I once held Howard Sherpe captive at a holiday party. He had just gone through the food line and was balancing a mob of tiny meatballs on a paper plate. Being the gracious man that he was, he answered all my questions while he held that plate perfectly still.
It was only a week or two before this party that Howard and I discovered that we were literally across the page from each other in the "Crawford County Independent" newspaper. Howard was working at Vernon Communications, and I had just started working there on an employee fitness program. Howard put two and two together and figured out that I must be the new gal who was writing a column in the paper.
Talking to Howard was easy. As I listened, the word gentleman came to my mind. Howard was fit, healthy, active, vibrant, and could tell a good story. He told me of his hobbies: skiing, biking, and martial arts. He also talked about his active, productive life. He had a business in Madison for years, and eventually he and his wife, Linda, came back to Westby to his original home and farm. Howard also said he would be retiring soon.
Howard was a first-class role model for me. As a syndicated columnist, he wrote articles that appeared in papers throughout Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. Howard had more faith in my stories than I did. When I told Howard that I wanted to share my stories with my mom, who was then 89 years old, he suggested putting them in a book. It turned out that Howard had his own publishing company called Viking Press and had published seven of his own books.
Howard never stopped amazing me. Every time we talked, he shared another story. He described his medic experience in Vietnam. He discussed his advertising and graphic arts business in Madison. He told me about returning home to be the Member Relations and Marketing Manager at Vernon Communications. Howard's resume spoke volumes to me about his passion and love for his family, farm, and the land.
Howard once shared a picture of a bird sitting on his hand in his backyard in Westby. His patience with that bird and with me through countless corrections as he edited my book was stunning. By the time we were working on my book, Howard's disease had reared its ugly head. He had to concentrate completely and use a dictating machine because his typing hand had become useless. Still Howard wrote a weekly column.
When Howard was telling me of his diagnosis, glioblastoma stage 4, he mentioned that he told the doctor not to give him any time frame for how long the doctor thought he had to live. Howard wanted to live each day as fully as he could, and he did. He wanted to see his grandchild be born. He did. Often I would see him and Linda in Westby enjoying a lunch out. Usually Howard had people standing near his table, and he'd be telling his stories.
I will always remember Howard for his graciousness, generosity, and kindness. Howard's loving thoughtfulness will live on just like all the stories he wrote and told.
Howard, may you rest in peace. You will be missed by many.