JOPLIN, MO —
Howard Roe Belk passed away peacefully on May 4, 2012, after courageously battling an illness over the last few months.
Howard was born on Nov. 9, 1923, to Alvin and Nancy Belk.
After graduating from Joplin High School he helped build Camp Crowder by clearing land as a general laborer and later was upgraded to creating the foundations of the many buildings for the Signal Corps campus by hefting 40 pound sacks of concrete. He was working as a bus boy at Roberts Cafeteria when he received his formal invitation asking him to serve his country. Howard was inducted into the United States Army on Feb. 23, 1943.
He entered into active military service on March 2, 1943, at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and received his basic training in the tank division at Camp Campbell, Ky., with additional training at Fort Ord, Calif., with amphibious tanks. He became a part of Army A Company 788 Amphibious Tractor Battalion. His first role during the war occurred in the Pacific Theater in the Philippines shuttling infantrymen from the ship to the shore. At Leyte, following the invasion on the second day, he was shot in the right thigh. With the bullet lodged in his leg he was treated in the field and sent to the hospital ship. The bullet was removed and he was moved to a temporary hospital in New Guinea. Placed back in service at Okinawa, on the first day of the invasion (April 1, 1944) and under combat conditions, he broke his nose and lost six teeth when his face collided with the tanks periscope. The following day he was hit by shrapnel in the middle of his back. The field medics patched him up and he remained on the beach to complete the mission. At the conclusion of the war he was promoted to the rank of sergeant. His last assignment involved himself and a fellow soldier delivering mail from Germany to a Leper Colony on the island. They were assisted by a Japanese officer who directed them to the remote village. He received two Purple Hearts, numerous other medals of valor and bravery and stories for a life time.
Following the war he went back to school on the GI bill and attended Joplin Junior College. Howard's favorite activity was playing football for the Lions.
Howard married Martha Elizabeth Madden on Oct. 2, 1948. Both Howard and Martha were folks of the Great Depression. For them to have so little to begin with, they became two of the most blessed and rich people in the world with a host of loving family and friends.
Howard worked over 29 years for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, first in the capacity of a lineman and then as a repairman. For a short period of time he worked for Eagle Picher and owned the Peppermill Restaurant. His final occupation was extremely rewarding because he worked for his very close friend, Ray Hawkins, at Hawkins Title Company. It was at the title company where Howard mastered the art of telling jokes, mostly not very funny ones. He worked for the title company well into his 70s and enjoyed going to work every day. In fact, Howard truly enjoyed every day of his life.
Howard helped organize the Joplin Little League at 20th Street and proudly assisted in constructing Sunny Jim Park. For several years he volunteered by mowing the grass and taking care of the field. Howard was a Boy Scout leader, a baseball coach, served on the board of the Joplin High School Eagles Nest, volunteered for the CP Telethon for 13 years and was for many years an ardent blood donor. In addition he was a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Joplin Elks Lodge No. 501 and was a long-time member of Bethany Presbyterian Church.
Howard is survived by his devoted wife, Martha, of 64 years; a daughter, Bonnie Lynn Keithly and her husband, Stephen; a son, Bradley Roe Belk and his wife, Belinda; and two grandchildren, Derek Galyon and his wife, Jodi and Darian Davis. He also was blessed to meet three great-grandchildren, Dani Lynn Galyon, Carson Howard Davis and Camron Stephen Davis.
Howard loved people, but he also loved his pets. His love for animals stemmed from his early days working with them on the small family farm in Saginaw. For over 60 years Howard and Martha's home was filled with many four-legged furry companions, which they considered family members.
Howard will be remembered for his big smile, warmth, sense of humor and award winning home-grown tomatoes and home-made deviled eggs. He loved and lived for his favorite sports teams which included the St. Louis Cardinals, the Kansas City Chiefs and any team of the Missouri Tigers. He would become severely devastated after every loss and would confidently sum up his teams demise due to poor officiating.
A life-long resident of Joplin, Howard's true legacy will live on in the many lives he touched. Please join the family and friends to celebrate Howard's life at Thornhill-Dillon Mortuary. Visitation is Friday, May 11, from 6 to 8 p.m. and the funeral service is Saturday May 12, at 10 a.m. Honorary pallbearers are Jerry Carpenter, Mark Cooper, Wayne Johnson, Mark Layne, Tom Mann, Jim Madden and Greg Pritchard.
The family request no flowers, but donations may be given to the Joplin Museum Complex or the Joplin Humane Society.
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