Who is Howard?
Howard Bunker, our namesake and inspiration, is also the grandfather of our founder, Amy Bunker. Howard was born in Wisconsin in 1921; he lost his father at the age of 2, bounced between home and a local orphanage, and then was orphaned when his mother died at the hands of his abusive stepfather. Howard was 12. In the span of a week, he lost his mother, his home, and his siblings as they were split between different foster homes in the area, and it changed him immeasurably. The stories he told during my childhood skipped ages 12 to 18; it wasn’t until I was an adult that he told me about the foster homes he moved between during those years. Most used him as free labor on their farms, but there was one that was wonderful. He told me that they helped him finish high school, an accomplishment that he was immensely proud of, a benchmark that endured as he raised his own children. At 18 he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, was stationed in England, and met my grandmother. They were together until the day she died; for all of the challenges of his childhood, Howard was able to find a peace and a stability that many with his history do not. He had one set of good foster parents, and a mother who truly loved him. He had in-laws who treated him like one of their own and a church community that supported him and his family. Howard took every opportunity he could and ran with it; that was his superpower.
My Poppi was a joyful and kind man. As I grew up, my mother told me stories of how he came to help her when she was overwhelmed at babysitting, and drove hundreds of miles to see her graduate from college. He made sure that he and my Nanni were at every soccer game, school play, and milestone that mattered to my brother and me.
After my grandmother passed, he spent 13 years baking bread for his congregation, crocheting baby blankets for babies in the NICU, eating all the candy he could, and watching war documentaries. He told terrible jokes and loved his great-grandchildren more than anything.
I am the last grandchild to carry his name; the last grandchild to honor a man who everyday was a testament to what one’s internal resilience can do if combined with one or two caring champions and given the opportunity to shine.
If I learned anything from my Poppi, it was that even the smallest action can make a change. Howard’s Heart is dedicated to him, and the values that he instilled in the numberless lives he touched. Please join us on our journey to continue the legacy of love that he started.
-Amy Bunker, Howard's Heart Executive Director