Howard Thie

[Flag Presentation]

We have gathered here this day to remember, celebrate, and thank God for the life of Howard Thie. There are some people in life who come quietly into our lives and change us forever. Howard was one of those people.  We gather today to celebrate his life and to mourn his passing.  We all know that Howard would not want us to see this as a sad day; he would want us to view it as a very good day . . . like he viewed every day.

In the book of Proverbs we read these words,

     Let love and faithfulness never leave you;

bind them around your neck,

write them on the tablet of your heart.

4    Then you will win favor and a good name

in the sight of God and man.

5    Trust in the LORD with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

6    in all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make your paths straight.

7    Do not be wise in your own eyes;

fear the LORD and shun evil.

8    This will bring health to your body

and nourishment to your bones.

9    Honor the LORD with your wealth,

with the firstfruits of all your crops;

10   then your barns will be filled to overflowing,

and your vats will brim over with new wine. [Proverbs 3:3-10]

This passage seems to me to be describing Howard. He was known for his love and faithfulness, he trusted the Lord with all his heard, he was uncommonly generous, and he possessed true humility. He earned his “good name”. This good name came largely from his strong faith. In Psalm 91 we read these words which seem to express Howard’s attitude,

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

This morning we will remember Howard even as we seek to rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Let’s pray together,

Our Father, we are sad today because we have lost someone very special: a husband, a father, a Grand-father, a friend, a leader, an encourager, a witness, and a servant. Help us to remember well and to honor his memory appropriately.

Help us also to renew our faith in You. Howard served you because he recognized that you are indeed Lord over all. Help us to honor you this day. Help us to see past the fleeting things of this life that we might hold firm to that which is to come for all who put their trust in you. Teach us yet again through Howard’s life today. We ask in Jesus’ name.

Howard and hi family want this to be a day of worship and celebration so to that end I ask you to sing “How Great Thou Art” with me.

[Hymn “How Great Thou Art”]

Howard Thie was born on August 31, 1929 in Burlington, Iowa, the son of Abner and Grace Hueholt Thie. Howard played basketball in High School. He was involved in 4H and won lots of ribbons even winning a trip to the national meeting once.

Howard joined the Air Force during the time of the Korean War. He served in Guam where, as I understand it he worked mainly in food services and was responsible for making sure the food and food preparation was done correctly.

The most significant part of Howard’s time in the Air Force had nothing to do with the war however. Around Thanksgiving of 1951 Howard went to an Air Force dance there in Colorado Springs. While he was there he met Marilyn Rinker. Apparently they fell in love immediately because on January 10, 1952 they were married (yes, that would be 8 weeks after they met!). In just a couple of weeks they would have celebrated their 59th anniversary. Who said it wouldn’t last?

Howard was transferred to California. Marilyn joined him for a couple of weeks before he left for Guam. Nine months later Marilyn called Howard to tell him that Linda had been born!

When Howard left the service he and his family moved to Iowa where they farmed. He raised Holsteins and managed a dairy farm. Howard then took a job at Champion Co in Burlington where he worked for 9 years.

He then took a job with NTN Bower in Macomb as a Manufacturing Engineer. He worked for Bower for 37 years until his retirement in 2003. The family lived for four years in Macomb. During this time Howard went back to school to finish his business degree. He graduated from WIU the same year (1970) that Linda graduated from High School.

The family moved to a farm outside of La Harpe shortly thereafter. Farming was Howard’s first love. He and Fred managed the business side of the farm together. Eventually Fred did the farming and Howard was a business partner. He and Marilyn purchased and ran a Mobile Home court in Colchester for many years. Howard said this was to keep him out of Fred’s hair! Howard liked to stay busy.

Howard was a member of the Union Church where he was extremely active. He served on boards and committees, was faithful in his worship attendance, sang in the choir, and greeted almost everyone on Sunday morning with a big smile and a warm handshake. Howard was interested in anything that helped others and was a big supporter of the Heifer Foundation and various mission projects.

