Howard Donald "Pokey" Midkiff was the youngest of five children born to David and Inez (Winham) Midkiff in Knight Community, Louisiana on December 19, 1935. However, if you look closely at his birth certificate, a different date is written because following the home delivery of baby Howard, the country doctor imbibed just a little too much corn liquor (after all, Prohibition was over), and when the inebriated man sobered up four days later, he simply couldn’t remember the date of his last delivery, so he finally penned December 24, and went on to enjoy Christmas, leaving Howard with an interesting tale to tell for the next 84 years.
Howard was one of 14 graduates from the Evans High School Class of 1953. Immediately after graduation, he went to work as a surveyor/meter operator for an oil and gas exploration company. Having never traveled outside small towns in Louisiana and Texas, he accepted his new position with enthusiasm, and when he was instructed to drive to North Dakota, he picked up a road map, and off he drove on the adventure.
While in Sour Lake, Texas on a survey job, Howard met the love of his life, Susan Millican, while riding around town one evening. Stopping a pretty girl on the street, and meeting for an impromptu date at a nearby soda shop led to a short courtship followed by an engagement, and finally marriage on March 31, 1956. The young couple was blissfully happy.
Greetings from the United States Army! Marital bliss went on the road, as Susan accompanied Howard to different stations. His military service took him from basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana to Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. He claimed to have almost frozen to death on maneuvers at Fort Chaffee. While camped under a tree, snow fell from a tree limb, and landed on top of him. He said he used the snow to help keep him warm. Fort Lewis, Washington was his last station. He served as a driver for his sergeant, and had fond memories of him. Howard always referred to maneuvers as ‘playing army’, and on one occasion, as they were returning to the base, Howard picked up his bags, but forgot to load the sergeant’s gear. Once they arrived, and began unloading, the sergeant inquired about his bags. Howard’s reply was simply, “I don’t know where yours are, but mine are right here!” Another time, Howard’s weapon was somehow run over by a tank. Line up was called, followed by the order to ‘Present arms!’ Howard stepped forward with the remaining pieces of his gun. The drill sergeant yelled, “What happened?” Then shook his head, and ordered him to just get another gun. Howard served a total of two years in the United States Army, and four more years in the Army Reserves. Howard received the Good Conduct Medal for his honorable and faithful service.
Susan grew tired of traveling, and encouraged Howard to find a job at home, which he did. He applied for a position at the paper mill in Evadale in 1964, was hired, and told to report to work that night as a Utility. For the next 32 years, he was a dutiful employee for Temple Inland Paper Mill. He worked in the laboratory as a paper tester for many years. After living briefly in Silsbee, they finally settled in Sour Lake.
The Midkiff family grew with the addition of Doug and Kelly. With children, came sporting events, community and church activities, and family vacations. Life was good, and life was busy. With Howard, all roads led to Colorado. While the family traveled to various locations, his fondness for the ‘Mile High’ state was well documented in family photo albums.
Trips home to visit his aging parents were genuinely heartfelt. The light in his mama’s eyes when her baby walked through the front door was priceless. His favorite foods were prepared during the visit, with teasing from his older siblings. If Inez was in the kitchen rolling out dough for chicken and dumplings, then everyone suspected that Howard was coming home for the weekend.
Howard often spoke of how proud he was of his children’s accomplishments. He dearly loved his son and daughter, as well as their spouses. Doug and Jill blessed him with three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. His oldest grandson, David, affectionally started calling him ‘Pokey’, and the nickname stuck for all the others. Kelly and Jesse’s family added three more grandchildren, and a great-grandson.
Howard enjoyed playing dominoes, and a variety of card and board games. While he played, he shared memories, and that always made for a fun evening around the table. More often than not, he could be seen playing his hand-held electronic game in his spare time.
