The loss of 'Santa Jim' a.k.a the 'Honey Man'
Last updated 2/3/2021 at 4:02pm
Many area residents who have stopped on the side of Fontaine Boulevard or the local farmers market to buy some Redneck Honey over the years have been saddened to learn that the "honey man" died last Thursday.
Jim Howe had been hospitalized with COVID-19 and pneumonia the previous week.
Jim was known throughout the community not only for his honey, but also his role as a favorite Santa Claus at Christmas events. He also was a proud U.S. Air Force veteran.
This reporter talked to Jim at his honey stand one day last summer. He sat in his truck with the door wide open, pointed down at his leg and explained that his second amputation had just taken place a few months earlier and that he was still getting used to the new prosthetic.
When asked for details about what must have been a fascinating life story, he deflected any attention on himself – instead suggesting the newspaper feature other worthy people and causes. He specifically highlighted The Tiegen Foundation's Beyond the Battlefield, an organization that had helped him and assists many other wounded veterans and first responders nationwide.
Beyond the Battlefield paid tribute to Jim on the organization's Facebook page, saying "Despite his pain, he put on a smile to brighten everyone else's life. ... Jim was an inspiration to us all, and to many he never met."
According to Beyond the Battlefield, Jim was in the Air Force from 1981-1992. Among his duties and assignments were security controller/crew chief and squadron command post crew chief in the 341st security police squadron, 341st Strategic Missile wing, Malmstrom AFB, Montana, (SAC) for nine years and a response force leader at RAF Bentwaters, United Kingdom, for two years. Jim was a qualified expert with the M-16 most of the time, and was also trained on the M-60. He was also trained on Air Base ground defense and was a self-aid/buddy care instructor.
John Papai is a fellow disabled veteran and one-legged competitive skier who bonded with Jim Howe through their involvement with Beyond the Battlefield where they jumped out of planes and enjoyed other adventures together. He described Jim as a one-of-a-kind who will be greatly missed.
"Jim and I started out together getting our service dogs trained, and also were both part of Beyond the Battlefield," Papai said. "He was always laughing and enjoying everything. One of the biggest hearts in a person I've ever had the honor of being good friends with. He was my roommate on several occasions in different events, and I always enjoyed his company."
Papai recalls the phrase "It's within walking distance" became a thing between them during a trip to Texas after his second leg amputation.
"He almost wasn't going to go because he didn't want to be a burden to anyone," Papai said. "We quickly talked him out of that! But, the walking distance was because of him being a double amputee."
In the days following his passing, hundreds of people commented on various online forums about their memories of Jim. One area resident recalled that he once helped her change a flat tire when she was stuck on Fontaine with a newborn in the car. "I will never forget his kindness," she said.
Other comments exuded the same kind of love and gratitude to have known him.
"Jim gave joy and the magic of Christmas to so many children. He will be greatly missed."
"To know Jim was to love him."
"He was a great man and had a lasting impact on everyone who knew him."
A service for Jim will be held Monday, Feb. 8, at 6 p.m. at Restoration Church in Fountain. The event will be live-streamed on Restoration's Facebook page for those who wish to watch online.