Howard is survived by his wife Marilyn, 2 daughters, Dr. Linda Thie of Punta Gorda, Florida and Angela (Jim) Painter of Goodfield, Illinois, 1 son Frederick Thie of LaHarpe, 3 grandchildren, Jameson Painter, Joe Painter and Lauren Painter and 2 brothers, Donald Thie of rural Burlington and Robert Thie of rural Sperry, Iowa. He was preceded in death by his parents.

Howard Thie was a man aware of his need of God’s grace. He lived his life as one who was grateful for that grace that changed him.  Let’s sing about that grace now.

[Song…. Amazing Grace]

Howard Thie was an incredible guy. If you knew him at all, you know he loved his family. He and Marilyn were partners throughout their lives. When one was sick the other took care of them. They have always been a team. Marilyn was a young bride when married and hadn’t done much cooking. When Howard came home from the service she did her best to cook for him. She made him breakfast every day. Whatever she made, he ate it all up. She wondered if she was making enough. So she kept making him more and more breakfast until finally he said, “I can’t eat all this food!” Marilyn’s retort was that she kept making more hoping there would eventually be something left for her!

Howard enjoyed and appreciated Marilyn’s cooking. The only think he didn’t like was Gingerbread. She made gingerbread cookies one day and Howard told her he gave some of the cookies to the dog who promptly buried them outside! Howard and Marilyn had that kind of relationship. It was filled with deep respect but also a great deal of fun. Howard was constantly drawing attention to Marilyn’s strengths and accomplishments (just like he did with everyone else)

I’m told they always looked forward to the adventure of shopping on Black Friday. They would get up early, stand in line, and look for good bargains.

As a dad, Howard wanted to impress upon the children how fortunate they were. He told them he didn’t want to waste anything because of the lessons of the Depression. He told the kids about how he had to walk to school and how difficult it was in the snow during winter. At Howard and Marilyn’s 50th wedding anniversary Angie asked one of Howard’s classmates if he had it as rough as her dad. The friend laughed and said, “Howard never walked to school. He either rode in a sleigh or a car!”  When Angie confronted her dad about his deception he simply said, “That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.”

Howard was always cutting things out of the paper. If it was an article about his family or someone he knew, he always cut it out to show to others or post it at the church. When he would take pictures he would always make sure you had a copy . . often in a frame. He was always sensitive . . . or, almost always sensitive.

Howard enjoyed sports. He went on the trips we sponsored to Cub games in Chicago and St. Louis. He also really enjoyed going up to see the Bears play in Chicago. So much so, that when Joe was born (on Friday), Angie talked to her dad to tell him he had a new grandson. I’m sure Howard first expressed his wonder and gratitude but then said, “Is this going to change the plans Jim and I have to go to the Bears game on Sunday?” They went to the game.

One year later as Joe’s 1st birthday was being planning the guys told the ladies they once again had tickets to the game.  The ladies were not happy. The guys (wisely) kept their mouth shut . . . and went to the game.

When Jamison was only four he and Grandpa played a game of Monopoly. (Not the usual activity you would do with a 4 year old.) Jamison won. Howard was embarrassed and insisted they play again (no leniency for age difference this time). Jamison won again! After the embarrassment Howard realized he had every reason to be proud of his grandson.

Once when Lauren was out shopping with her mom she found a dress that was one of those one-of-a-kind dresses that just makes you look perfect. When Angie looked at the price she realized that it was beyond what the budget could afford. She was able to get the price down but not enough. She called her mom and dad and asked if they would be willing to take their Christmas presents back and put the money toward the dress. Marilyn called back in a couple of minutes and reported that Howard said, “No, we will not take the presents back, but we would love to buy the dress for Lauren.”

The family has a treasure chest full of these kinds of memories. There were runaway horses, kids who played in the pig pen, and roller skating in the dining room. There were times of crisis and difficulty, but there were also times of great joy. Howard cherished his family. He encouraged them to be unique and cherished that uniqueness.

