By BRIAN A. HOWEY

We gather here today to celebrate the life of Jack Eugene Howey. It was the proverbial life well lived for 93 years. As I stand here, I remember Dad’s advice to the various Methodist pastors he worked with over the years: A sermon should never last longer than 13.5 minutes, so I am on the clock.

These past 10 months have been tough on our family as we watched a great man recede and his memories launch out into an endless expanse of time.

Our family rallied around not only him, but also our Mother. The two of them shared an extraordinary 68 years together that began in the offices of the Indiana Daily Student at IU. They would have three children, six grandchildren. They would be among the first Western journalists to cross from Israel to Jordan on the Allenby Bridge just months after the Six Day War. They would witness topless mermaids cavorting in a huge jar at a Beirut casino, and go to a party with Abe Rosenthal and Punch Sulzberger of the New York Times in a penthouse overlooking Central Park where they hung out with Theodore White and Walter Cronkite. They would be in the room when President Nixon told a startled nation he was not a crook.

Together they attended scores of concerts, Little League games, and Bridge games. Ever since that day at Lake Yellowwood when Dad said he was seeking a wife and gave her 10 minutes to decide, they were a fabulous partnership. Dad embraced his fatherhood, sending “Secret Friend” letters to us on our birthdays, going on Scout trips, excursions to the beach and other family vacations. And, of course, there were the annual pilgrimages to Chicago White Sox games. They ran a household where kids in the neighborhood could come and go.

Family was everything to them, in part because their own families did not fit the traditional narrative. Dad’s mother, who had been hospitalized frequently, passed when he was just 16. His father went off to California, his sister to live with Aunt Julia, leaving him to live alone in that house at 123 Connecticut in Hobart as the newsreels communicated a gathering threat to civilization. He graduated Hobart High School, Class of ’43 as a star cornet player. This would be the class required by civilization to hit the beaches at Normandy a year later.

Jack Howey would opt for the summer of ’43 on the SS Arcturus, fueling the arsenal of democracy with iron ore from Lake Superior. On June 1, 1943, he found himself as a deckhand during a freak blizzard, checking dark tank ballast on the bow, and discovering 36 inches of water when it should have been dry. He, the captain, and chief engineer spent a tossed hour working on a pump, as the unrestrained anchor battered the bow plate with each gigantic wave. It was one time he acknowledged palpable fear. Fear was not an emotion he communicated often. When our family set off for Springfield, Ill., a few weeks after the Palm Sunday tornadoes in 1965, we found ourselves out on the vast prairie, surrounded by mesocyclones. He didn’t show it, but later told me it was one of the most unnerving nights of his life.

Dad tried to enlist in 1943 and was turned down due to his coke bottle glasses. He was later drafted, destined to become part of the million-man army that would invade Japan. He had a particular fondness for President Truman and his new bomb. While stationed at the West Point airfield, he dated General Patton’s niece.

He would go to Purdue for a semester and decide not to be an engineer. He would go to Indiana and be a journalist, becoming the second newspaper man in the family. He was editor of the IDS, seated at Ernie Pyle’s desk. He would help establish IU’s Little 500.

His was a Hall of Fame journalism career. It began in Fort Wayne where he roomed with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gene Miller, who spent a day on the Maumee River, coming back with turtle eggs, which subsequently became a rubbery, foul-tasting breakfast. Jack Howey would go on to the Michigan City News-Dispatch as reporter and city editor working with journalists like Al Spiers and Bill Allen, then took over at the Peru Daily Tribune as managing editor and publisher.

At Peru, he was instrumental in the push to build a new high school that still stands today, nearly 50 years later, by having the audacity to fight for and publish critical accreditation reports to convince a skeptical community. When the Ku Klux Klan tried to re-establish a foothold in town, he sat with FBI agents who had bugged the hunting lodge, then watched the participants come through an Indiana State Police roadblock. The trooper handed him a list of the attendees, and these names appeared on the front page of the Peru Daily Tribune the next day—the Klan’s comeback denied.

He helped forge Indiana’s Open Door Law with Dick Cardwell of the Hoosier State Press Association. He was a voice listened to by Hoosiers in high places. A 1977 letter from Gov. Doc Bowen started with two crisp paragraphs on the topic of 18 year-old drinking laws. It ended up with a page of handwritten asides, the writing getting smaller and smaller as Doc ran out of paper even as his thoughts grew. 

