There are some stories you will hear and personalities you will meet that stick with you.
One of those personalities belonged to Howard W. Popp, who died July 8 in his Hobart home. He was 94 years old.
I had the privilege of meeting and sharing the World War II U.S. Army veteran’s story a few weeks ago.
Surrounded by family and friends, “Popps” — as his loved ones called him — was honored June 12 with a Quilt of Valor at the Rees Funeral Home for his military service and sacrifice.
The handmade star quilt, presented by the Quilts of Valor Foundation, is given to service members and veterans touched by war and serves as a healing, tangible reminder of appreciation and gratitude.
Popp was nominated for the honor by his daughter, Donna Seeley, and grandson, Alek Seeley, whom Popp called “his boy.”
“Quilt of Valor represents a civilian equivalent to a Purple Heart Award. Our quilts are awarded, not just handed out, to say thank you for your service, sacrifice and valor in serving our nation. … He is most deserving,” said Flo Schneider, of String-A-Long Stars and Stripes Quilts of Valor of Northwest Indiana, during the ceremony.
The quilt came as a surprise to Popp, who was told he was being taken to a birthday party.
But the pure joy and smile that popped up on the veteran’s face when he realized what was happening was truly heartwarming.
He was the man of the hour and was quite proud of it, too.
He shared his thanks for the quilt and spent the evening spouting cuss-word-filled one-liners and retold stories from his wartime past and his time working for Rees Funeral Home.
It put the room in a palpable buzz.
“Oh my God. That’ll keep our (butt) warm. Wow,” Popp said when the stitched quilt was laid down on his lap.
The laughter — Popp’s laughter — was contagious.
Though I did not know him personally beforehand, I was quickly fond of the hero and could tell he had a large impact on his community.
Popp represented as a compassionate, good guy, a straight shooter and — as he described himself on multiple occasions — a total “bad a--.”
The day after he turned 18, Popp was drafted to serve in World War II. He entered the armed forces Oct. 15, 1943, and served as a private in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, which provided support and service to many operations, including the Normandy campaign.
He was honorably discharged April 14, 1946, after serving 20 months in the European Theater.
The decorated military veteran leaves behind many photographs, medals and special recognition from his service, including the Certificate of Merit, an award he received from Cmdr. Harold W. Rice after the Battle of the Bulge.
The local war hero will be honored with a 21-gun salute from by the U.S. Department of Defense and a flag line and escort by the Indiana Patriot Guard this weekend as he is put to rest.
He will be missed, but Popp — like all the other men and women who have and continue to serve — will never be forgotten.
If you know a veteran or notice one in public while you’re out and about, stop and take them time to say thank you.
Thank them for the sacrifices they gave to our country with their life, time, energy and love. Thank them for the bravery they displayed every day to protect our freedom. Thank them for their patriotism.
And if they are willing to share their stories with you, listen.
They deserve it.
Rest in peace "Popps," and thank you for your service.