howes! You were one of the best teachers at Door Village! Is was the best years we had. The last year we had before we consolidated with LaPorte. May God Bless!

    Reply to this comment
  7. Brad Richter

    Sep 14. 2018

    My deepest condolences to the entire Howes family.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Tom Dorman

    Sep 14. 2018

    Thank you for such a beautiful tribute to one of the finest men I have ever met. I learned of his passing through Facebook. While we all knew his passing would be coming soon, I am sure all of us were hoping it would never come. We are all blessed that Ralph, Jr. and his two sons are also cut from the same cloth. God bless the Howes family.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Derrick Deck

    Sep 14. 2018

    Mike, that was a very well-written tribute to a highly-respected man. Thank you for sharing it with the public. To Jon, Ralph, Matt and the rest, I know your loss will run deep as I know how close your bonds were. I admired the way you cherished your relationship with your elder and expect that Ralph found himself proud and fortunate to have built such a loving family. I am so sorry for your loss.

    Reply to this comment
  10. john zakes

    Sep 14. 2018

    with the passing of Ralph sr. yesterday and my friend Jerry Burke a couple of weeks past, the city of la porte has lost a wealth of knowledge and two of finest people I have ever met. I will miss both of them.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Karen Martin

    Sep 14. 2018

    Rest in peace, Mr. Howes. Thank you for making the world a better place. God bless you!

    Reply to this comment
  12. James Baumer

    Sep 14. 2018

    Mr Howes was a fixture in our neighborhood for so long its hard to remember before he was here. So many times he would wave from his bike. One of the last members of the greatest generation in our community. He did in fact make the world a better place.

    Reply to this comment
  13. Mike Lutber

    Sep 14. 2018

    My great luck to have been present there yesterday. Mike, you’re absolutely right.Mr. How’s was a great guy. My pleasure to have been able to know him.🙏

    Reply to this comment
  14. Dennis Bernth

    Sep 14. 2018

    Great tribute Mike! Ralph Sr. was a fixture in LaPorte, I could always count on seeing him riding his bike around the lakes and waving. On the Merit Board he was professional and concerned with the Department first, but he’d slip in a funny comment on the side here and there also. A big loss for the family and the community, they don’t make them like him anymore.

    Reply to this comment
  15. Jeni Banic

    Sep 14. 2018

    Mike, this is just beautiful, and rings so true. Thank you for such an incredible tribute.

    Reply to this comment
  16. Jan Lindwall

    Sep 14. 2018

    What a great tribute Mike. You definitely have a way with words. Mr. Howes was truly a legend and will be missed by many.

    Reply to this comment
  17. Chris and Cindi Boardman

    Sep 14. 2018

    Frequent visitors to Backroad ourselves, we will miss seeing Mr. Howes.

    Reply to this comment
  18. Rebecca Fistel

    Sep 14. 2018

    My condolences to the family. May his memory be a blessing.
    Rebecca Fistel.

    Reply to this comment
  19. Terry Scherer

    Sep 14. 2018

    Very well written tribute to Mr. Howes! Thank you, Mike. I’m so sorry that he has left us. I will pray for the Lord’s comfort to his family and for all of us. A wonderful man has left this life. I had him as a teacher at Johnson Road School(when Mr. Crichfield was principal). He was my favorite teacher there. I saw him many times after wards(on his bike and in different places around LaPorte). It always impressed me that years later he remembered my name. His smile…the twinkle in his eyes and just his good nature. We were all blessed by knowing him!

    Reply to this comment
  20. Jeffrey Jensen

    Sep 14. 2018

    Rest in peace Sir. Your remaining hero’s will miss you.

    Reply to this comment
  21. Marcia

    Sep 14. 2018

    6 th grade teacher at Door Village. Always chewed gum in front of our class.

    Reply to this comment
  22. Carla Antos

    Sep 14. 2018

    Mike, thank you for such a wonderful tribute to Mr. Howes. So often I would see him & his wife on their bikes by Pine Lake. Thoughts & prayers for his family.

    Reply to this comment
  23. Laura Francesconi

    Sep 14. 2018

    What a beautifully written tribute to Mr. Howes, a true
    La Porte legend, indeed. I’m so glad you were able to enjoy that time with him, Mike. My condolences to the entire Howes family.

    Reply to this comment
  24. Brian Salzer

    Sep 14. 2018

    My condolences to all of the Howes family. I met him a few times. He truly was a great man .