‘Where’s Howard?’ He was never one to sit around when he wanted to do something – his desire to see the Passion Play led him to pack a bag, and head out to Eureka Springs, Arkansas at a moment’s notice. ‘Didn’t Daddy run up to the grocery store a couple of hours ago?’ Maybe so, but he’s in Woodville now. When his doctor in DeRidder advised that a pacemaker was needed to correct his heartrate of 22 beats per minute, the doctor assumed he would call a family member. Well, he did phone his family – “Hey! I’ve got to have a pacemaker, so I’m headed to the hospital in Lake Charles. See y’all tomorrow.”
Having moved around often, he has been a member of many churches. He was always giving of his time. On more than one occasion, he washed dishes in the fellowship hall at Mount Carmel Baptist Church. He also helped paint a fence around the church garden. He assisted with Vacation Bible School at many of his churches, and relished being a part of the children’s excitement. His love for Central Baptist Church was obvious as he spoke of his church family. Howard always had a smile on his face, as he reached out to shake a friend’s hand.
As his father before him, his love of overalls surpassed his appreciation for fashion - much to the chagrin of Susan. Has anyone ever collected more caps than Howard? Probably so, but he could sure make the top ten list.
Retirement allowed Howard time to spend with Susan, his children, grandchildren, and even great-children. He attended football games, high school and college graduations, and birthday parties as often as possible. His devotion to Susan during her illness should be the example for which all couples should aspire. Their love for one another remained strong.
For several years, Howard donated his time to the Campers on Mission organization where he worked to construct new churches. As a member, he was able to share his faith in fellowship and service over a large region.
When Howard returned to Knight Community around 2003, he joined the Knight Volunteer Fire Department. Being an older member of the department did not stop him from active service. Many times, he was on the end of a water hose at a fire. Once the volunteers were criticized at the scene of a fire because it was noticed by spectators that the oldest man present was in charge of the hose, while the younger volunteers stood back. Our chief replied, “Do you want to be the one to take that hose away from Mr. Howard?” Point made.
Over the years, he enjoyed riding in the Evans Homecoming Parade when his class was honored, and also supported the Eagles during a few basketball games, too. The remaining classmates will miss him terribly.
As long as the lawnmower and tractor had fuel, there was never an opportunity for a blade of grass to grow. His escapades worried his family with his disregard for the summer heat, but nothing stopped him from his daily chores. Helping with the farm was a pleasure for him. Many nights, he set up in the barn with the pigs. He offered to run errands to the feed store, and enjoyed supervising the many activities that took place with the show pigs. The work was tiring, but enjoyable, and he always had a tale to share. He and Jesse shared many stories on the porch every day. You can bet when the work was caught up, Howard could be seen reading a Louis L'Amour novel or watching a John Wayne western.
Nobody makes better (or hotter) Mexican Cornbread than Howard. Once the taste-buds overcame that first fiery explosion of heat, the taster could hopefully manage to gulp a cold beverage to put out the fire headed to the stomach. No matter how hot it might be, it was the most requested dish at gatherings. Oftentimes guests would ask, “Is that guy bringing his Mexican Cornbread?”
With the passing of his older brothers and sisters, Howard eased into the position of family patriarch. His family looked to him for guidance, and he made subtle suggestions, if he felt it was appropriate. His gentle nature was a part of the man that we lovingly called “Daddy”, “Pokey”, “Uncle Howard”, “Howard”, “Mr. Howard”.
Howard is survived by his children, Doug Midkiff and wife Jill of China, Kelly Farmer and husband Jesse of Evadale; grandchildren, David Midkiff and wife Hillary, Caitlin Wilding and husband Wes, Sam Midkiff, Kayla Franklin and husband Chase, Colton Cotton, Jaycee Farmer; great grandchildren, Laramie Sheppard, Jack and Leia Wilding, and baby Midkiff; and numerous other family members and friends.
He is preceded in death by his loving wife of 44 years Susan Midkiff, his parents, and his brothers and sisters.
A memorial service to celebrate Howard’s life will be held Saturday February 15, 2020 at 11 AM at Central Baptist church in Evadale. Visitation will start an hour before the service at 10AM.
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