Howard Wayne Hildenbrand, 92, died peacefully at Aldersgate Village, Topeka, as his daughter Patricia held his hand and read him Psalm 23.
Howard was born May 7, 1928 in Lawrence, Kansas, to Lola Lida (Schulz) and Albert Jacob Hildenbrand. He was what would today be termed a rainbow child, as his older sister died at birth in 1924. He was extremely excited when his sister, Lois Irene, joined the family in 1934, so much so that he ran in circles laughing and jumping on the couch.
Howard and Lois were both loved and cherished dearly by their family as they grew up on the family farm. They raised chickens, hogs, cattle, row crops, and gardens. Despite growing up in the “dirty thirties,” the family did not go hungry. Howard could recall one of the famous storms that darkened the skies.
Howard attended the Deer Creek one-room school as a child, where the six-foot-tall Mrs. Hanna skipped him through two grades. (He later served on the Deer Creek school board.) He was ready to begin high school during World War II, so he stayed with his grandparents, Minnie and George Hildenbrand, and graduated from Highland Park High School as the class salutatorian in 1944. He received a scholarship to attend Washburn University and did so for a year following graduation. He then returned to farming with his father. When it became clear that he would be drafted, Howard enlisted in the US Army (1954-1957).
The family was an integral part of the Stull community, as his great-grandfather Jacob Hildenbrand had been one of the founding members of what is now the Stull United Methodist Church (UMC) and donated the land for the Stull Cemetery. Howard’s earliest memory was that of being baptized at the church, and he was a lifelong member of Stull UMC. In keeping with Jesus’ instruction that “if any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all and servant of all,” Howard served the church community in many capacities for many years. He served as the church treasurer for 37 years (a position that previously his grandfather and father had held), taught Sunday School, served as Sunday School Superintendent, was the Stull representative/organizer of the Clinton Lake Ministries, served as recording secretary for the Six-Area Church Council, and also led the United Methodist Youth Fellowship, to name a few of the hats he wore.
Unsurprisingly, Howard met his wife, Doris May Hollander, in Holton, KS at an area church youth event. He proposed to Doris over the phone while he was serving in the Army, and they wed the day after her 21st birthday, January 2, 1955. She joined him in Washington, DC, where she served as the operating room supervisor at Hadley Memorial Hospital while Howard served at Andrews Air Force Base in supply, eventually becoming a sergeant.
Howard and Doris returned to the Stull community after he completed his military service. They had a home built on the land Howard had bought down the road from his father’s farm. Howard lived in his home until his health issues necessitated his move to Aldersgate in 2020.
Howard and Doris also served their country as federal employees. Howard worked for the Social Security Administration for 26 years, retiring in 1987. He began as a Claims Representative and became an Operations Analyst (Operations Assistant) for the Topeka District, traveling to branch offices in Lawrence, Manhattan, Emporia, and Ottawa to review claims and provide training and coaching to Claims Representatives. As a registered nurse (RN), Doris cared for Veterans for more than three decades at the Colmery-O’Neil Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center in Topeka, KS.
After his retirement, Howard read meters for Kaw Valley Electric Cooperative (1987-2011) and became an active member of the Tecumseh Kiwanis, taking an active role in cake-baking and reading to kindergartners at Tecumseh North.
Family was also very important to them. Doris always had a special place in her heart for adopted children, and Howard and Doris looked forward to having children of their own. As Doris said, however, “God only sent” Patricia Emily to join them in 1973. Howard, Doris, and Patricia spent several years caring for Howard’s parents, Doris’ parents, and Howard’s uncle, Roy Schulz.
1988 brought life-altering changes. Howard’s father, Albert, died in a house fire while Patricia was attending the United Methodist Summer Assembly. Then, on October 15, 1988, Doris lost her four-year battle with colon cancer. The summer before she died, Doris said, “I have been a maverick all of my life. It is no surprise to me my cells are mavericks too.” Howard loved his daughter deeply and although would not have chosen the role of single father, provided his daughter with his positive outlook, loving kindness, wisdom, patience, and grace for the remainder of his life.
2019 was a difficult year of transition as he lost many he loved best, including his sister Lois Irene (Hildenbrand) Condley and his cousin Wilma Schwemmer.
Howard was fascinated by trains, the weather, electricity, cats, and stock markets. He was an avid reader, subscribing to the Wall Street Journal and the Lawrence Journal-World for years. He was a devoted supporter of his alma mater, Washburn University (BBA, Class of 1961), as well as KTWU Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Kansas Public Radio, the Salvation Army, the Stull UMC Harvesters Food Ministry, and Starlight Theatre.
He will be missed by his many family members, friends, neighbors, and community members. Surviving family members (all of Topeka) include his daughter, Patricia Emily Hildenbrand (Charles “Bud” Banks); granddaughter, Maya Emily Hildenbrand; niece, Julia (Condley) Strobel (David); nephews, Roy Condley, William Myers (Carol), and Charles Myers; great-nieces and great-nephews; and one great-great nephew. He was predeceased by his parents; his wife, Doris May (Hollander) Hildenbrand; his older infant sister; and his beloved sister, Lois Irene (Hildenbrand) Condley.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions to any of the following in care of Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home:
· Washburn University (memo: Howard Hildenbrand Business Scholarship Fund),
· Stull United Methodist Church, or
You may also honor Howard with a contribution to the charity of your choice or your service doing acts of kindness, large or small, to bring social justice to our world.
Howard will lie in state at Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home on Tuesday, October 6, 2020, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.