Kenneth LaVerne Howard was born on February 15, 1936, in Polk County, Iowa to Lawrence and Helen (Dann) Howard. He died unexpectantly of natural causes on October 18, 2021. He attended kindergarten in White Oak, Iowa and moved back to White Oak when he was 37 years old and lived there the remainder of his life. He often joked that he never really got very far.
Ken moved to California with his family and attended most of his schooling there, but his heart remained in Iowa. He spent many summers on Iowa farms with relatives as a youth where he fell in love with Penny Mathis at a softball game in Elkhart. They both attended Iowa State University before they married on July 1st, 1956. They lived the first 14 years of their married life in Costa Mesa, California, where Ken was a printer. They had two children there but wanted to raise them in the country so moved to Iowa to put down their roots. Ken worked at Acme Printing and Iowa State University Press before he retired to pursue his lifelong passion of farming. He loved the land and nurtured it with fervor, he watched the grain markets with hawk diligence and passionately tended to his livestock, sharing his expertise with his children and grandchildren in their 4-H and FFA projects.
Ken spent most of his days outside on his tractor or his lawn mower, tending the land. His yard was immaculate, his feeder cattle grazed in pastures surrounding their home. Ken was a familiar figure at the sale barn through the years and faithfully attended to many well-fed barn cats with nonchalant attentiveness. Ken possessed the tannest, sexiest legs in White Oak, where he could be seen wearing shorts from early spring, well into fall. He often teased his granddaughters that he would wear shorts to their wedding. He had a delightfully hearty sense of humor; you knew you were in his good graces if he lovingly teased you.
His work ethic and his zest for life were unmatched. He worked tirelessly lending a hand, problem solving and pitching in to help, neighbors, friends and family and anyone who needed assistance. He was consistently quiet but quick to give his opinion when asked. He was a devoted husband and adoring grandfather. Ken’s extended family encompassed many cousins.
Ken was a model of vivacious aging. He met each challenge with grace and a positive attitude. He was an avid St. Louis Cardinals and ISU sports fan. He was often seen in the bleachers at North Polk sporting events and the Polk County 4-H fair. Most of all he loved Penny’s cooking.
Ken was so loved by all his neighbors that they designated him as While Oak’s Honorary Mayor, a title he held for as long as most folks can remember. He served on the cemetery board, caring for the plots, and helping numerous family members honor their loved ones. He cared for everything with precise detail and a passion for excellence, be it repairing a piece of machinery or building something for one of the kids or grandkids.
He left us as peacefully as he lived his days, outdoors on a beautiful fall afternoon, beside his tractor.
Ken is survived by his wife of 65 years, Carol (Penny) Howard, daughter, Candi (Gary) Bengtson, from Carroll Iowa, and son, Jon (Teri) Howard from Columbus, Nebraska, brother Norm (Donna) Howard in Reno, Nevada, sister Carolyn (Dave) Hastings in Colorado Springs, Colorado, grandchildren Justin Bengtson, Kendra (Adam) Haluska, Brock (Nicolle) Bengtson, Autumn Sky Burns & Logan Howard, and great grandchildren, Reece and Myles Burns, Jerzey, Jace, Jett and Jordi Haluska, brothers-in-law Chip and Jim (MaryAnn) Mathis and sisters-in-law Pamela Fitzgerald and Di Mathis, many cousins and nieces and nephews, neighbors and friends,
Memorial services will be held at the Elkhart Christian Church, where he and Penny were married, on Saturday, October 23rd, at 11 am. Visitation will be that morning from 9 to 10:45, also at the Elkhart Christian Church. The family requests no flowers. Any memorial contributions will be sent to the Prostrate Cancer Foundation and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
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