Howard Lee Mendenhall
Nov. 9, 1936-Sept. 25, 2023
Howard Lee Mendenhall, affectionally called Mendy, passed peacefully with family at his side on September 25, 2023, at the age of 86 in Pleasanton, California. Howard Mendenhall lived his life to serve others. His kind and caring nature extended to everyone he met, and he was active in his community as well as around the world. He was patient and kind, anticipating the needs of others and taking care of them without being asked.
Born in Hurley, Missouri to Harry and Nellie Mendenhall, he was the youngest of 9 children with a 25-year span between oldest and youngest. Howard, the baby of the family, attended kindergarten with his nieces. He was raised in a farmhouse with a well and a pump in the kitchen and no electricity until he was 12 years old. Stone County is known for being rocky and Howard would joke to his children that his family's crop was rocks because they spent so much time each year clearing out the rocks in the pastures and fields. Howard joined the Air Force at the age of 18 after graduating from Hurley High School. He played basketball for the Air Force and traveled throughout Europe. After his tour of duty, he attended Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and landed a mechanic position with United Airlines. This began his 40-year career, moving up to management and operations before ending as a contract negotiator. He met his wife, Diana, in San Francisco while she was a flight attendant. Diana's roommate told her, "You have to meet this man, I think you'll like him", and that started a 60-plus-year love affair. While working at United’s headquarters in Chicago, he served on the Buffalo Grove, Ill. City Council and, Planning Commission, and as a trustee for Kingswood United Methodist Church. He also volunteered for the Countryside Center for the Handicapped. Howard was a friend to all and coached local sports teams and refereed basketball. He was the first to build a treehouse, a backyard ice skating rink, and Pinewood Derby cars for neighborhood kids. In 1983, Howard accepted a promotion and moved the family back to Pleasanton, CA. He became even more active in volunteering, starting with Habitat for Humanity East Bay in 1985. He loved to work with his hands and serve others that way. He and Diana built homes in the Bay Area as well as internationally as far away as Nepal and Mongolia. He traveled down to New Orleans as a team leader with 5 different teams to assist in the rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina, as well as to Romania 5 times to build an orphanage with Assist International. He worked on rebuilding after the fires in Calaveras County and the tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri and Moore, Oklahoma.
Locally, he served at Open Heart Kitchen and the Alameda County Foodbank. Howard was a recipient of the 1st Community of Character Award in Pleasanton in 2008. But Howard did not give so he could receive rewards or accolades; it was about creating a better world through love and support. It was about his belief that the world is a great place and people are inherently good, some just need an extra hand. Howard’s giant hands were sometimes just what they needed. He is survived by his beloved wife of 60 years, Diana, daughter Laurie Fraser, son Matthew Mendenhall and daughter-in-law Shelly Husbands; God-daughter Michelle Smith Napier and her husband Jack Napier; great nephews Gregory and Trevor Smith Napier; brothers Mark Burnley and Allen Scott and sister Joan Webb; nieces Jakie Flood, Shelby Ullom, and nephews Lynn, Jim and Bill Mendenhall; and Stephen Raper; and niece Mary Evelyn Wright.