Howard was always willing to try something new. He liked eating down in Greek town after the Bears games. He enjoyed going out with the Sunday brunch crowd to different restaurants. He enjoyed taking trips and seeing things he had never seen before. Even in the church, where some people resist change, Howard was always enthusiastic. He wanted to move forward and was eager to view things from different angles. He was a man who savored the moments of life.

People tell me the Thie’s were wonderful neighbors. Michele Blythe Powell commented on what fun they were to have as neighbors. Howard always greeted her with “Hi neighbor!”

Howard was a leader. He didn’t make a lot of speeches, he led by example. I heard someone talk about how Howard would walk through the plant as the head of Quality Control at Bauer and he would pick up cigarette butts and other things that might be on the floor. I had the feeling that the person speaking saw it as a weakness. Howard was leading by example. Quality begins as an attitude and Howard knew it. He encouraged people because he truly cared about them but also because he knew that people who feel good about what they are doing are happier people and better workers.

Howard had a big heart. This was one of his weaknesses when it came to collecting the rent at the Mobile Home park. Any good story about why someone could not pay their rent would get Howard to extend more time. There were many times (more than we’ll ever know) when Howard gave money to people rather than collect it. I wonder how many of those people think of Howard when they try to describe what love looks like.

I met Howard 29 years ago (almost exactly) when I came to candidate at the church. From the very beginning he and Marilyn were there to encourage and care for our family. Our experience was similar to so many others. Howard always asked about our families back home. He always seemed to be able to keep the details straight about what was happening in everyone’s life. We never felt that he was out to use or control us. He shared about his life but never bragged about it. We always felt he wanted to make sure we were well taken care of by the church.

Until the kids got married and the family grew, Maggie and the kids sat right in front of Howard and Marilyn every week. They took a genuine interest in the kids and in Maggie’s life. Howard was the first person in the church Maggie told about being pregnant with Rachel. They were like in-house grandparents. My mom always looked forward to coming to La Harpe to visit because she usually got a warm greeting and hug from Howard. He always told my mom things that would make her proud of me.

The amazing thing is that Howard was this way with everyone. Note after note I received talked about how Howard made people feel welcome and cared for. He wasn’t concerned about drawing attention to himself. He had an uncommon humility. People used words like, “gentleman”, “kind”, and “caring” over and over again. He was always willing to serve.

For years Howard recruited ushers on Sunday morning. Todd Irish said, “Howard would always approach you with his right hand extended to shake your hand while his left hand grabbed your shoulder and a big smile making it impossible to refuse his request. I confess on more than one occasion I would see him looking for an usher. I would turn around and talk to someone thinking I dodged the bullet. A firm grasp on the back of my shoulder and that big friendly smile let me know that I had been had. Next thing I knew, I was taking up the offering.”

Howard was a great person to have as a leader in the church. He was always positive. If something didn’t go the way we expected he always felt we were going to learn something or God was going to open another door. When Howard and Don Hilligoss were on the board together they seemed to respond to every need with, “God will provide”. When I wanted someone to grumble with me they would never play the game!

I suspect just about everyone in the church who came in the main doors shook his hand most Sundays. Many people yesterday talked about how much they would miss Howard’s warm welcome. Every week after our 8:00 service I would come down to greet people and Howard was always there to greet me first. Howard was an ambassador for the Union Church. Even the quiet people would open up to Howard because they knew he truly cared. Some people are pushy and abrasive. Howard was kind and sensitive and knew when to back off and give people some space.

Howard was always there to encourage. In the book of Acts a guy by the name of Joseph was named Barnabus which means (“Son of Encouragement”).  Howard was the Barnabus of our day. He made it a point to encourage every soloist and instrumentalist. From the very beginning he was a cheerleader for the Bell Choir and for the Followers singing group. Both groups knew that there was always someone who appreciated their effort. He loved to see people involved and really enjoyed music. He wanted everyone to know they were appreciated. When someone was going through a tough time, Howard didn’t give lots of advice. He listened to people and sympathized with them. In fact, what people remembered was not his great advice (although he did give wise counsel), they were touched by the fact that he truly listened.

