6 N Main • Caldwell, KS • 620-845-6424
Rev. Howard West
Date of Birth February 22, 1925
Date of Death February 1, 2010[img_assist|nid=128|title=|desc=|link=url|align=right|width=149|height=200]
Howard Wendell West, 84, a retired Elder of the Central Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church, was born February 22, 1925 in Deerfield, Kansas, the third son born to Franklin G. and Nelle Barnes West. He had two older brothers, Madison and Kenneth, with the births of Janice and Duane, Howard became the middle child.
Growing up in Deerfield, he had many jobs including working at the grocery store and getting up early to deliver the newspaper. He learned to play the harmonica and guitar when a relative came to town to break horses. Friends would gather on the porch after work and sing and play. The cousin always told Howard not to bother his guitar while he was away working, knowing that Howard, eager to learn to play, would succumb to temptation. A farmer gave him his first guitar after he worked a week for him.
Music was always a part of his life and was a most satisfying hobby. At Garden City high school he was in vocal music groups, soloist in operettas, and was in the band. He spent many hours in his retirement playing his keyboard. After moving back to Kansas in 1998, he played the harmonica and guitar with the Harmonica Hombres at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson and at Cowtown performances in Wichita. He also did solo engagements at the Winfield Veteran’s Home each month and regularly entertained at area nursing homes. He was especially honored to present a varied program for a Harry Hynes Memorial Volunteer Recognition Dinner in Wichita. He sang and played the guitar and harmonica and wrote a song to honor the volunteers for their service.
His “short leg,” a result of being struck by a car when playing football in the street which was US #50, kept him from serving in the military. He accepted his Call to ministry and began his preaching career in June 1944 in the Minneola Methodist Church. He enrolled in Southwestern College in Winfield in 1944 and graduated with the Class of 1948. He preached every weekend during college in churches in Cowley County. In 1947 he became associate minister at the Arkansas City church.
After serving the Rozel Methodist Church from 1948-1950, he enrolled in Iliff School of Theology in Denver, living in Idaho Springs and serving the Central City/Idaho Springs churches. After receiving his Master of Theology degree, he returned to Kansas and served Rush Center/Nekoma, Hill City, and Dawson UMC in Wichita. From 1965-1970 he was the Associate Program Director of the Nebraska Annual Conference Program Council. From 1970-1976 he was an associate pastor at Good Shepherd UMC in Colorado Springs and Longmont UMC. After serving one year as the first fulltime pastor at the Rinn UMC in Colorado, he moved to Pennsylvania in 1977 and served the Morgan Run Charge, McVeytown, Lewistown and Benton where he retired in 1995. After retirement he served the Petersburg Charge for three years.
After the death of his wife Sue, he married Gweneth McDonald Reeder January 1, 1998 in the Alexandria, PA UMC and moved back to Kansas in August 1998. For 10 years he lived in Caldwell, a community he came to love. He requested that his funeral be held in the Caldwell United Methodist Church as he lived in Caldwell longer than any other place in his adult life.
After introducing himself as “Mr. Gweneth” when he gave the invocation at the alumni banquet in 1999 honoring Gweneth’s 50th anniversary class, he quickly became involved in church and community activities establishing his own identity. After wearing a clergy collar during his active ministry, with his move back to Caldwell, a true historic Cowtown, Howard began wearing western attire, including boots and Cowboy hats. He had a lifetime membership in the Historical Society and participated in several of their programs.
Lasting friendships were made when he served the Caldwell Central Christian Church for 10 weeks. After Rev. Steve Allen’s appointment, he and Steve became close friends as did several members of their congregation. He was chairman of the board at the Caldwell Senior Center for several years and was interested in the various community endeavors.
With his children and their families all living in Pennsylvania and Virginia, he and Gweneth tried to spend at least six weeks “back East” each year. He cared little about visiting historical sites enroute but found great enjoyment in visiting friends in each of the parishes he had served.
After two trips east in 2007 for grandson Blaine’s graduation and Eagle Scout Ceremony and Eric and Emily’s wedding, he suggested perhaps it would be a good idea if family would come see him in Kansas. A trip to Nebraska in 2009 for the decommissioning of the conference office and to see dear friends seemed such a long journey, that he commented he wasn’t ready to make any more long trips by car.
