On May 29th, 1927, Jessie Marie (Grissom) and Allen Isom had their youngest child, Howard Neal Isom. Many of his nieces and nephews affectionately remember him as “Uncle Fudge” and some friends called him “Big I”. Howard was born in the historic Zachary Taylor House (aka: Isom House) in Fort Gibson, where each of his siblings were born as was his firstborn daughter, Marilyn Jean. He was a fun-loving, playful and active boy who always loved joking around, laughing, and staying busy. He has many life-long friends who remember his pranks and antics whom he grew up with in Fort Gibson.
In 1946, he met a young girl named Bettye Lou McGill. Once, with a big smile on his face, he said that “she was the purtiest little thing I ever saw.” He got permission from her mother to marry her and they were wed on June 22nd, 1946.
They were both young, and lived with his parents in the Isom House for a few years. During that time, he was building their home next door to where the Fort had been relocated and is now. He was helped by his Uncle Percy, and his father who died in 1950. His eldest child, Marilyn Jean (“Merny“), was born in 1947, Howard Michael (“Shooey”) in 1949, and Kimberlee Janell (“Sweet Stuff”) in 1961. Howard and Bettye enjoyed their friends, playing cards at each other’s houses, going dancing, and to the lake occasionally. There were many friends who have now passed, who were always fondly remembered. He was a life-long member of the First United Methodist Church in Fort Gibson, and remembered many a time getting to church early, and starting the fires burning to warm up the sanctuary for worship.
He was quite musical, and could play piano by ear as well as the harmonica. He loved music. When he was a boy, he won a singing contest and was invited to go to OK City to sing. He played the piano until his hands didn’t work well anymore, and the harmonica until he lost his wind with the lung problems that eventually took his life.
When Howard was about 13 years old, he had been working for a few years, and owned his own car. Around his junior year, he asked his mother if he could quit school, as he wanted to go to work. She told him it was all right, as long as he worked. He worked, driving teams around Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas making deliveries. He remembered helping in the building of the re-located Old Fort next to their home, and the Fort Gibson Dam along with many other townsmen. He told how, on that job, he once had the brakes go out on a dump truck he was driving down Hulbert Mountain, and having to drive the big truck into rock wall of the hill to stop it as it careened down that steep incline!
He drove for Hale Halsell a few years, and then went into carpentry. He worked for years alone but also with one of his best friends, Charles Rhyne (senior). Many of the homes that he, and they built together, around Fort Gibson are still standing.
When he was in his early thirties he became interested in buying, repairing, refinishing, and re-selling valuable antiques. He and a partner went door to door, asking people if they had any old stuff they wanted to get rid of or sell. Thus began “Isom’s Furniture and Antiques.” He used those wood-working skills, started going to yard sales and big sales, and soon had stores in three states. He said he always loved working with wood and was saddened when he was unable to do this anymore.
He built a shop next to his home, and put collectable glass and incidentals there. He eventually went into business with Carl Hulbert for a while, his best friend. They both had stores in Muskogee. He had customers from all over the US, and purchased antiques from all over the world at auction. His business was really good and everyone knew that if you wanted something, “Isom” would most likely have it. He helped his sisters-in-law Delores and Dorothy, set up little shops by his and along Main Street in Muskogee. He was one of the original antique dealers in the area from the early sixties until he closed the doors in the late eighties. He continued to provide beautiful merchandise to people from his home, and many have told me they have houses full of beautiful antiques and collectibles they bought from him over the years. He had developed a good business reputation in the community.
Howard lost his wife in 2004 after caring for her at home for seven years, as she succumbed to the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease. This was a big blow and took its toll. Less than two years later, he lost his son, Howard Michael after a lengthy illness, as well.
Life’s twists and turns take its toll on all of us, and he was not spared but did remain steadfast in faith and love for his family. He began to experience significant problems with his lungs, and the breath of life ceased for him in the early morning of Wednesday, March 27th, 2013.
The day before he died, he had been laughing and joking with staff at Fort Gibson Nursing Home, and he was so glad to get to be moved back home before he passed away. He had longed to be back in Fort Gibson, his life-long home. He also had always said that he didn’t really want to travel, but if he could go anywhere it would have been to The Holy Land.
He was preceded in death by his parents, and his parents-in-law Minnie Violet (Ford) and Emmett Cumpton, and Arthur McGill; his siblings and their spouses, Allen and Hazel Isom, Rebecca and Roy Maher, Mary June and Joe Hubbell, Fern and Marsena Norris, John Calloway Isom (on D-Day of WWII); his brother-in-law Gene Hillhouse; his wife; his son; his sisters-in-law, Delores and husband Francis Sharp, Dorothy Day and husband Joe; brother-in-law Bob Cumpton and wife Diane; and many good friends, as well as a nephew, and a few nieces. Two of his best friends in life died in his arms, “Snooks” Johnson, and Carl Hulbert.
He has left to cherish his memory daughter, Marilyn Jean Taulbee and husband Jimmy Ray, their children Jennifer Renee Keim and husband Mike, and Melissa Katherine Fisher and husband Rick, and five great grandchildren; daughter, Kimberlee Janell Thomas and her husband Richard Bruce, their children Antonio, Tabitha, Tucker, and Jessie, and four great grandchildren; grandson, Micheal Bradley Isom, his wife Wendy, and two great grandchildren; as well as special family friend, Bobbie Hulbert.
He will be greatly missed, and remembered for all the wonderful contributions of time, affection, love, skills, and beautiful things he provided for his family and others.
Funeral services for Howard will be held at 11:00 A.M. Monday, April 1, 2013 at the First United Methodist Church with Pastor Charley Ford officiating. Burial will be in Citizens Cemetery under the direction of Millsap Funeral Service of Fort Gibson.
Gone, but not forgotten.