You don’t mean it, people will say. Fifty is too young to die. He was such a good father, they will say. Such a good man. Remember Howard at the piano at Christmastime, singing “Joy to the World” with Libba and the children? What a beautiful tenor voice he had, it fit so well with Libba’s sweet soprano. Did you ever see him dressed for an evening out? In that white silk scarf and the long, ivory cigarette holder tipped up at a dramatic angle, didn’t he look like FDR himself? Remember how, when anyone stopped him on the street to ask, he could talk for ten minutes about how Lewis was getting along over there in the Pacific, fighting the Japanese? You’d think God in His mercy would have spared a father’s life until his son came home from war, but as we have been taught so long and so well: God’s ways are not our own.
Howard and Libba owned a movie camera, of course, a Bell and Howell, the newest thing, and no matter how he moaned and groaned about that camera, you could tell he was proud tat it cost so much; they both were. In a home movie shot in April in the backyard of their big, fine house, he followed his daughter Cecile along a winding path through the azaleas, holding up the long train of that white gown she wore when she was crowned May Queen at St. Angela Academy. Bent like an old man, his aching back, he mimed the faithful servant hobbling along behind the young monarch; you could tell he was joking by the way he mugged for the camera. Howard was a cutup, a practical joker. And dance. That man could do it all—foxtrot, jitterbug, even the Charleston.
- by Pam Durban
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