    Reply to this comment
  25. Matt Boardman

    Sep 14. 2018

    Well said Mike. Mr. Howes positively influenced a LOT of LaPorteans and we’re all better for having him in our lives.

    Reply to this comment
  26. Malinda Brown ( Workman )

    Sep 14. 2018

    Mr Howes was my 6th grade teacher when it was Johnson Road school and principal when my daughter went to Crichfield school.
    I also remember him riding his bike all around and wave as I drove by and yelled Hi Mr Howes! He was such a great man. My deepest sympathy to his family.

    Reply to this comment
  27. Tom Moeller

    Sep 14. 2018

    Fond memories of Ralph riding along beside me as I ran around Stone Lake. I admired his biking and he influenced my own interest in cycling. My sadness at his passing is tempered by knowing he enjoyed life to the last and he got to see the Cubs win it all!

    Tom Moeller

    Reply to this comment
  28. Sally Bachman Bergman

    Sep 14. 2018

    What a wonderful life and a wonderful man. I first met Mr Howes when bike riding with Kay Lang, her father, Mr Wm Lang, and Mr Howes when we were in grade school. I remember how kind he was.. I talked to him throughout my life, either bike riding, at the mail box or in the community. He was so kind and always had a smile on his face.
    I was sorry to hear of his passing, deepest sympathy to his family.
    His was a life well lived. Thank you, Mr Howes, for setting such an example all your life.

    Reply to this comment
  29. Steve Sosinski

    Sep 14. 2018

    RIP Mr. Howes. Thank you for your service and being my principal. They broke the mold after you. Well written story Mike.

    Reply to this comment
  30. Lo Ann Post

    Sep 14. 2018

    Mike that was so nice! He was a great guy and I know he’s enjoying a great big hug from all his friends at the Golden Gate

    Reply to this comment
  31. Richard Reel

    Sep 14. 2018

    I Moved to Laporte in 1976, and learned who Mr. Howes was soon after. I knew quickly that every time I met with a group his name came up as being a community leader. I didn’t really meet him in person until several years later , but I always knew who he was. I also saw him riding the many miles he rode his bike as I lived just a half mile away.
    In 1995 a group of people started Pioneer Land at the LaPorte Co. Fairgrounds. He believed in this project an contributed to it’s success by helping financially up until just 3 weeks ago. His spirit and community mindfulness will live on . R.I.P.

    Reply to this comment
  32. Jonathan Howes

    Sep 14. 2018

    Mike, thank you for this. I’ve probably read it 15 times today.

    Reply to this comment
    • Ralph F Howes

      Sep 15. 2018

      I’ve also viewed this a number of times. Thanks to Mike Kellems for a beautifully written tribute to Dad. Thanks also for all kind comments, truly appreciated.

      Reply to this comment
  33. Name (required)

    Sep 14. 2018

    A great and well written article Mike. My dad had the privilege of working with Ralph and he said it was honor to work for a true gentleman. Ralph will be missed.

    Reply to this comment
  34. Brian & Judy Levenhagen

    Sep 15. 2018

    Wonderful memories shared here. Such a good man, with a kind & generous heart, loved his family, served & loved his community & country. Heaven has received this gentle soul to join his beloved wife, whom he help care for til her passing a few years ago. Ralph had an amazing sharp mind, his earthly body just wore out in his 96 well lived years. Bless his soul & his wonderful family.

    Reply to this comment
  35. Linda G. Torres

    Sep 15. 2018

    Beautiful tribute to Mr. Howes, Mike, and an awesome picture! Mr. Howes had so many wonderful things about him – his smile, calming spirit, how he included eveyone and was always kind and gentle. One thing that always impressed me was his uncanny ability to remember and to address people by their names! And in looking at these tributes and comments, I see how fitting and respectful it is that he always held the title of MR. Howes! I’ll miss him riding by on his bike and saying hello Linda! What a wonderful man!

    Reply to this comment
  36. Teena Moore McKeehan

    Sep 15. 2018

    Mr. Howes was also my teacher, an he was respected by all. He just was liked by all that knew him. He rode his bike past our farm everyday, sometimes he would stop an talk to me, for sure waved and said Hi.
    Sad to hear, he is a Legend that will be missed.
    Prayers to his family for there great loss.

    Reply to this comment
  37. Chris Adams

    Sep 15. 2018

    Grandpa Ralph was the dearest, sweetest, and most kindest man I knew. I loved him as if he was my own Grandpa. I will truly miss him. It wont be the seem without him. You will always be in my heart Grandpa.

