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Monday, July 14, 1997
Salado couple shared passions for church, each
By MELISSA WILLIAMS
DALLAS - The morning Lela and Raymond Howard climbed into her
maroon Oldsmobile and took off for Pioneer Days, a fiddling festival
15 miles away in Temple, her 57-year-old son implored her to let
"He was begging her, 'Let me take you,' " 43-year-old
Rhonda Alford, one of Mrs. Howard's five grandchildren, recalled
of that June 28 morning. "She said, 'No, we know where to
go. We go every year.' "
On Saturday, the elderly couple were found dead in their vehicle,
hidden by dense brush more than 350 miles from home near Hot Springs,
Ark. Authorities said they apparently became disoriented and eventually
drove off the road. No foul play was suspected.
It was a wrenching conclusion to two weeks of frantic searching
by law enforcement agencies and relatives.
But family members said that if there were any consolation
to be had, they found it in knowing the two were together at the
"They were pretty much inseparable," Cathy Drake,
53, said Sunday of her father and the woman he married in 1986
after both had lost spouses. "It was one of these kinds of
relationships you don't really see happen that late in life."
Howard, 88, was a carpenter who helped build Fort Hood during
the 1940s, had two daughters 12 years apart and was married to
Ethel Howard for 53 years before her death.
Mrs. Howard, 83, was married nearly 40 years to a farmer, Jesse
Copeland, and had worked as a beautician after her son and daughter
were grown. On Saturday mornings, she liked to have granddaughter
Rhonda do her hair, fixing it just so for Sunday church and her
round of visits to family and friends during the week.
It was at that very church, First Nazarene in Belton, that
she met her second husband. Both families had attended for years,
and after Howard's wife died, they got to talking after Sunday
morning and evening services.
"It didn't take them too long," Mrs. Drake said.
In short order they were married at a parson's house in San
Antonio. The couple set up housekeeping at Mrs. Howard's home
and pursued their mutual interests - socializing, going to church
events, just getting out and about.
About two years ago, Raymond Howard was in a car accident and
had to have surgery to relieve swelling in his skull, Mrs. Drake
said. After that, he had headaches and memory problems for which
a doctor prescribed medicine he declined to take. But he didn't
stop driving until a few months ago when he hit a parked car with
his pickup. His children took away the keys, sold the vehicle
and told his wife never to let him drive again.
Mrs. Howard was in good shape physically and still drove the
10 miles to church, but had recently shown signs of forgetfulness
and disorientation, especially late in the day, Mrs. Alford said.
"The last couple of months, it was getting to the point
where my mom and her brother were going to have to do something,"
Mrs. Alford said. "In the morning she was just really with
it, but by afternoon she was just tired or something wasn't quite
Raymond Howard's side of the family brought up the possibility
of a home health aide, but the couple declined.
Now at least some family members regret that they didn't intervene
"We wish we would have disabled the car or taken the keys,"
said Charlotte Copeland, Mrs. Howard's daughter-in-law, "but
you can always look back and think of things you could have done."
Funeral arrangements are pending until Arkansas authorities
complete autopsies. Send
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