Howard Orville Post once told a friend that he felt he had done little worthwhile in his life. The friend, Crozier Kimball, replied that raising a family, sending two (later three) sons on missions and trying to live the gospel was a worthy life for any man.
And now, more than 110 years after Howard Orville Post was born, the legacy of his life has grown even greater, with 527 descendants (as of June 1987).
Howard was born June 30, 1875 in Wichita, Kansas, the oldest child of John Milton and Alice Parker Post. His mother died in 1887 while giving birth to a sister, who also didn't live; a brother, Ernest Lionel, died of erisypelas in 1908.
In 1890, John Milton married Adelia L. McCollum, who raised the two Post boys--and earned their love. Once, after his father disciplined him rather severely, Howard decided to run away. Adelia told him: "If you leave, people will say I was not good to you because I am your stepmother." Howard replied, "Then I won't go. I don't want them to think that."
Later, Howard's generous nature and his love for his mother became evident after his father died. John Milton's will stipulated that the property was to be divided equally between his son and his wife. Howard told his stepmother that as long as she lived she was to have the income from the property.
"Grandma Adelia" lived comfortably for about another 40 years, dying age 105 several years after Howard's death.
Howard married Tressie May Evans on March 14, 1897. According to a love letter Tressie wrote her future husband, part of his attraction was his "cute little mustache."
After their marriage, the Posts lived in various parts of Kansas while Howard farmed, mainly wheat and oats. During this time, three children were born--Clarence Evans, Alice Irene and Stella.
It was in Kansas also that Tressie May joined the LDS Church. While her husband was willing to attend the meetings and treated missionaries cordially, he was reluctant to be baptized.
"Dad always disliked cold weather," Stella remembers, so the family decided to move to Arizona or New Mexico. They were also encouraged to head west by Brother and Sister Elbert Tilton, who had joined the Church about the same time as Tressie May. One of the elders who taught them was Thomas Kimball from Thatcher.
The Posts farmed that summer--very successfully--near Wichita, where Howard's parents lived. That fall, they chartered a railroad car and loaded it with their harvest, their livestock (including 12 dozen chickens) and other supplies. Howard rode the railroad car west, while Tressie May and the children came later on a passenger train.
That year of 1902 was the last time Howard saw his brother Ernest alive, as Ernest died six years later. Eighteen years passed before Howard returned to Kansas, for his father's funeral in 1920.
Once in Arizona, the Posts settled on the west side of the San Pedro River, near St. David, again taking up farming. Howard also worked at other jobs--cleaning out Southern Pacific passenger cars when the train stopped in Benson, hauling ore and selling produce to other southern Arizona towns.
Ernest, who was born in 1919, remembers riding along on the trips to deliver produce, when his father would also buy ice in 100 and 200-pound blocks. "That would mean we would have ice cream until all the ice was gone, and we didn't ask what flavor the ice cream (was), like kids do now--the flavor was always vanilla."
And Kelvin, Ernest's older brother, remembers accompanying his father to Tombstone because "that is where I learned to love raisin pie, which we would always eat at the Can-Can Cafe, run by an old Chinaman."
Soon after arriving in Arizona, on May 2, 1903, Tressie May wrote, "The Lord told me through his servant: The day will come when your husband will receive truth. The enemy will use his influence and try to discourage him. Through your faith and prayers, you will throw an influence around him that will give him joy and satisfaction."
And on May 3, 1903, Howard was baptized.
He was ordained an elder on Sept. 28, 1906, and soon the Posts--who now included daughters Lola Orvilla and Hazel Adeline--left for Salt Lake City for their temple sealings and endowments.
Howard served in the Sunday School superintendency and then was called as a counselor to Bishop Crozier Kimball. Naturally gifted in recordkeeping, he then served as ward clerk under Bishop Kimball.
In 1908, Howard became the rural letter carrier for the St. David district, a job he held for 19 years. For much of that time, he covered the route with a horse and buggy, often arriving home late and exhausted and sometimes frozen.
Eventually, he bought a car, "and how proud we were of it." Stella says. The new transportation made the route much quicker and more comfortable, but, Ernest recalls, "it seemed to me that the car was always in need of fixing up."
Alice remembers that, beginning at about age 17, she substituted for her father on his route. "I delivered the mail in his place even after I was married and had a little girl...I used to crank the car."
Kelvin was also born in 1908, and Howard moved his expanding family to 20 acres, where they built a two-bedroom house. Later enlarged, the house was the family's home for the rest of their time in St. David. Nadine, John, Ernest and Frances were born while the family lived in this house. All the Post children were born at home.
Besides carrying the mail, Howard contracted road work to help care for his large family. Even though money was scarce, he always tried to give his children $l for celebrations on special days--July 4 and the 24th.
