Side of Ranch: Jay Heater
It's easy to tell the Concession's Ian Howard is a good writer.
Take, for example, his description of the heart attack he suffered in 2008.
"I went out to eat pizza," said Howard, who was wearing a somewhat peculiar smile while talking about the horrifying incident. "I walked in the door and told my wife I didn't feel good. It was awful, my descending artery — the widow-maker they call it. It was 97% blocked and I almost died. It felt like a 12-inch knife was plunged into my chest and someone was moving it all around."
Unfortunately for Howard, he's got a million of them.
Well, maybe not a million, but a lot.
Enough so that he has lost count, sort of. He does know he has had 24 surgeries over the years, but assigning those to particular bones and organs can be tough. He rolled off a bunch of them, but he didn't have enough fingers and toes to record his recollections.
Two cancer surgeries, that was easy to remember. A shoulder, four knee surgeries, seven throat/sinus surgeries, two back, three here, two there.
He looked at me. "How many was that?"
Oh gosh, that's way too many.
Or some would say it's enough to account for a pretty crummy life.
And, yet, Howard is smiling ... most of the time.
His wife, Melissa, said her husband, a former bodybuilder and personal trainer who hits his personal gym at 4 a.m. each day, sings each morning to her. We're not talking about "Oh What I Beautiful Morning." His favorite band is "Kiss."
Imagine opening your eyes to ‘Shout It Out Loud,’ on a regular basis. Melissa, who said she has attended two Kiss concerts with her husband, said she likes the morning serenades even though her taste is more 1980s bands.
Yes, her husband is different, in a good way.
Perhaps Elton John should have been his favorite, and "I'm Still Standing" his adopted song.
The standing part certainly is important, but it's not what defines him. The smiling part, on the other hand, is more to the point.
After he overcame his first two bouts of cancer and encephalitis, he wrote a book to himself in 1983. It is called "Happiness."
"Happiness" is a collection of sayings by famous people. Howard collected them to give himself inspiration during his darkest moments. It was kind of a "my eyes only" project never intended for the public.
However, as his trying times continued through the years, he wanted to share those inspirational sayings. In 2008, 25 years after he wrote it, "Happiness" was published.
Chapter 1 starts, "No one gets out of this life alive ... start living." — Ian Howard.
Everyone has their own favorites, but I kind of liked "The greatest discovery of any generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering the attitudes of their minds," — Albert Schweitzer. Heady stuff, not surprisingly.
Or perhaps author Mary Pettibone Poole write this one for Howard, "He who laughs, lasts."
In the forward to the book, Howard writes, "I often wonder why people take life for granted. When people almost lose the most precious gift one can have ... their life, or they wake up to daily uncompromising pain, then a person might stop, look around and start appreciating all the wonderful things that make up our daily existence."
When Howard, who grew up in Middletown, N.J., is recovering from surgery, he lives his life to the fullest. After he started having medical problems when he was 19, he fought through it and joined the Navy. In the service, he won a battle against cancer.
One of the ways he persevered was by taking care of his body through working out, and that actually landed him some minor acting roles. He was the muscular boy interest of a girl Johnny Depp's character was chasing in the 1985 movie "Private Resort." He was in four Miami Vice episodes as the body in the background. In one role, he was a pimp.
In his late 20s he met his wife, Wendy, who was with him 25 years before she died in 2011. More adversity.
Over the years, he made his real money in the trade show business, organizing events at arenas all over the country to promote the home, health and family industries. He also invested in real estate and still manages many properties even though he considers himself retired.
At 60, he tries to have as much fun as possible, such as played multiple games of pickleball each day and loving life with Melissa, who married him just over six years ago. He loves setting up surprise birthday parties and events for his friends, and as always, he works out as much as his body will allow.
"I have my problems," said Howard, whose 29-year-old daughter, Brittany, lives in Estero, and whose 27-year-old son, Brandon, lives in Lakewood Ranch. "But I am real healthy. I worked out six hours yesterday. I couldn't move today, though. My knees hurt, my back hurts, but you can't stop moving."
Once again, he laughs.
He said he would love to give out copies of "Happiness" to provide inspiration to those in need, but he said most people don't know he has written three books. Anyone who is interested can to go booksbyaveteran.com.
"People have it far worse than I have had it," he said. Do I want to be miserable? No. I want to be happy while I am here."