Howard Ernest Schlessman went to be with the Lord on August 21st, 2019. He was born on October 31st, 1928 (Halloween), in Denver, Colorado, to the Reverend Aaron Schlessman and Bernice Rassbach Schlessman.
He was the youngest of 4 children and was raised in the Baker neighborhood until his family moved to Durango during his Junior High years. He moved to Lamar during his high school years, where he met and dated Ellen Lucille McKenney for a short while. After high school, he served two years in the army during the Korean war and was stationed in Alaska.
Some of his fondest service memories included cross country skiing while fully loaded down with gear, trying to start automobile motors in sub-zero weather, shivering under layers of army blankets while inside his sleeping bag, and a joint purchase with several army buddies of an old Studebaker. They rented the car to other servicemen who were on leave to recoup their investment, which made them quite popular. When their active duty ended, they attempted to drive the car back stateside over rutted and practically impassable Alaskan roads. The conclusion to this trip resulted in the servicemen returning healthy and injury free, which is more than could be said for the Studebaker.
He then moved to Denver and stayed with his sister, Helen’s family, where to the delight of his three nieces, he teased them mercilessly! He began his apprenticeship as a carpenter working for his cousin’s ceiling company. While working one day downtown at the Mountain Bell Telephone building, he stopped into the cafeteria for lunch and heard a woman’s voice call out across the room “Howard!” He knew the voice even before seeing her. It was Ellen McKenney from Lamar. She was also on her lunch break while working as a telephone operator in that building. They renewed their friendship, and Howard, thinking he’d play matchmaker, introduced Ellen to his best army buddy and fellow Studebaker owner, Bob Sheriff. The only hitch was every date on which Bob tried to take Ellen, Howard would somehow “coincidentally” show up! Before long, Bob was sidelined and Howard and Ellen had a blossoming romance! They were married on June 14th, Flag Day, of 1954. Together they raised five children, Mark, Nick, Kyle, Gwen and Jonna. Howard and Ellen were very active in their church family where in fact they were founding members of a small church plant in Arvada in the mid-60’s. The family also enjoyed camping together often. To this day his son, Nick, is still an avid outdoorsman!
Tragedy struck the family in March of 1985 when Kyle, then 27, was killed while riding his bike in downtown Denver by a reckless driver who fled the scene but was apprehended days later. Though the next year involved multiple trials both literally and figuratively, as more startling truths of the accident became evident, Howard and Ellen trusted God wholeheartedly as they grappled with their grief.
Then just a few years later, in 1992, after fighting the many ravages of diabetes, Ellen went home to be the Lord, leaving Howard, her faithful husband of 38 years, a widower. He continued to faithfully serve in his church as a deacon for many years to follow. He also continued installing ceilings way up high on scaffolding well into his 70’s, by now working for the company owned by his oldest son, Mark.
After Ellen’s death he truly found his new purpose in caring for people with great needs, starting with Ellen’s illness, then his mother-in-law Irene. He was soon in demand for attention by older women who saw him as a great handy-man and a fun companion! He devoted several years to his lady friend LaVonna, until her passing. He then became a source of encouragement and assistance to another friend named Juanita, who was in very poor health when he befriended her. She too passed away. In his early eighties he met a very special friend named Mary who was in her nineties and could no longer see well enough to drive. As he began chauffeuring her, and they developed a deep and close friendship filled with many laughs for the next 5 or 6 years, until she suffered a devastating stroke. All of his family were surprised and also little bemused at what a ladies’ man he had become! By age 87, he began to show signs that his memory was failing and he now needed to be on the receiving end of care, rather than on the giving end. He moved closer to his daughters Gwen and Jonna on the south side of town so they could better help him. Throughout the remainder of his time, he was always an incredibly kind, gentle, and even a humorous soul! Those nieces he had teased so relentlessly before he was married, were so drawn to his sweet soul that they faithfully continued to visit with him throughout his final years, despite the onset of his dementia. Sally lovingly spent many hours with him in his final days in hospice. He was loved by his family and all of his caregivers, who found him charming and amusing. His daughters cherished this time with him and found it to be full of many sweet and tender moments!
Howard is survived by his older brother Bob; his four children- Mark (Janice) Schlessman, Nick Schlessman, Gwen (Larry) Fuchs, and Jonna (Mike)Merino; five grandchildren- Gary Schlessman, Reed Fuchs, Taryn Fuchs, Mollie Merino and Riley Merino; three great Grandchildren - Joshua Schlessman, Jamie Schlessman, and Isa Fuchs, and 3 great, great grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in Howard’s name to the American Diabetes Foundation.
A viewing will be held at The Bridge Church from 9:30 to 10:30 A.M. on Saturday, September 7th, 2019. The Bridge Church is located at 3101 S. Kipling St in Lakewood. Services will be held at the church from 10:30 A.M. to 11:30 A.M. followed by a reception. Howard will be laid to rest at Olinger Highlands Cemetery.