Howard would always go the extra mile. He would jump up to do what needed to be done. He would travel to special events, weddings or other meetings. Anne Steiner Ball remembers that Howard  came all the way to Yarmouth, IA for her wedding reception and it made him laugh to share with Ann that he had played basketball in that same gymnasium when he was in school.

Howard was perhaps most proud of serving on the committee that worked on the addition to the church added in 1993. It was a process that took seven years. We had a couple of different committees during that time and Howard was the constant. He never wavered in his commitment and enthusiasm for the project. Howard was great working with our contractors and planners. He made sure the job was done right.

When Howard would lead a meeting it was sometimes a little exasperating. The meetings seemed to drag. But now as I look back I realize what Howard was doing. He realized that the meeting served a greater purpose than merely checking off items on an agenda. The meeting was a place to build relationships and to show people that they matter. So, he made sure that everyone had their say and did his best to make sure everyone was on the same page before he moved on.

At one meeting things were moving a little more rapidly than usual and Lucretia, our church clerk at the time, asked Howard to slow down. Howard told her to use the KISS method. When Lucretia asked what that was he explained: Keep it Simple Stupid. It was because of the wise leadership of people like Howard that this church has been relatively conflict free for three decades.

Howard sang in the choir, he was always at the church to decorate at Christmas and often was one of the few to take down the decorations. He and Don Hilligoss started the Men’s Breakfast a long time ago. At the beginning, different people would get here early to cook their specialty. No matter who was cooking, Don and Howard were here to help. The two of them were always laughing and having a good time.

I can’t honestly tell you if Howard ever ate at these breakfasts. He was always up walking around with more juice or water. He even warmed the plates in the microwave to enhance our “dining experience” As each man came into the kitchen Howard made it a point to walk over to them, shake their hand, and welcome them. The Men’s Breakfast was his baby and he was proud of the fellowship that resulted.

Howard and Marilyn was part of a small but dedicated group of people who met every Wednesday night for prayer for awhile. They were small in number but fervent in heart.

Howard enjoyed working with Tom and Elie with the Sunday Lunch bunch. Every week they would load up a bunch of people, many of whom would have been alone for Sunday dinner, and went out to eat after worship. Howard developed relationships with many of the people who owned the restaurants.

Howard loved the idea that the Union Church was a small town church with a worldwide message. No one was more enthusiastic about notes we read from all around the world written by people who benefited from our website. He loved it when he heard that people had come to the church because they heard us on the radio. Howard always understood what we were trying to do. He understood our heart to reach out to others and he embraced that heart completely.

When we put in the new multimedia system Howard was not resistant. He believed it was part of moving forward with the times and trends and that it was important. When his eyes started giving him trouble he really liked the big letters up on the screen because he could see them. Howard loved the old hymns but understood the importance of the new choruses for younger people. The guy had an amazingly balanced perspective.

One of the other things I appreciated about Howard was that he was always learning and growing. One family mentioned that they were impressed with the fact that Howard always sat in the same place, brought his Bible to church, opened his Bible during the sermon and always took notes. He was a student all his life.  Howard never became too old for Sunday School. If he was in town, he was in Sunday School. Before each Sunday School class Howard would walk all the way around the table to make sure that he greeted each person personally. It was important to him to end each class on time because he needed to be in the foyer to greet people as they arrived at church. If things were going a little over he would suggest that it was perhaps time for prayer!

Howard always enjoyed the Bells and especially enjoyed the Bell ensembles. Cindy Anders, our Bell Choir Director has one of those solos, “Holy Holy Holy” for Howard this morning.

[Bell Solo]

We are saddened today because we have lost a loving husband, father, grandfather. We have lost a good friend, a leader, and someone who cared. The sadness is real and appropriate. However, the sadness must be tempered by faith and confidence.

