Howard Sharon was a very kind and generous man. He loved sports, especially The Cincinnati Reds. Traveling with friends. Doing good for others. His family, which he considered to be much larger than those related by blood. Working hard to be successful. Loretta Lynn and "A Coal Miner's Daughter." And Cocktails!
While Howard never liked being told how good a friend he was or how generous he was to others, it is important to reflect on the role he played in making so many of us better people just by knowing him.
Howard Sharon was born on February 3, 1951 at Saint Elizabeth's Hospital in Covington, Kentucky to Pauline Robinson Sharon. He was the fifth oldest of eleven children. Survived by Clifford Sharon, Lewis Sharon, Lulu Hembree, Kenny Sharon, Reed Sharon, Allen Sharon, Mary (Sissy) Ritter, Gary Sharon and Carol Brownfield...and as you can from this room today, countless friends he considered family.
As a child, Howard and his siblings grew up without great means. Howard, not surprising to many, loved baseball. Around the age of 12, he met his lifelong friend Phyllis Becktold, who he considered a sister his entire life.
Howard went to Boone County high school then enlisted in the Army in 1970, serving until 1973. During his service, he was mostly stationed in Ft. Hood, Texas where he married Wilma Cooper. When he left the Army in 1973, he was an E-5 Sergeant.
After serving in the armed forces, Howard received his Bachelor's degree in English from Northern Kentucky University and then got both his real estate and brokerage license, opening "Hauron Lakoy," a Century 21 office in Florence, Kentucky.
Howard sold the real estate office in 1983, going to work at a Volkswagen dealership, where be bought one of the iconic wood-paneled cars. During this time, Howard met and started a long-time relationship with Roger Spencer, who thankfully bought him a new car...although just as iconic...a huge, red Cadillac! After his time at Volkswagen ended, he went to work for American Airlines, where he met his lifelong friend Kevin Feldman over cigarettes and airline reservations.
Shortly after starting at American Airlines, Howard bought a pretty run-down bar in downtown Cincinnati. He and Roger quickly renovated it and named it WGMAGIC's. Several years later, it changed names to Shooters and became a very successful bar, which Howard owned and operated until his death. Two of Howard's long-time employees, William Sweet and Adam Wilburn, are here with us today. His other longtime employee, Howard Schultz, passed just a few years ago. Howard was very active. Bowling and softball leagues, fundraisers for charities and trips around the world.
Howard and Roger bought a large home in 1991, the old Schilling home in Northern Kentucky. One of Howard's most proud moments of his life was hosting the wedding of his sister Sissy at this home. Proving that a boy born without a silver spoon in his mouth could work hard, be successful and provide for his family. The wedding was catered by Howard's great friend, who he called "grandma."
After his relationship with Roger ended, Howard moved to Cincinnati on Clark Street before buying his house on Mound Street around 2002.
There are so many Howard stories to tell.
He loved Loretta Lynn. He traveled to her concerts with Phyllis and others. And when Veranda Porchswing was forced to perform once a year, she always sang "Coalminer's Daughter." That song really spoke to the larger story of Howard; Coming from humble means and, while never forgetting that, being proud of who you've become and how far you've come.
Howard and Roger helped form the Cincinnati Court, ISQCCBE, which he supported with almost weekly fundraising events at Shooters as well as providing a meeting space for them early on. As many members of the Court have said since Howard's passing, he played a large role in their ability to have raised over a 1.2 million dollars for charity in the last 25 years. Charities focused on HIV/AIDS awareness ,LGBT youth as well as others.
Howard also played an important role supporting bowling and softball leagues throughout Cincinnati. Trophies from the teams he sponsored fill Shooters.
Howard provided weekly line dancing classes and a place for euchre tournaments.
He traveled with friends across the globe. He went to countless Cincinnati Red's baseball games. He would have been glued to the TV this Monday for Opening Day.
Craig and I met Howard as patrons of Shooters. We quickly became good friends. From happy hours to dinner parties to trips to Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Florida.
We had some great times with Howard, as did so many of his friends. Jamie Smith and Jordan Lombardo, Joe Martin, Chris Jackson, Joey Callahan, my own uncle Richard who became close friends with Howard, Dan Ward, Rodney Mullins, Rick Singer, Grandma, Robertta Bigg...and so many others. Whether it was buckled up to a bar, around a campfire, on a beach or just through talk texting, Howard was a great friend to so many of us.
As one friend said, "You were an incredible friend who would say the damnedest things to make me laugh when I didn't think it was possible.... You opened the bar for me when it was closed because I needed a place to escape. You touched so many lives in so many ways and were so respected in the community. I feel so proud and touched to have been considered a friend."
Another friend said, "Howard Sharon was nothing less than a father figure to me. A void that will never be replaced."
And finally one said, "The LGBT Community has lost it's "heart". Daddy Howard Sharon was the functioning center of so many fundraisers and charity events. He has helped thousands of people in our community. No matter the cause, he was there to help in any way he could and he was a friend to everyone he met. He gave so many a "home" in Shooter's. Both will be sorely missed from the Community."
In the last year, Howard had some health issues and as a result, made a point to be more honest with us. Just three weeks ago, Howard texted me to say, "Chris I'm going to be OK. I love you and Craig both and I know that you will be there for me."
I'm glad Howard was always there for us. And I'm glad we're all here for him today.
He is OK, just as he said he would be.
To quote Howard: "It is what it is. It'll be OK honey."