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Helen Howard

Helen Howard
(Photo from HCJB Global)

Helen Howard was born into a Baptist minister’s family in Pontiac, Mich., on March 29, 1920 and was was raised in the Midwest. She went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Christian education from Wheaton College in Illinois in 1942. While there she met Clayton Howard whom she later agreed to marry. The Howards’ long-distance courtship culminated in an on-air engagement announcement on the live program, “The Back Home Hour.” Helen and Clayton’s Sept. 12, 1942, wedding was also broadcast live on the international shortwave radio station. Their son Chuck Howard said “They were probably the first couple to be married over shortwave radio so the folks back home could hear it.” Helen’s minister father in the U.S., along with Rev. Evan Welsh, pastor of Clayton’s home church, had sent a recording of the complete service to Ecuador with Helen, only leaving gaps for “I do” from both Helen and Clayton.

In her youth missionaries, including Clarence Jones, were often in her parents’ home. In 1942 she sailed to Ecuador to serve with Radio Station HCJB in Quito, joining Clayton who had arrived in the South American country about a year earlier. Her voyage required travel in blackout conditions due to a threat of enemy attack on the Chilean ship during World War II. During the next 42 years in Ecuador, Helen’s passion was in child evangelism. She held child evangelism classes in her backyard, and as others joined these efforts it led to the founding of Iñaquito Evangelical Church in Quito where she was a deaconess and teacher. She also did home visitation and counseled for the church’s Women’s Society.

Helen assisted Clayton as host of the ever-popular shortwave radio listeners’ program, “DX Partyline,” as well as answering English-language letters from listeners worldwide. And she was involved in Andes DXers International, or ANDEX, a shortwave listeners’ club sponsored by Radio Station HCJB. She also did secretarial work, helped in the record library and taught kindergarten. “My heart has always been with children’s work,” Helen said in an interview in 1988. “We enjoyed going into the country and holding classes with children. Adults would also attend.”

The Howards retired and left Ecuador in 1984, living for about a decade in Florida before moving to Oklahoma. Helen Howard died January 3, 2010 at Go Ye Village in Tahlequah, Okla. She was 89.