Frontier Homestead and the Cedar City community suffered a loss as Gary L. Howe, the former chair of our museum foundation, passed away quietly at home on Friday, January 18, 2019, from causes related to pancreatic cancer. Gary was born on February 6th, 1952 in American Fork, Utah, and raised in Centerville, Utah in a loving and engaged family. He met Caroline Nelson in a folk dance class while attending Brigham Young University. The two were married on Friday, May 9th, 1975. Gary graduated from BYU with a degree in ornamental horticulture, and would later earn a business degree from Southern Utah State College (now SUU). With their ever-growing family, Gary and Caroline lived in various places, including Sandy, Utah; Portland, Oregon; Saint Joseph, Missouri; and finally settled on the Nelson family farm in Iron County, Utah, where they raised seven children.
To enable his family to stay on the farm, where his children would receive a practical education in the value of honest work alongside their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, Gary worked a variety of jobs throughout his career, sacrificing some of his earlier business ambitions. He sometimes joked that he worked to support Caroline’s farming habit, but he, too, was central to the farm operation, milking cows, tending fields and animals, and repairing and improving things. Whatever he did, professionally or otherwise, the people he worked with respected him for his genuine kindness and sharp skills. He possessed a practical creativity that manifested itself in clever solutions to everyday problems. He was always searching for better ways to do things, and was happy to share anything he had learned.
He actively participated in community service and made many friends working with area organizations. He served as chair of the Iron Mission Foundation, a support organization for the Frontier Homestead State Park Museum, during the park’s sometimes contentious process of choosing a new name. When some public opposition occurred, Gary sent the following letter to the editor:
In an April 13 letter to the editor a writer argues that the name change of Iron Mission State Park is an attempt to rewrite the history of our community. As Chair of the Iron Mission Foundation I know that to be a false assumption. The Iron Mission Story is, and has always been, the core story and interpretive theme of the Museum. In fact, with the building of the replica Pioneer blast furnace and the construction of the water wheel and bellows, the Iron Mission story has an expanded presence at the Park. With these buildings and the planned expansion to include the replica wagon box camp, Cedar’s first settlement, Frontier Homestead will tell the story of our community better than ever. The name change reflects the educational and interpretive mission of the State Park and has resulted in increased visitation. More people at the Museum equals more hearing the Iron Mission story. The museum is an important part of our community and strives to create a hands on history experience for visitors. I invite anyone who has not been in a while to visit again, volunteer, or lend their talents in telling the unique story of our community.
Besides museum events, he was involved with such diverse causes as the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Tour of Utah, the Cedar Livestock and Heritage Festival, the Iron County Quilters Guild, among others. Gary was a strong presence at our events and we will miss his humor, and his wisdom and his thoughtfulness.