UPDATE: At the time of his passing, a private graveside service, followed by full military honors, was held for immediate family only at Poland Riverside Cemetery, due to the pandemic.

The family is inviting friends to now join them at a public Celebration of Life Service on Saturday, June 25, 2022, at 10:00 a.m. at the Poland United Methodist Church, casual dress acceptable. The service will also be live-streamed on the Poland United Methodist Facebook page.

POLAND, Ohio (MyValleyTributes) – Howard B. Friend, 96, passed away peacefully early Friday morning, December 31, 2021, at the Inn at Poland Way, with his children at his side.

Howard, affectionately known by many as “Howdy,” was born December 27, 1925, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a son of George and Ruth Bryar Friend.

Raised in the Mahoning Valley, Howdy graduated on June 6, 1944, from Woodrow Wilson High School and eight days later left for service after being drafted into the United States Army. He served as an infantry machine gunner in the third army under General George C. Patton and was wounded in the battle of the bulge on January 9, 1945. He spent the next 18 months recovering in a VA hospital near Chicago, with 12 of those months being bedridden. In May of 1946, after being honorably discharged from the Army and the hospital, he returned home to Youngstown. Howdy was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal for his meritorious action and in 2017, he was named to the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.

After returning home, Howdy went to Camp Fitch YMCA to receive rehabilitation on his knee and met Ellen “Gert” Williams, whose father was the Camp Director. They were married on June 17, 1950 and celebrated 63 wonderful years together, before her passing on August 19, 2013. Together, Howdy and Gert, made their home in Poland, raising their three children and welcoming the addition of nine grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

Howdy was a true family man in every sense, loving them unconditionally, offering his guidance and encouragement, and being ever present for his children’s and grandchildren’s many milestones, accomplishments and extracurricular activities.

In 1950, Mr. Friend received his Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Mount Union College and later his Master’s Degree in Education for Administration and Guidance from Westminster College in 1955.

Mr. Friend began his career as a teacher at Boardman Schools and later Woodrow Wilson High School, before accepting administration positions with Woodrow Wilson High School, Chaney High School, Princeton Junior High School, Poland Seminary High School and Mahoning County Joint Vocational School, where he retired as Superintendent of Schools in 1981. In 2013, the Mahoning County Career & Technical Center recognized Mr. Friend’s educational contributions and inducted him into their Wall of Fame. Through the course of his 31-year career as an educator, Mr. Friend spearheaded countless committees, organizations, fundraisers and programs to better serve his students and their communities. After retirement, he worked nine additional years in the Marketing Department at the Home Savings & Loan Company.

From a young age, Howdy developed a love of sports, which he carried through his entire life. While playing football in high school, he was named All-City end in 1942 and All-City fullback and All-County fullback the following year. He was amongst the first group of athletes inducted in the Woodrow Wilson High School Hall of Fame.

During his teaching career at Boardman and Woodrow Wilson, he shared his love for the game of football and basketball from the sidelines as a coach. For over 35 years, he assisted the Ohio High School Sectional and District Basketball Tournaments, as well as being involved with the Poland Athletic Boosters and Poland Baseball Association, managing their Little League for ten years and coaching Pony League for two years. For his many contributions to sports, Mr. Friend was inducted into the Curbstone Coaches Hall of Fame.

Active within the community, Howdy was a member of an infinite number of clubs and organizations, some of which included, The Four Square Club, Poland Optimist Club, Disabled American Veterans, Poland Swim and Tennis Club, Poland Village Design and Review Board, Phi-Delta Kappa, Habitat for Humanity, Youngstown Playhouse, Colony Dance Club and many professional educational organizations and associations. Within these memberships, Mr. Friend served in many leadership and officer roles.

A 60+ year member of the Poland United Methodist Church, Howdy served his church as a Sunday School teacher and was a member of its board of trustees, finance committee and church council.

Howdy, along with Gert, held Camp Fitch YMCA, where their love story began all those years ago, close to their hearts. Serving many years on Camp Fitch’s Board, Howdy and his wife dedicated much time volunteering, supporting, campaigning, and fundraising for the success of the program. Howdy was also very proud to be a longstanding member of the Youngstown YMCA, serving on its Board of Trustees for many years, campaigning and fundraising for the association.

Faithfully and lovingly, Howdy spent a well-lived life serving his God, country, family, students and community. He often said, “I am one of the luckiest guys in the world.”

Howdy leaves to carry on his legacy, his children, Howard T. (Cathi) Friend of Columbiana, David Scott (Susan) Friend of Lexington, Kentucky and Judith Friend (Craig) Sheetz of New Springfield; his nine grandchildren, who adoringly called him “Pa”, Alison (Drew) Thibaut, Megan Friend, Howard Christopher (Julie) Friend, Marc (Meghan) Friend, Sarah (Dennis Gilligan) Friend, Matt (Brittni) Friend, Tim (Hollie) Sheetz, Amy (Greg) Thompson and David Friend Sheetz; 15 great-grandchildren, Lucy, Ruthie and Bryar Thibaut, Howard, Mia and Michael Friend, Molly and Ellie Friend, Evelyn and Williams Gilligan, Annie Friend and Zachary, Lucas, Beaux and Blake Thompson; brothers, James “Sonny” (Mary) Friend of Boardman and Richard (Nancy) Friend of Columbus and brother-in-law, Paul Merifield of Los Angeles, California.

In addition to his parents and wife, Howdy was preceded in death by his sister, Ruth Merifield and brother, George Friend.

Due to the current situation with the pandemic, a private graveside service followed by full military honors will be held for immediate family only at the Poland Riverside Cemetery.

A Celebration of Life Service will be announced for the public at a later date.

Any memorial tributes may take the form of contributions in Mr. Friend’s name to Camp Fitch YMCA, 12600 Abels Road, New Springfield, PA 16430, which will be used for the maintenance and upkeep of Friend Circle, an amphitheater named in Howdy and Gert’s honor or to the Four Square Foundation, 110 South Shore Drive, Boardman, OH 44512.

The family would like to extend their appreciation and thank Dr. Walter Passarello, Dr. Larry Dinopoulos, Jalynn Brown, Crossroads Hospice, the Inn at Poland Way and the staff at Inner Circle Pizza for their compassion, care and friendship shown to Howdy.

Arrangements are being handled by the Cunningham-Becker Funeral Home in Poland. Please visit www.beckerobits.com to share memories and online condolences with the family.

A television tribute will air Sunday, January 2, 2022, at the following approximate times: 8:58 a.m. on FOX and 9:58 p.m. on MyYTV.