My Dad, Howard B. Austin

by Betty Ruth (Austin) Walker

My dad loved people; I mean REALLY loved them. He was always ready to do anything he could to make things a bit better for the other guy.

He was raised on a farm near Blue Mound, Illinois with two brothers and three sisters. Having had parents with strict morals and heavy community awareness and involvement, Howard learned early the basic Christian principles, responsibilities, duties and LOVE! Love not only of family but of his fellowman and a love of life that kept him optimistic, even enthusiastic (most of the time) until the end of his days. He was a remarkable man aside from his many talents.

Our house had a lot of music in it and we learned to appreciate our Dad's singing as well as his poetic abilities. I remember when we were all lined up in the church pew singing some of those grand old hymns. Daddy's voice rose above all, a sweet and true tenor. The rest of us, Mother, Bob, Roger, Dean and I just 'sort of went along'.

My Dad was absolutely the best conversationalist I have ever heard, bar none. No matter the circumstance, it would bring to his mind a similar happening or an anecdote that he would share. Sometimes it would be funny, sometimes heart wrenching, but always attention riveting.

When I was still in grade school I remember tiptoeing down the stairs from my bedroom being quiet as a mouse, hiding behind the stair banister to perch there listening to the lively talk as Daddy would shoot the breeze with a friend, a relative, a neighbor or members of his Sunday School class.

Daddy's collection of descriptive tales included his family and his life as a boy, a son, a Christian, a school teacher, a singer, a soldier, a banker, and at the age of thirty-five a husband and eventually a father!! This last was, of course, of utmost importance to my three brothers and myself.

I have never heard a speaker, a TV reporter, comedian, lecturer, debater, whoever, that could pack a story with a better punch! Daddy had a virtual storehouse of accents, inflections, mannerisms that he called into play to embellish his tales and the verve that made all the poems and stories sparkle, shine and truly "grab" any listener.

Christmas was a very special time for the family. Daddy usually wrote us a special Christmas poem which we looked forward to. My brothers and I always, if humanly possible, even grown, even with our own children swelling the ranks, made it back home to be with Mother and Daddy.

He was able to laugh whole heartedly at someone else's joke or pun, or at himself, as well as drawing the amusing facet of any circumstance to the fore. How we loved him!!!

It is only in these later years that I have appreciated the depth of his poetry, his understanding of human nature and his abiding faith and empathy for all mankind. Precious, precious memories!! God bless him.