Bennie Howard died on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017.
If not for a fortuitous turn of events last year, only the oldest of Wendell residents would have remembered the name.
Howard went off to battle during World War II and when he came back, he didn’t return to Wendell. Instead, he started a new chapter in life, settling ultimately in New Bern.
But last year, a young Italian discovered a old dog tag on a beach in the European country. And, because Jury Galli wanted to meet the man to whom the dog tags belonged, all of Wendell was reacquainted with Bennie Howard on the Fourth of July.
It was, in many ways, one of the most patriotic Independence Day celebrations Wendell has ever seen.
Howard had never much fretted over the lost dog tag, but he was genuinely humbled by Galli’s effort to return it. And he was equally humbled by the hero’s welcome his hometown gave him when he came home to reconnect with his identity.
Bennie Howard’s last chapter has been written. We’re glad it brought him home, even if only for a little while.