Howard loved reading the apostle Paul so it is fitting that we quote Paul. When Paul was in the Philippian jail wondering what would happen to him he wrote,

20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. [Philippians 1:20-26]

Doesn’t that sound like something Howard might say? Even up to the end of his life if you asked him how he was doing he would say, “Fine”. I think this is because Howard wasn’t looking at himself, he was looking beyond this life. For him, living was serving Christ . . . dying was getting to go home and enjoy the Savior whom he had served all his life.

In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul said,

So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:9-10)

Howard understood that this life was not all there is. He refused surgery that might have extended his life a little longer because he wasn’t afraid to die and because he really felt his body had worn out and there was nothing more he could do. He wasn’t interested in staying alive just to be alive. He wanted to live to serve.

It is not surprising that at the end of Paul’s life he wrote,

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

Howard Thie fought the good fight. Whether it was in the workplace, in Guam, or in battling physical problems, Howard never stopped fighting.He remained positive. He finished the course and remained faithful up to the very end of his life. Even on Monday when he was so groggy from pain medicin, he fought to stay awake so we could pray together. He kept the faith.

At the end of his life Paul could look ahead. There was no despair, there was anticipation and hope. “No there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

The Bible never says that everyone goes to Heaven. It doesn’t even say that good or nice people go to Heaven. The Bible says “there is none that is good, not even one.” The only people who go to Heaven are those who have truly put their trust in Jesus Christ as the one who died for our sin and in our place. The Bible says only those who truly believe (and you can usually see who truly believes by the consistent character and testimony of their life) will be granted eternal life through Christ. Howard was a true believer. His faith was sure and his foundation was solid.

We are sad today because we have lost someone dear to us. We grieve because of Howard’s passing. However, we must remind ourselves that our grief is for our loss. It is in a sense self-centered. We do not need to grieve for Howard. Howard Thie has now met Jesus. This time he is the one to receive the warm handshake and the loving embrace. . . .from the Lord himself. He has seen the Savior’s smile. He has seen the fruit of his faithfulness and he has heard the wonderful words, “Well done, good and faithful servant”. Howard Thie has entered into the joy that is beyond words. He is home.

So as we move on from this day it is important that we take this opportunity to look at our own hearts. We must examine our own faith and see if it is firmly anchored to the Lord of Life. And as we do, we should strive to reflect on and remember the many things that God taught us through Howard

  • People are always more important than tasks
  • Everyone feels unappreciated and needs encouragement
  • Bears tickets are just too valuable to waste
  • Enthusiasm is contagious . . . even though some people seem to have a built in immunity.
  • A warm smile, a firm handshake, and a friendly embrace will lift anyone’s spirit
  • You lead best by giving a good example.
  • When you care about a person’s family, that person will feel loved in a special way.
  • Faith is revealed most clearly when life is most frustrating.
  • Life is filled with moments. We choose whether we will enjoy the moments or look past them. We can hide from new things or we can welcome them. One leads to to grumbling, the other leads to wonder and delight.
  • Each person is different. We truly love people not when we get them to conform to our way of doing things; we love them when we truly appreciate and cherish their uniqueness.
  • It’s not what you have but who you are that matters in the end.
  • When you do little things and make the extra effort it may seem that no one notices; but in the end, you will have changed and enriched people’s lives.

We are going to sing one more song. Let’s sing about the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ.

[Because He Lives]

Our Father, thank you for sending Howard into our lives. Thank you for his kindness, his love and his character. Thank you most of all for his faith and his faithfulness, for in these things he pointed us to You. You are our source of strength, You are our life, You are our hope even in the midst of sadness.

Please comfort this family. Such a big hole has been left in their lives. Grant Marilyn your strength and your guidance. She faces time ahead without her partner of so many years. You have promised to be a husband to those who have none. Please do that in Marilyn’s life.

Grant that the memories remain sharp. Help us to remember the lessons we have learned by watching Howard’s life. And yes, help us to follow the example that has been set.  We ask for your strength to this end in the strong and everlasting name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.