A Life Well Lived

Donna Lane
Issue Date: 
December, 2017
Article Body: 

How many of us will live to be 100 years old or more? And for those of us who do, what will our legacy be?
Two years ago, the Norwood Senior Center auditorium was filled with long-time friends, family, policemen, firefighters and town officials gathered to roast and to celebrate Norwood resident John Howard on his100th birthday. Many of those same people, over 200, somberly filed through Kraw-Kornack Funeral Home the beginning of October to pay their respects to this man who loved Norwood and made many positive contributions to its community since emigrating here from Syria in 1923.
On October 1, 2017, John Howard left the town that he loved, richer than he found it.
“This town was his life," said daughter Jackie Saber. "For as long as I can remember, he always said that there is no place like Norwood. No place!”
Mr. Howard spent 29 years as Norwood’s Deputy Fire Chief. His family said that during his time in the fire department, he was instrumental in getting the “Heart Bill” passed and that he led the charge to obtain pay for volunteer firefighters.
Mr. Howard’s many years of service was acknowledged by Norwood’s firefighters. As a tribute to this much loved man, the Norwood Fire Department sent an honor guard to accompany Mr. Howard during viewing hours at the funeral home, to St. George Orthodox Church and on to Highland Cemetery where Mr. Howard was laid to rest on October 5. In addition, 19 firefighters dressed in full gear saluted the procession as it passed by the station house on the way to the cemetery.
The firefighters weren’t the only group to pay tribute to Mr. Howard. A contingent of veterans also stood by acknowledging his friendship and service as a sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII.
When asked what impressed her most about her father’s life, his daughter Carolyn Ferris was quick with an answer.
“He was the epitome of Christianity," Ferris said. "I never heard him say a bad word about anyone. He didn’t gossip and always tried to find the good in people.”
This is probably why he made so many friends in his lifetime, including the seniors who frequent the Norwood Senior Center and who lined Prospect Street to say goodbye to their friend.
Mr. Howard has always had a connection with the seniors. Shortly after he retired, he expressed concern for their safety in the event of a fire and was a catalyst in getting the Town to move the Senior Center from the third floor of the Civic Center, where they met in the 1970s, to its current location. He served as treasurer of the Council on Aging for15 years, and according to his daughters, never missed a meeting and remained a member of that organization until his death. He spent many hours at the Senior Center playing cribbage (he started the cribbage club) and socializing, and he met every Friday with his “private club” of six seniors, behind closed doors, and discussed the world’s problems.
Mr. Howard’s daughters were quite touched by the many tributes paid to their father – both the grand gestures and those behind the scenes. For example, the morning of the funeral, Mr. Frank’s Honeydew Donuts sent coffee and donuts to the funeral home for the family. And John Kornack hand-painted the fireman’s logo onto the burial vault.
“Everyone has been so thoughtful,” Ferris said.
“We are still numb and coming to grips with Dad’s death,” Saber added. “I’m sure more things will surface when the fog lifts, but for now we are just so grateful for having our Dad for as long as we did.”
“His mind was amazing,” Ferris offered. “Just last month he was showing my grandchildren how to do math the “old fashioned” way.”
This immigrant from Syria married, raised two daughters, served the military and the Town of Norwood. At 102, his mind was still sharp and he lived at home until one week before his death. This kind and gentle man made a lifetime of friends and worked for the good of the Town that he loved. By all accounts he lived a good, full life. He leaves a legacy of service, integrity and love.
Donna Lane is a Norwood-based writer, lecturer and designer. You can reach her at [email protected].