    Reply to this comment
  38. Jen

    Sep 15. 2018

    A beautifully written tribute to a beautiful and inspiring man. Thank you!

    Reply to this comment
  39. Kris Satkoski

    Sep 15. 2018

    What a great tribute Mike kellems, Ralph Jr. You are in our thoughts and prayers , your whole family.What a great life he had, you were a great attentive son , to be there at the last breath and watch him transcend to the heavens.

    Reply to this comment
  40. Gloria krenzke

    Sep 15. 2018

    My 3 daughters attended cricfield. He was a principle who was always present. A wonderful example and mentor to so many. He will be missed. My sympathy goes out to the family of this fine man.

    Reply to this comment
  41. Diane Wahlstrom McClement

    Sep 15. 2018

    What a beautiful tribute to an amazing man! He has touched so many people in his life. As a teacher for me and a principal for my children I always felt honored to have had his presence in our lives for so many years. He was such a kind, kind man. He never forgot a face or a name – and that always astounded me. My deepest condolences to the entire Howes family – He truly was a Legend! God Bless.

    Reply to this comment
  42. Kathy Lang-West

    Sep 15. 2018

    I’ve known Mr. Howes most of my life. My dad, Bill Lang, knew him for many years. He was always such a kind man and I have a lifetime of memories seeing him riding his bike around the lake. He was a wonderful person, the last of a dying breed. Condolences to his family.

    Reply to this comment
  43. Mark Klopenstine

    Sep 15. 2018

    Thank you Mike for this tribute . Mr. Howes provided me with discipline and values. Yes, I met his paddle as did many. I respect the discipline he provided and always enjoyed talking with him. He is already missed. God bless him!

    Reply to this comment
  44. Troy Heisler

    Sep 15. 2018

    Thank You Mr.Howes. I will never forget that walk to your office. 4 times that I remember. Man could you swing a paddle. Then the 5 minutes of talking to me like a loving father.. I am 49 years old. Never been to jail. Dont drink nor do drugs. Much of my life I owe to you. I still remember comming up to the Y in the road. Seeing you mow the lawn. And still have the time to chat for a few. See you in time again.

    Reply to this comment
  45. Prayers to family he was my principal at critchfield school in the 1970,s

    Reply to this comment
  46. Sandra Tonsoni

    Sep 16. 2018

    A great tribute to Mr Howes Mike, very nice & so very true! He indeed was a great man & a great asset to LaPorte! He will be missed by so so many people! My heart goes out to the Howes family, I am so glad that they had that one last Special moment together. Prayers & Heartfelt thoughts go out to the Family! Love to All❤️🙏🏻👍

    Reply to this comment
  47. Mike Lindsay

    Sep 17. 2018

    Ralph Jr. – So sorry to hear about your dad. Just saw this on Whats New La Porte. Mike and Denise Lindsay

    Reply to this comment
  48. Ken Arnold

    Sep 17. 2018

    I had the privilege of attending Crichfield in the 1960s. I knew Mr. Crichfield as a Principal…and Mr. Howes as both a teacher AND principal (in my last year there, as I remember).

    What a gentle and loving soul toward all the kids. But back then, you ALSO knew he had standards of behavior (like Mr. Crichfield had). I never knew until just in the last four years meeting with Ralph Jr. that Ralph Sr. had a distinguished and heroic war record.

    Like so many of the WWII generation, these valued Americans simply called it their duty to carry out. They never bragged of their service…perhaps knowing the horrors which came with it. “Captain Kangaroo”, Burt Lancaster, and others such as Mr. Howes were humble and unassuming men. Men one can proudly emulate!

    I don’t know. But perhaps what Mr. Howes saw in WWII molded him to go into grade school education later in life…to mold men and women to a better future for America.

    Rest in peace…and to the Howes family: Find comfort in knowing there are MANY that were influenced by his good work at Crichfield. Oh…if we could only find many more such educators in our schools today!!!

    Reply to this comment
  49. Jan Boardman

    Sep 18. 2018

    Add my name to this “Admiration Society”. We raised our kids on Waverly Road and not only was Mr. Howes our principal, but we also considered him our “pal”. Instead of just flying by, he would occasionally slam the brakes on that bicycle and stop for a chat if we were in the yard. He genuinely cared for everyone that crossed his path. What a great guy!

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