He thoroughly enjoyed keeping in touch with friends by telephone. His daughter commented she couldn’t believe it when he called his second grade teacher just to visit and Rebekah commented, “She’d have been a really old lady by then.” A month after moving to Caldwell he scheduled a trip to Canon City CO just to see the Rev. Raymond Knowles, then 93 years old, who was the pastor at the Garden City church when he committed his life to Christ. On the return trip, time was spent in Garden City with his high school classmates celebrating their 61st anniversary.
Then there were trips to Branson, California, and Albuquerque with friends who graduated from Garden City High School in the ‘40s. West family reunions were held in Nashville, Fort Worth, Kansas City, and Tulsa and a most memorable reunion occurred when all the children and their families joined Wendell and Helen Counsell and Howard and Gweneth for a long weekend at Green Hills, a United Methodist camp on the beautiful Juniata River near Huntingdon PA. Another highlight for Howard was being a part of the 50th anniversary reunion in 2003 of the 1953 Iliff Seminary graduates.
A special picture on his office wall is of Howard and Sue with President and Mrs. Carter and daughter Amy after attending the Sunday School class in Plains, GA taught by the President. Another highlight was when former President Clinton reached out and shook his hand when he and Gweneth were visiting the Clinton Library the day after sitting in the rain during the library’s opening ceremony.
With the move to Grassland Estates in May 2008, Howard quickly made more friends and was determined to learn the names and know personally each of the over 100 residents. It wasn’t long before Gweneth was playing the organ for the chapel service and Howard played the piano with her for 15 minutes before the service. He didn’t know what hymns she had chosen but would join in after he heard the opening notes. He would often suggest he preferred hymns in “four flats.” For over a year Howard has been preaching every third Sunday at Grasslands. He also became active in the Wichita Area Retired Ministers, serving as chairman of the local group and of the Kansas West Conference Retirees, presiding at the 2009 luncheon in Salina.
He spent his last seven days in one of the 15 beds at the Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice on the 8th floor at Via Christi St. Francis Hospital in Wichita. He died there the morning of Feb. 1, 2010, just three weeks shy of his 85th birthday, having celebrated his and Gweneth’s 12th anniversary on Jan. 1st.
He began his “family of daughters” when his wife Helen (Handley) gave birth to Gweneth Lucretia, Deborah Jolene, and Lori Ann. After his marriage to Sue (Funk) Haney in 1970, he gained more girls: Mari Sue, Jennifer, Rebekah, and DeAnne. Although he never had a son, Claren McQueen never misses sending him a card and usually calling on Father’s Day whether he’s in Florida, Israel, or visiting his parents in Tulsa.
Howard is survived by his wife, Gweneth Reeder West. Daughters: Gweneth West, Jolene West Webb, Lori West (John) Vernon, Rebekah (Brad) Howe and stepdaughter, Kay (Kurt) Denton. Granddaughters: Jennifer (Martin) Reihart, DeAnne (Nick) Bergstrom, Megan Vernon, and Meg Denton. Grandsons: Peter, Eric (Emily), Ian, and Blaine Vernon; Franklin and Jeffrey Webb, Cody Howe, and Adam Denton. Great-grandchildren: Benjamin and Thomas Reihart and Leah, Tyler and Nicki Bergstrom. Brothers: Kenneth (Carolyn) West and Duane (Orvileta) West. Sister: Janice (Danny Trayer) Lee, sister-in-law Melvina West, and his former wife, Helen Counsell. He was preceded in death by his parents, Frank and Nelle West; brother, Madison West; wife, Sue and daughter, Mari Sue Crowley.
Memorials may be given in Howard’s memory to Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice, 313 S Market ST, Wichita KS 67202-3805; Caldwell United Methodist Church, 110 West Central, Caldwell KS 67022; or to the Caldwell UMC for Camp Horizon where Howard and Helen met Gweneth McDonald, a 17-year-old camper, in 1948.
Services will be at the Caldwell United Methodist Church at 4:00 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010 with Rev. Jan McDaniel and Rev. Steve Allen officiating. Burial will be by his late wife Sue at the Bloomsburg, PA Cemetery after memorial services at the Danville, PA United Methodist Church.