POLAND – Howard B. Friend, 96, died peacefully on early Friday morning, December 31, 2021, at the Inn at Poland Way with his children by his side.
Howard, known affectionately by many as “Hi,” was born on December 27, 1925 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to George and Ruth Bryar Friend.
Raised in the Mahoning Valley, Howdy graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School on June 6, 1944, D-Day, and entered service eight days later after being drafted into the US Army. He served as an infantry machine gunner in the Third Army under General George C. Patton and was bedridden wounded on January 9, 1945 in the Battle of the Bulge. He returned to Youngstown in May 1946 after his honorable discharge from the Army and the hospital. Howdy was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals for his meritorious service and was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame in 2017.
Upon returning home, Howdy went to Camp Fitch YMCA for a rehabilitation on his knee and met Ellen “Device” Williams, whose father was the warehouse manager. They married on June 17, 1950 and celebrated 63 wonderful years together before she passed away on August 19, 2013. Howdy and Gert lived together in Poland, raised their three children and welcomed nine grandchildren and 15 great-grandparents-grandchildren. Howdy was a true family man in every way who loved her unconditionally, offered his guidance and encouragement, and was always present for the many milestones, accomplishments, and extracurricular activities of his children and grandchildren.
Mr. Friend received his bachelor’s degree in education from Mount Union College in 1950 and his master’s degree in educational administration and counseling from Westminster College in 1955. Mr. Friend began his teaching career at Boardman Schools and later at Woodrow Wilson High School before taking administrative positions at Woodrow Wilson High School, Chaney High School, Princeton Junior High School, Poland Seminary High School, and Mahoning County Joint Vocational School, where he retired as Headmaster & Technical Center in 1981 recognized Mr. Friend’s educational contributions and included him on their Wall of Fame. Over the course of his 31 year teaching career, Mr. Friend led countless committees, organizations, fundraisers, and programs to better serve his students and their communities. After his retirement he worked in the marketing department of the building society and loan company for nine more years.
Howdy developed a love for sport from a young age that he wore all his life. While playing football in high school, it was named All-City End in 1942 and All-City Fullback and All-County Fullback the following year. He was among the first athletes to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at Woodrow Wilson High School. During his teaching career at Boardman and Woodrow Wilson, he shared his love for football and basketball from the sidelines as a coach. For more than 35 years he supported the section and district basketball tournaments of the Ohio High School, was also involved with the Poland Athletic Boosters and the Poland Baseball Association, led their Little League for 10 years and coached the Pony League for two years. For his numerous contributions to the sport, Mr. Friend was inducted into the Curbstone Coaches Hall of Fame.
Active in the community, Howdy has been a member of an infinite number of clubs and organizations including The Four Square Club, Poland Optimist Club, Disabled American Veterans, Poland Swim and Tennis Club, Poland Village Design and Review Board, Phi -Delta Kappa, Habitat for Humanity, Youngstown Playhouse, Colony Dance Club, and many professional educational organizations and associations. Within these memberships, Mr. Friend held many leadership and officer positions. Howdy, a member of the Poland United Methodist Church in his 60s, served his church as a Sunday School teacher and served on the board of trustees, finance committee, and council of churches. Howdy and Gert kept Camp Fitch YMCA, where their love story began all those years ago, very close to their hearts. Howdy and his wife served on the Camp Fitch Board of Directors for many years, devoting considerable time to volunteering, support, campaigning, and fundraising for the success of the program. Howdy was also very proud to be a longtime member of the Youngstown YMCA, who served on the Board of Trustees for many years, advocating and fundraising for the association.
Faithful and loving, Howdy lived a life well lived serving his God, country, family, students, and community. He often said “I’m one of the happiest guys in the world.”
Howdy leaves to carry on his legacy, his children Howard T. (Cathi) Friend of Columbiana, David Scott (Susan) Friend of Lexington, Kentucky, and Judith Friend (Craig) Sheetz of New Springfield; his nine grandchildren who affectionately called him “Pa”, Alison (Drew) Thibaut, Megan Friend, Howard Christopher (Julie) Friend, Marc (Meghan) Friend, Sarah (Dennis Gilligan) Friend, Matt (Brittni) Friend, Tim (Hollie) Sheetz, Amy (Greg) Thompson and David Friend Sheetz ; 15 great-grandchildren, Lucy, Ruthie and Bryar Thibaut, Howard, Mia and Michael Friend, Molly and Ellie Friend, Evelyn and Williams Gilligan, Annie Friend and Zachary, Lucas, Beaux and Blake Thompson; Brothers, James “Sonny” (Mary) friend of Boardman and Richard (Nancy) friend of Columbus; and brother-in-law Paul Merifield of Los Angeles, California.
In addition to his parents and wife, Howdy preceded his sister Ruth Merifield and brother George Friend in death.
Due to the current pandemic situation, a private memorial service with subsequent military honor is only held at the Poland Riverside Cemetery for the immediate family. A celebration of life ministry will be announced to the public at a later date.
All memorial services may take the form of donations on behalf of Mr. Friend to Camp Fitch YMCA, 12600 Abels Rd., New Springfield, PA 16430 that will be used for the maintenance and upkeep of Friend Circle, an amphitheater named Howdy and Gert’s Honors, or to the Four Square Foundation, 110 S. Shore Dr., Boardman, OH 44512.
The family would like to express their appreciation and Dr. Walter Passarello, Dr. Larry Dinopoulos, Jalynn Brown, Crossroads Hospice, Inn at Poland Way and the staff at Inner Circle Pizza for their compassion, care and friendship with Howdy. to thank .
The Cunningham-Becker funeral parlor in Poland will handle the transaction. Please visit www.beckerobits.com to share family memories and condolences online.