Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

From the Publisher's Desk – Visits more “Ben”eficial to me (Nov. 5, 2014 issue)

There are different forms of strength. Some people have physical strength, while others have inner strength. I never knew Ben Howze until a couple of years ago, but I can still see the large frame of the man he was. What stands out most to me is the strength of his character.
Although Ben’s large frame is much frailer than in the past, the man inside stands out as one of the strongest minds and greatest thinkers I know. He is a strength of knowledge with a gentle spirit.
I was honored to be among the guests who recently joined Ben at his home in Erwin to celebrate his 95th birthday. I have visited with Ben and his wife, Ann, several times since I got to know them.
Ben had a few visitors to brave the snow for his birthday celebration this past Saturday. Those who came, visited with him in his bedroom where he rested, propped up in bed. Ben’s face lit up, as I’ve seen it in the past. I spoke a few words to him while he held onto my hand. I warned him I was cold from the bitter weather, but he didn’t let go.
I had a card for him and he, in turn, had a card for me. On the outside were the words “Some thoughts at 95.” Inside was a small booklet to Ben’s family, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, other family and friends.
It continued with a note of how he had read much in his 95 years and wanted to share a few of his favorite texts that had stood the test of time. In the pages that follwed were the Gettysburg Address, Grant’s surrender terms for Lee at Appomattox, a passage about mercy from “The Merchant of Venice” and some selections from the Bible.
After cake and refreshments with his family, I went back in to say “goodbye” to Ben. I reached over and hugged him and told him I would see him soon. Ben’s home and his presence bring a sense of peace to my soul. He has been an inspiration to me and I only regret that I didn’t get to know him when he was younger, so I could gain more from his ways and ideas.
Although he is a member of Erwin Presbyterian Church, he has had illness since before I joined. I recall one of my first encounters was over the telephone. Ben told me he wanted to stop by the office and share some thoughts.
At that point, we set up a time and he came to the office. I didn’t realize what an effort it was for Ben to get ready and make the journey to town, getting in and out of a car. Yet, this fascinating and extremely bright, elderly gentleman had been giving thought to some things he felt were important enough to share with me.
He gave me a small preview of what he had on his mind but wanted me to find time to visit and discuss the matter in detail. The Howze’s home is very close to town, yet tucked into a serene stand of trees. It was an absolute treat for me to get away from my busy schedule at work and enter the warmth and inviting atmosphere of the couple’s home.
Ben told me he wanted me to check into making more use of our great natural resource, the Nolichucky River. He understood its value for recreation, but his mind was extending way beyond that.
Ben wanted me to reach out to higher authorities with the idea of harnessing the river for power as well as creating a small lake area somewhere along the flow, before it channels back into a river bed. Not only would this increase our recreational offerings, but it would provide a power source and jobs in the preparation and management stages.
I went back to his home a few weeks later on behalf of the church to hold communion. Ben asked me how I was doing with the project. It was obvious his mind was very active and continually thinking on the betterment of his community and the lives of others.
Again, recently, Ben said “I’ve got something I would like for you to do.” This was during the last communion service I came to share with him. I chuckled and said, “I knew you would have another project.”
I got down in the floor beside Ben. He was in his easy chair with his legs stretched out over an ottoman. He had a small coverlet over his legs. Ann said it was the longest that he had been up in awhile.
I took hold of Ben’s large hand and, in turn, he squeezed mine. I just held on as I talked with him from a kneeling stance. There was just something calming in the hands of this wise man.
This time, he wanted me to see what I could do with getting the 4-H Clubs across the country to join efforts in a project on behalf of the Monarch butterflies. He felt this would educate 4-Hers, bring them all together for one cause and bring much needed assistance to a great cause. I listened intently and wondered why no one had come up with this idea before.
Who at his age will spend hours thinking of something for the betterment of others? Often I get caught up in my own schedule and my own personal problems. I felt very honored and very humbled to be spending time with Ben and the fact that he would look to me to speak out on his behalf for his heartfelt plans.
Pastor Stan Webster prepared for communion during that visit. Ann got Ben’s Bible and his glasses so he could follow along with the passage. I later handed him the communion bread and juice.
Ben had been asked, prior to the service, if he would give the closing prayer. When it came time, he held out his hands for us to all join. We formed a circle with Pastor Stan, Ann, their daughter, Kelly, Ben and myself. Once more I got to clasp hands with Ben as he prayed a very touching and heartfelt prayer.
I feel blessed just to know this family and hope I can be as caring to my fellow man if I live to be 95 yers old. I hope others will visit with me and that, regardless of what health issues come my way, I keep the faith and offer a witness to those around me.
I feel like I always receive more than I bring when visiting with Ben. He keeps us all in his thoughts for the betterment of our community. He still has a lot more ideas to bring to the table, or maybe should I say projects in store for me to accomplish.