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Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Al Howden, it is easy to see the love that he had for his family. He took his role as a father to heart, but it could be argued that there was nothing better in his book than becoming a grandfather with the birth of his beloved granddaughter. Al was a simple guy who didn’t need fancy things, and he was genuine and respectful in how he treated those around him. He worked hard, but he took the time to enjoy life along the way, often with his family and friends by his side. Life will never be the same without Al here, but he leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that his loved ones will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.
It was exciting in America during the 1950s. Televisions were becoming part of our homes like never before, and with shows like I Love Lucy and Father Knows Best the way we saw the American family was transformed. Alaska and Hawaii became our 49th and 50th states, and it was also during this decade that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus. During this same time there was great anticipation in the hearts and lives of Wendell and Mable Howden as they were eagerly awaiting the birth of their new baby as the beauty of fall began to unfold in New York in September of 1953. The big day finally arrived on September 24th when the baby boy they named Alan was welcomed into the world. Raised in the family home in Upstate New York, he was the oldest of three as he was raised in the family home alongside his siblings, Bruce and Susan. Al attended local schools and ran both track and cross-country in high school.
In the 1970s Al came to the Kalamazoo, Michigan, area to work at the General Motors factory in Comstock. From that point forward it was the place he called home. When the factory closed, Al was forced to find other work, but with his strong work ethic it wasn’t hard. He began working at Eckridge until they closed, and he later worked at Bermo Enterprises and was downsized out. Even when he was 58, Al was able to find work at Parker Hannifin, working in their parts crib. He truly enjoyed working there despite working long hours on the night shift. However, Al was looking forward to retirement just to get out of the hustle and bustle of the daily grind. After retirement Al planned on taking it easy and getting a part-time job at Menard’s since it was something that interested him from the time he was young as his parents owned a hardware store. No matter where he was working, Al was a loyal worker who was very dedicated to his work.
Although his work was important, there was never anything of greater significance in Al’s life than his loved ones. He married Joni Sherwood, and although they were only married for a few years Al was so blessed that they welcomed their son, Eric, together. As a single father, Al treasured the time he and Eric spent together. Friday evenings usually found them at the Kalamazoo Speedway. They may have gone there to watch the race, but they also built their relationship and made priceless memories along the way. Later on, Al married Linda Maag, and they had many wonderful years together. To his life, Linda brought her three children, Mike, Pam, and Amanda, and he loved them and treated them as though they were his own. On November 12, 2014, Al’s life was forever changed when Eric and his wife, Natalie, welcomed their little girl, Brooklyn into the world, and Al was smitten right from the start. That Christmas was really a special time, and he bought so many presents for his granddaughter that year it was crazy. Al loved spending time with Brooklyn, and he got right down at her level and just had fun with her. It was clear to anyone who saw them together that she was the apple of his eye!
Throughout his life Al was a man of many interests who was always on the go. Al was an avid sports fan and was constantly watching some ball game on television, but his true passion was NASCAR racing. His favorite drivers were Dale Earnhardt and then Kyle Bush, and he attended so many races that he even had a big frame with all the tickets from the races that he had attended over the years. Every Father’s Day his son took him to Michigan International Speedway for an exciting day of races. These outings eventually became family affairs as Natalie and Brooklyn would join them for a weekend of camping and family fun at the racetrack. Around home he had a neat lawn and a meticulously cleaned house. Al enjoyed bowling, horseshoes, being around friends, and participating in fantasy racing. He also liked exploring the beaches along Lake Michigan with his friend, Suzanne. Al liked listening to classic rock and loved a good Italian sausage sandwich. He got together with friends whenever he could, and he always greeted family members with a big hug. Every goodbye always included an, “I love you,” and he ended every text with Eric with, “I love you,” as well.
Al Howden will be remembered for his good sense of humor, his example of hard work, and his contagious zest for life, but what he will be remembered for most was his unending devotion to his family. Al was kind and generous toward others, and when someone did something for him he was so appreciative. He was a hugger, and he also made sure others knew just how special they were. Al will never be forgotten.
Al Howden, of Kalamazoo, died unexpectedly on Thursday, October 4, 2018.
Members of his family include his son Eric (Natalie) Howden and their daughter Brooklyn; 2 siblings, Bruce (Jackie) Howden, Susan (Cliff) Kulikowski; former wife, Linda Howden and her children: Mike, Pam, Amanda. Cremation has taken place. A funeral service will be held at 4 p.m. on Thursday at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive; Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900 and a reception will follow immediately after the service in the Life Story Center. Please visit Al’s personal web page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial donations may be made to a charity of your choice.