The brief obituary was intriguing – particularly the part about the memorial luncheon at a bowling alley:
Strunk, Howard (Ret. Navy Senior Chief) Age 78, born Nov. 16, 1932 and passed away Sept. 13, 2011. He was an active Optimist Club and YMCA Camp Shaver youth volunteer. A Memorial luncheon at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 29th at Sandia Bowl, Lexington and Juan Tabo.
I arrived at The Strike Zone Bar in Sandia Bowl just as bartender Josie was setting up for the event. She said that Howard’s wife did not run an obituary or hold a funeral, so she took the initiative to honor his memory and coordinated this gathering. The potluck luncheon included Josie’s smoked pheasant enchiladas, from birds she had hunted and prepared herself. It was Howard’s favorite dish.
Howard was there at The Strike Zone Bar almost every day for five years. He would have his customary bourbon and water. Josie called him a sweet gentleman. A candle burned beside two photos of him set up in a corner. A bouquet of pink roses and a Washington Redskins pennant – his favorite team, completed the memorial tableau.
About 25 people came to remember and celebrate Howard Strunk’s life. His friends from the Optimist Club remembered him as an avid fisherman who loved taking his pop-up camper into the great outdoors. He liked playing golf, and was a natural leader. He was passionate about supporting the YMCA’s Camp Shaver, which provides good summer outdoor experiences for youth in New Mexico, and served on the Board for the camp.
He joined the Navy early in life and reached the highest NCO ranking of Senior Chief before he retired in the 1970s. He embarked on other careers in retail and at Kirtland Air Force Base. Howard joined the Optimists Club in 1974. Even though he had many ailments toward the end of his life, he would still show up at meetings and report on Camp Shaver developments.
Tara Posey said that Howard would donate toys to the Toys for Tots program every year, and described him as a giving, good-hearted person. She said that he was involved with Camp Shaver for more than 20 years.
When it was time to say a few words, Dave Shirie, a neighbor and friend since 1972, as well as a fellow Optimist, said, “As unlikely as it seems, he could say a great prayer… He would give the dog-gonnest prayers that would go on and on, and he’d even tear up.” Davie suggested no prayers, but a toast to “the finest man I’ve ever known,” and the assembled crowd raised their glasses and said, “Hear, hear!”
Kris Pilling said she knew Howard since before the time when women weren’t allowed to be members of the Optimists. She recalled all the work he and the Optimists did for Camp Shaver over 15 years, from rebuilding a ropes course to re-roofing cabins and building decks. She said one of the last things he provided was an ice machine for the mess hall.
Al Curnutt, the proprietor of Sandia Bowl, has owned and run the place since 1978. He said Howard’s photo would join the memorial wall in The Strike Zone Bar with 10 or 11 other regulars who have died over the years.
Howard Strunk had been married twice and had three sons. However, this memorial service was held by and for his family of friends. It shows that a person’s community needs to grieve and mourn the loss, whether the family holds a memorial service or not.
His cremated remains are to be interred at the Santa Fe National Cemetery. Memorial donations may be made to Camp Shaver, PO Box 52196 Albuquerque, NM 87181.