Sen. Lugar would observe in a 1979 letter, “I have enjoyed the editorials of the Peru Tribune because they articulate common sense positions with argumentation which is highly effective.”

That common sense prevailed as this small town editor sorted out an array of human dramas that included the sensational skyjacking over Peru and the ensuing manhunt back in 1971 that attracted national attention. One day a mother came to him after her daughter had been arrested. If the police report was published, the woman feared suicide. Jack Howey called around town, assessed truth in the situation, and held the report. But “only this time” he told the woman.

Dad’s advice to his kids and grandkids as we left the house was always, “Don’t do anything dumb.” When I was a teenager, I once asked him if he had ever been drunk, he responded, “What kind of a question is that?” 

He would ride along with Sen. Eugene McCarthy during the 1968 Indiana primary, meet with Israeli founding father David Ben-Gurion at his kibbutz in 1967, and have coffee with Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie. 

Jack Howey recalled how Selassie had been routed from the League of Nations 27 years prior. He wrote: Selassie “had been sort of a storybook figure to me and one of those persons that seems to be more myth than man. But at the summer palace about 40 miles outside this capital city, the myth became reality … as I sat at a little round coffee table across from and chatted for 45 minutes with Haile Selassie I, Lion of Judah and Emperor of Ethiopia. I’ve never been stirred to go out of my way to catch a glimpse of great personages, but I must admit I got a kick out of having coffee with one of the few emperors left on earth.”

On that 1963 trip to the Congo, he was there when the Katanga secessionists agreed to reunification. And there was that harrowing flight aboard a Cessna Piper he shared with the Chicago Tribune’s Arthur Veysey.  Dad wrote: “As the flight dodged mountain tops and thunderstorms, the pilot would understate, ‘The weather is not very fine.’” 

Then there was a trip to an Angolan coffee plantation, “careening 40 to 50 mph up and down the sides of mountains along roads wide enough for only one vehicle.” He assessed that it “can be a hair-raising experience, even when your hair has been plastered down by the thick clouds of red dust our caravan raised.”

As a Peru Daily Tribune columnist, there would be 421 dispatches filed, 10,000 column inches of observations, about 450,000 words or the equivalent of 77.5 newspaper pages filled solidly with type.

He wrote about John Dillinger’s hideout at Twin Bridges at U.S. 31 near what is now Grissom AFB. Dad got an eyewitness account: “There were several men and a number of girls living in the house and they’d come down and buy buttermilk and garden produce and cottage cheese. They’d buy all the buttermilk they could get and I never could figure out why they wanted so much until one of them told a neighbor they drank buttermilk to sober up.”

In one of those final columns, he talked of a letter he had received from K.T. Hartisch of Peru: “He made one statement with which I agree without reservation:  “The truthful written word is a powerful weapon. If it’s lost, perhaps all will be lost.” Dad would say, “To that I can only say, “Amen.”

And there were the letters from God he published, coming from Eugene of Maple Heights, Ohio, whose mission was to send messages from God to newspapers around the nation. “Eugene says he keeps his mind a total blank and a holy voice dictates the message to be communicated.” In December 1977, the message was simple: “Love.” To which Dad noted, “And who can knock that, whatever the source?”

Dad liked to close columns with quotes, including this one from Walter Lippmann: “The thinker dies, but his thoughts are beyond the reach of destruction. Men are mortal, but ideas are immortal.” 

The most poignant dispatch my Dad wrote came during that 1963 adventure at a camp near Nairobi. Watching the day draw to close with Mt. Kilimanjaro looming in the distance, Dad observed, “Even more satisfying was watching the last rays of the setting sun fade from Kilimanjaro’s crown and see the majestic mountain slowly become wrapped in a cover of darkness for the night. Even after full darkness fell, we still could see her snowcap shining faintly in the sky.”

Jack Eugene Howey has passed from our midst after 93 wonderful and challenging years on Earth, but his ideals are beyond destruction and his ideas of a free and informed society remain immortal. And we will always feel his energy shining, not faintly, but vividly in our minds.

We love you, Dad.