"I don't think Dad had much money, ever, but when he gave me a dollar, I was the richest person ever," Ernest says.
But then, in 1926, Howard lost his mail job. "It seemed like a disaster to him," Stella says. Mildred remembers: "I watched as my parents agonized over what to do...My father was a worrier, I think, and was fustrated and nervous."
Howard came to Tucson and bought a franchise to run a bus from downtown to the Veterans Hospital. The St. David home was sold to oldest son Clarence, and the rest of the family moved to a duplex in the Tucson Ward.
When the bus franchise expired, "Dad was hard put to make a living," Stella remembers. Ernest adds, "After Dad lost the mail carrier route, he wasn't home much."
He and a friend, Heber Martin, tried building contracting. One of their jobs was constructing the Broadway subway. During that project, Howard was covered in a cave-in. Among his vivid memories of that brush with death was his awful dread of the picks striking his legs as workers dug him clear of the dirt.
Employment was scarce during the Depression years, so Howard and Brother Martin took building contracts around the state. Mildred remembers a job constructing a road near the Coolidge dam, when she, Nadine, Clarence and his wife, Maud, joined the crew.
"They needed a cook so they hired me. I was 18...How I cooked I don't know. Maud helped me with lots of instructions. Our parents taught us to work, so I guess I did OK."
The children remember their father as strict--but fair. Ernest says, "I received a few good whippings from Dad, but looking back, I deserved them. I just won't say anything about what I did to earn them."
Mildred, however, is not so reticent. She recalls a summer when Ernest joined other family members at the construction camp. "There was a sort of commissary...that had cigarettes for sale. One day, Ernest decided to try one. Father caught him, sat him down and watched him while he took a puff from each of a pack of cigarettes. This almost killed me. I can still see him, pale, shakey and getting more nauseated every moment. I think it worked, though."
Despite the tough discipline, Howard loved his children, although he wasn't always overly affectionate. Mildred says, "Often young people think their parents don't love them because they don't say so or show affection. I felt that way about my father."
As a teenager, she once went off with a group of friends after a Church party. She told Nadine to tell her mother that she would spend the night at a friend's house--but Nadine didn't relay the message. Mildred recalls, "When I went home the next morning, late, the family were quiet but still worried. Someone said. "Mildred, did you know your father walked the floor last night and hardly slept?" I was greatly touched, and I knew my father loved me because he worried about my safety."
In 1932, Howard and Brother Martin took a job in Pauldin (near Prescott), Howard was killed on Nov. 21, crushed by a load of dirt while trying to release a balky catch on a dump truck.
His wife had been able to visit him just a few weeks before. Stella's husband, Earl Nelson, who had been working with him, "said he had never seen Dad happier than when Mother visited him," Stella said.
Kelvin had just returned from a mission to Germany a few days before his father's death. The family was preparing to travel to Pauldin when Howard was killed, and Kelvin never saw his father alive again. "I felt sad that, having been away for two and a half years and then being so near, I wasn't able to see Dad," Kelvin said.
In Howard's patriarchal blessing, he was told he would preach the gospel to the Lamanites and see them come into the Church by thousands. Stella says, "After Kelvin finished his mission to Germany, I expect it was time for Dad to begin his mission in the spirit world."
Kelvin and Clarence brought the body home to the Post home in Tucson. Mildred says she expected the house to be filled with loud crying and confusion, but instead, "a peaceful, beautiful feeling settled down upon the house...Later, when I viewed the body, I continued to have this feeling. I felt that my father was there."
Howard Orville Post left behind 11 children--four boys and seven girls-- and a legacy of dedication to the gospel and love to his family.
Ernest says, "Dad, when he could get home from working out of town, would always go to church. When I was 12, if he was home, he always took me to priesthood meetings with him.
"Dad must have been a faithful tithe payer. Nadine recalls Dad was asked to talk of tithing, and when the branch president introduced him, he said that Dad was one of the largest tithe payers in the branch.
"Later in in my life, after Dad passed on, people who were well acquainted with Dad would tell me (that) if Dad gave his word, it was as good as his bond."
Stella says, "It is too bad our father did not live longer. He needed the years after his children were on their own to mellow and grow old graciously. He needed time to meditate, to reflect on his own feelings, to know and love his grandchildren."
Alice says,"He was a good father to us." Ernest adds, "I'm glad I am one of his children, and I look forward to the time--whenever it comes--when I shall see Dad and Mother again."
--Written by Susan Walker Turley, granddaughter of Orville Kelvin Post, from the life story of Howard Orville Post written by Stella Post Nelson in 1958,and from memories provided by Stella, Kelvin, Mildred Post Cooper, Ernest Post and Alice Post Nelson