Howard W. Long   1911- 1990

In the Year of Our Lord, 1972, while sitting under an avocado tree and gazing across the vast Pacific, Howard William Long dictated One Step To Paradise into a now-dated recorder. A father of seven, grandfather of twenty-nine and great-grandfather of thirty-four, he envisioned introducing the world to a modern version of The Pilgrim’s Progress (John Bunyan, 1678), and thus he began to record. This was not the first time Howard “thought big.”

 

A visionary, in 1955 he had expressed his frustration to his friend and local pastor, Peter DeJong, in no uncertain terms, exclaiming, “We’ve translated the Bible into hundreds, a couple thousand tongues, and when we run out of tongues to translate it into, someday we’re going to translate it into English.”

 

It would take scholars thirty-three years to complete the translation project Howard envisioned in 1955, but in 1978, the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible was released in the United States. Outselling all other Bible versions, the NIV became the version of the age and was translated into languages across the world. Howard never gave up! “The NIV has been a godsend; it has been a lifesaver,” Howard said in 1986. “It’s something people can understand.”

Never one to accept he had “learned it all,” he was dedicated to a life of learning—and indeed, Howard studied theology with his pastor, Peter DeJong, until he was considered to have a theology
degree. He tackled philosophy with the same enthusiasm, reading the challenging philosophical volumes by the great philosophers.

Long before global warming discourse and Greta Thunberg, before 1977 when the National Academy of Sciences warned of rising sea levels and coal consumption, and before The New York Times published “1969: A Warning on Global Warming” on July 1,2014, Howard was discussing the effects of industrialization and nuclear waste on the creation he so loved. An engineer by trade, having studied geology and psychology in college, Howard’s interests led him to study from leading scientific minds of the day.

His humble upbringing did not thwart the learning process. He, along with his wife Genevieve, invited renowned engineers, nuclear physicists, philosophers, and theologians into their homes in Seattle and Anchorage so they could listen and learn. An advocate of clean nuclear energy, responsible stewardship of nature, and restrictions on pollutants, Howard spoke often and long, to anyone and everyone interested, and discussed with his family the importance of education, engagement, and involvement.

 

Howard, an avid pilot, and Genevieve, an energetic and keenly intelligent partner, had a life of adventure. Tradition had little control; living life to God’s glory was all in all. The stories in One Step to Paradise are reflections of their life—the love of flying, the meetings in their home involving conversations of searching minds, learning and growing in that learning, the lives of enthusiastic
Christians.

Today at 101, Genevieve laughs at those memories and recounts many more. Now widowed for thirty years, she continues to read, influence those in her life, and honor the God she and Howard served.  Genevieve vividly recalls their life:

 

She recounts driving their blue Lincoln down an Oregon two-lane road as she followed Howard flying his Cessna 180—four children in the car, three in the plane. Genevieve rarely drove the speed limit. Stopped by an officer, he reminded her of the speed limit. Genevieve smiled, pointed up at the Cessna 180 and indicated she had an appointment to keep. “Well, then, just be careful,” the officer replied. “Try not to drive down the center.”

 

With laughter, Genevieve describes the Barnstorming era. Howard learned to fly with a one-page instruction sheet—no required license, no detailed drawings, and no maintenance diagrams. An engineer’s playground, Howard had his planes custom modified and flew extensively throughout the Pacific Northwest for enjoyment and as an employee of General Electric Company. Mountains, snow, wind and rain had no effect on his enthusiasm for piloting. Coming home from his business trips, Howard would swoop down, fly low over the house, and Genevieve and the children would pile in the car and race to the airstrip—Dad was home!

Wanting nothing but the best for their children led to piling them in the van for a run down to Hermiston, Oregon, in the scorching heat of the summer, to load up the best watermelon of the West or to building a cannon to summon children and friends playing in nearby woods. Whether starting a Christian school, Howard teaching  his mother-in-law how to weld ships in World War II, or certifying welders for the Alaskan pipeline, life was viewed as a never-ending exploration.

 

Without the dedication of Genevieve, Howard would not have scaled the many challenges of life they faced. Deeply committed to a life honoring the Lord, propagating truth, they consistently pursued a life of service and knowledge.

 

Howard and Genevieve’s enthusiasm and beliefs continue to influence the many lives they touched. May you be encouraged by reading this novel—by seeing the vision to carry on through the challenges of life well lived.