Farm community loses a legend following Jim Howe’s death.

January 22, 2017
Jim Howe on his Farmall tractor.

Jim Howe on his Farmall tractor.

Jim Howe

Jim Howe

Farm community loses a legend following Jim Howe’s death.

#MasonCountyPeople #MasonCountyDeaths

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

CUSTER — The Mason County farm community lost a legend Saturday morning following the death of Jim Howe. Jim, 87, was the patriarch of Howe Farms, located on North Custer Road. He grew up on his mother’s farm, White Rose Dairy Farm in Custer Township and graduated from Custer High School in 1947 and a few years later enlisted in the U.S. Air Force where he served in the Korean War as a firefighter at an air field, earning the rank of staff sergeant. In 1950, he married Helen Pratt.

Following his military service, Jim returned home and started selling cars at Witmarks and then farm equipment at Readers in Scottville. Jim and Helen then decided to start farming and purchased 40 acres near his mother’s farm, according to Jim’s daughter, Nettie. The farm today is 900 acres. 

Jim and Helen raised five children and had 13 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Helen passed away in 2002.

Jim’s loss leaves a gap not only in local agriculture but in many aspects of the community.

“He was a mentor, a loyal customer, and a great friend,” said Dick Alway of Amber Township, who for many years owned the local John Deere dealership and later a tractor repair business, Alway’s Service Center, with his son, Rick. “Jim was beyond a regular customer at the shop,” Dick said. “His visits were pretty much daily occurrences and he always showed up with a great story to tell.”

Custer Township farmer Tom Trenner said Jim Howe was one of the most generous men he’s ever met.

“I just can’t say enough good things about Jim Howe,” Tom said. “He was a fantastic guy. I wouldn’t be farming if it wasn’t for him. He was a very good friend.”

Tom said Jim helped loan him advice and equipment when Tom started farming in the mid-‘80s. “I was short on equipment and I went over and talk to Jim. We shook hands and he loaned me what I needed. I would help him out from time to time and he would help me. I think he certainly helped me much more than I helped him.”

Jim Howe in the Air Force

Jim Howe in the Air Force

Jim was known for his sense of humor and for telling it as it is.

“Jim had a great wit about him,” Tom said. “He also pretty much spoke his mind. If he liked you, well, he liked you. If he didn’t, he would let you know that too. He was also a sharp businessman and gave much of his time and resources to this community, especially the village and township of Custer. Above all, he was a damn good farmer.”

Jim served his community in many capacities including Mason County Eastern Board of Education, Custer Fire Department, Custer VFW Post 5096, Western Michigan Old Engine Club, NFO Acres (charter member), Michigan Milk Producers Association, and the State Savings Bank of Scottville (later West Shore Bank) board of directors.

“Jim was a man who never said no to people who needed him,” said Jeanne Oakes of Eden Township, and former superintendent of the Mason-Lake Intermediate School District. “He lived for Custer and worked hard to make it better for everyone who lived there.  He always appreciated the beauty of nature and loved taking a ride down dirt roads to enjoy the beauty of the county. 

“He was always bewildered when my husband Mike (former MCE and Ludington Area Schools superintendent) and I would travel because he could not understand why anyone would want to leave Mason County for any reason.  There have not been many Sundays over the past 30 years when I didn’t have coffee with him after mass.  I loved him like a second father and will miss him dearly.  He told me the other day that he would fill Mike in on what I have been up to over the past four years.  I told him that would be a boring discussion!  He just smiled.”

See Jim’s obituary here:

James Warren Howe, 87, lifelong resident of Custer, died peacefully on Saturday, January 21, 2017.  Jim was born on February 18, 1929 in Custer, the son of Howard and Cecelia (Cossette) Howe, and graduated from Custer High School with the class of 1947.  Jim served his country during the Korean Conflict as a Staff Sergeant with the United States Air Force.  On October 25, 1950 he married Helen Grace Pratt and they celebrated 52 years by each other’s side until Helen preceded him in death on November 15, 2002.  Jim was also preceded in death by his parents, and his brothers Richard and Duane.

Jim Howe

Jim Howe

Jim and Helen settled in the Custer community and began operating their dairy farm in 1955.  Jim was very active within the community serving on the Mason County Eastern School Board for many years, was a Life Member of the Custer Gold Bar VFW Post 5096, volunteered with the Custer Fire Department and the West Michigan Old Engine Club, served on the West Shore Bank Board, and was a faithful member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church where he served as a Communicant, Reader, and member of Building & Grounds.  Jim was also a charter member of the NFO Board, served on the local board for the Michigan Milk Producers Association, and enjoyed riding with the “Winter Nights Snowmobile Club.”  Whenever there was a need in the community, Jim always showed up whether it was for the school, church, fire department, or helping out his neighbors and friends.

He will be greatly missed by his children James Howe Jr. and wife Kristine of Custer, Deborah Albrecht and husband Raymond of Mt. Pleasant, Joseph Howe of Free Soil, Annette Howe and her friend Dean Samuels of Ludington, John Paul Howe and his wife Sheryl of Custer, his former daughter-in-law Debbie Howe of Custer, his grandchildren Dominic Howe (friend Tracy Peplinski), Amanda Howe, Jimmy Howe III, Christopher (Amy) Albrecht, Alan (Kara) Albrecht, Jeremy (Mary) Howe, MSGT Ryan (Renee “Red”) Howe, Brett Garten, Kendra Ann Garten, Jared Garten, Lydia Howe, Hillary Howe, and Zachary Howe, 11 great-granchildren, his sisters-in-law June Howe of Hart, and Mary Lou Miller of Ludington, and his brother-in-law Larry Pratt of Chicago.

The Celebration of Mass will be held for Jim at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, January 25 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Custer with Rev. Daniel DePew as celebrant.  Burial will take place at St. Mary’s Cemetery.  Friends may meet with his family for a time of visitation on Tuesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., and on Wednesday morning from 10 to 11 a.m. all at St. Mary’s Church.  The Rosary will be prayed for Jim on Tuesday evening at 8 p.m.

Those who wish to remember Jim with a memorial donation are asked to consider St. Mary’s Catholic Church, or Custer Fire Department.

Please visit Jim’s memory page at to leave a tribute of Jim for his family, or to light a candle in his memory.

Story copyrighted 2017 © Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this post may be reproduced without the expressed written consent of the editor-in-chief. Photographs used by permission from the Howe family. Obituary from Wyman Funeral and Cremation, Scottville. 

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