I got to know Howard when I joined the Shepherd’s Gate board in 2000. Shepherd’s Gate, with campuses in Livermore and Brentwood, serves women and their children with a long-term program helping them change their lives through the love of Jesus.
He was in one of his several terms as board chair (he served more than 20 years on the board). By then, I had served on many secular non-profit boards, but this was my first faith-based board.
I have never forgotten one of his early pieces of advice. He counseled to check my business mind at the door before the board meeting because God’s ways often are not our ways. And, as I have come to learn, for most of us God doesn’t lay out the plans he has for us beyond the next step we are to take.
Howard’s core advice has served me very well for the last 18 years as I have seen God unfold delightful surprises when we have stepped out in faith.
His family and friends will miss him greatly, but we will celebrate that he’s home with Jesus and reunited with former Shepherd’s Gate CEO Steve McRee who passed in 2017.
I notified a few friends of his passing and one wrote back, “Howard was extremely generous” Another wrote that he was such a “gentle soul.”
During the memorial service last Saturday, many speakers touched on those qualities as well as many others that made Howard such a special person. As the family and friends shared thoughts during the two-hour service, a few lessons he taught his family struck me.
Howard and his family were acknowledged as one of the pillars of the church. His daughter, Dana Hotton, shared that the family took its turn to clean the church after Sunday services. The oldest two daughters vacuumed, the younger daughters picked up papers while Howard and Phyllis cleaned the restrooms.
She also said he emphasized respecting all people. Driving along a road, one the daughters made fun of a hitchhiker. Howard stopped the car, backed it up, rolled down the window and asked the offender if she had something to say to the man.
I also got a kick out of the requirement for road trips—binoculars to stop lurking highway patrol officers. I identify with that.