By Darren Lum
In a world when losses seems to grow Chester Howse’s passing is difficult to take, but it is not the last thing I will remember about him.
It’s the big smile. It’s his enthusiasm and ever-lasting joy. An interaction wouldn’t happen without a bright and large smile and good-natured quip. You couldn’t help but feel good after an interaction with him. He was authentic and genuine. He was a connector in the community, bringing causes to the forefront and uniting people.
When I started seeking comments several weeks ago for this story about him, I got the sense his death was still fresh and raw for people who knew Chester. His height in stature was equal to his place in the community and the causes he backed such as the refurbishment of the CF-100 fighter jet, efforts with the Haliburton Curling Club and the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 129 Haliburton.
Chester was 85. He died in his sleep on Thursday morning, June 30 and was the loving husband of Barbara Wood (nee Reid) and the late Shirley Howse (nee Bishop).
The retiree, who worked for De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited (now Longview Aviation Capital Corporation), has a legacy of community work, but he also left virtually everyone he engaged with a sense of warmth and joy. Most know the quote, often referenced, but difficult to live out: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” American poet, Maya Angelou said. Chester embodied this better than most.
His one and only child, Heather Sferino wrote in an email she was “definitely a daddy’s girl.”
“Being an only child gave me lots of one on one time with both my dad and my mom, Shirley before she passed several years ago. Of course, when the one and only grandchild Adam came along he was the centre of my dad’s attention. Adam could do no wrong, which was exactly what my dad always said about me,” she wrote.
She said her father was a strong family man, and committed to the community, which included initiatives such as the poppy campaign and veterans. It’s his love for the community she wants the public to remember.
“That would be his love for Haliburton, making a difference in that community and that when someone needed something done he would work like crazy to make sure it happened and his smile when he went through the community. His brother Claude described it best, ‘walking down the main street with Chester was like walking with a celebrity, everyone knew his name and always yelled out to him on the street,’” she wrote.
This notoriety is something Barbara Wood, his widow wrote the Echo about, saying she had heard of him long before they ever met.
“I have lived in Haliburton since 1983 and although I had heard of the infamous Chester Howse [I] never got to meet him personally prior to 2018. In early 2018 I met Chester through events at the Haliburton Legion and later that year we developed a more personal relationship. In late 2019, we were married in St. Anthony of Padua Church right here in Haliburton. Our first Christmas together was spent in Brampton with Chester’s daughter and her family. In January 2020 we travelled off to Florida for a two month “honeymoon.” We arrived back in Haliburton one week before the COVID 19 lockdown. Needless to say our social life was put on hold. By now Chester had decided to step back from his public endeavours and pass the reins on to anyone that was willing to put in the time and effort that he had shown over the years. He said he had done his community time and now it was his time.
Although Chester was publicly contributing to the community, his personal life was very private. I heard a friend say ‘everything with Chester is a big secret.’ Sadly, little did we know his life was to be taken so quickly and our time together so short. I will remember Chester for his kindness and patience. As many have said, he was one of a kind and I have to agree with them. Rest in peace Chester,” Barbara said.
Past neighbour and one-time political opponent Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts respected Chester for his commitment to the community.
“He and his first wife, Shirley, moved from Percy Lake into our neighborhood. He was president of our property association for around 10 years. Once he was living in town he decided to run for Ward 1 in 2006 so he was my opponent. Early on in the campaign we shook hands and said good luck because we both liked and respected each other. I was able to get to know Chester socially over the years and he always had a smile, a hug and maybe even a joke for you. His contributions to the curling club, Legion, and our neighbourhood will always be remembered,” she wrote.
Mary Hillaby, past-president and long-time member of the Haliburton Curling Club, wrote, “Chester was a fun loving, well respected president and member of Haliburton Curling Club. He was instrumental in the addition to the club’s building while being president and, as a result, there is a wood engraved sign above the bar affectionately named ‘Chester’s House.’ He was smart, passionate and a great curler. Everyone loved Chester.”
Chester’s friend Bruce Martin acknowledges his friend’s efforts, but also the fortitude to see things through to their completion.
“I first met Chester when he was a starter at Pinestone Golf Course in the late 70s. My wife and I got reacquainted with him in 1997 when we joined the Haliburton Curling Club where he was the president and remained so for 14 years. He then retired as president of the curling club and moved across the street to become the 1st vice-president of [the Royal Canadian Legion] Branch 129. He did a wonderful job in both of these capacities. I am sure Chester would like to be remembered for his excellent work at these two organizations. When Chester undertook a job he did not stop until it was completed extremely efficiently. I will remember Chester as a fun loving, hard working man who contributed a great deal to the Village of Haliburton,” Bruce wrote.
Long-time Legion member, Ed Pickard said it was close to 40 years now since he met Chester.
“I first met Chester in the late 1980s when he had a cottage on Percy Lake and I was living o n Redstone. We joined the curling club at about the same time, and over the years we had a team that travelled to various other rinks, such as Fenelon Falls, Bobcaygeon, Minden, and as far away as Huntsville and Guelph. As many people know, he was instrumental in having the lounge in the curling club enlarged, and spent many hours getting permits and contractors for that project. At that time I was quite involved with the Legion , and Chester came on to the executive. He had many connections in the aircraft industry, and mainly through his efforts, the CF-100 that was badly in need of repair, was completely repainted and refurbished. I spent many hours over the years enjoying the friendship of Chester and his family. He will be sorely missed. RIP Chester,” Ed wrote.
Golfing buddy Dave Allen, Chester’s friend for 20 years, provided an excerpt from the eulogy he gave for his friend, who he also curled with.
“As many of you know, Chester was past-president of the Haliburton Curling Club and was instrumental in expanding the club’s facilities at the time. As a result of the expansion, an old tree had to be removed at the front entrance, and from the beautiful tree a plank was created aptly named Chester’s House, which now overlooks the bar … What a better place!?
Allen added no matter if they won or lost at a league game or in a bonspiel, Chester “had a smile on his face.”
He said the refurbishment for the CF-100 fighter jet, which is on the pedestal at the Gary G. Brohman Athletic Field in Haliburton, is because of Chester.
“Every time I go by the jet, I think of the guy who got it done!” he said.
Also, Chester helped with “bringing in much needed grant money and keeping the Legion going in those difficult days. There was no grass growing under his feet.”
For all the places Allen went to golf with Chester, Gary Thorpe AKA “Thumper,” Terry Gregorini and the late-Al DeGrave in Ontario, as a result of buying golf passes from people who were CanoeFM Radiothon winners and didn’t golf, the group appreciated golfing at the Pinestone since it was a lot closer to the Haliburton Legion’s Club room for a post-golf social.
“Chester was the real deal, and they broke the mould after him. He was salt of the Earth and a proud Newfoundlander. We’ll miss you Ches. Rest in peace,” he said.