He loved his community, children and his fellow veterans. He also loved motorcycles. Ron Howard, a veteran with more than three decades of service, died in 2017. After he passed, his friends and family wanted to do something to honor him, so they did a motorcycle ride the weekend before Veterans Day in 2017.
“He was a motorcycle enthusiast,” Katie James, Howard’s daughter, said. “He got his first one when I was in the fourth or fifth grade. My husband now has that motorcycle. He and my brother, KC, were best friends so they were in it together.”
On Saturday, despite the below-freezing weather, 88 motorcycles, piloted by Howard’s friends — many of them veterans themselves — and family rode from the company he founded in Mooresville to Joey's Fine Food & Pizza in Denver to honor him. This year marked the third annual Ron Howard Veterans Day Ride and Bike Show.
“He had such an incredible life and touched so many people,” James said. “The ride gets people together from Dad’s past who just loved him. I see people that I grew up with when I was a baby. Some of them were part of his special forces unit while he was in the Army and they come all the way up here to do the ride.”
The cyclists not only rode to honor Howard but also to raise money for four organizations that he was passionate about. These organizations include East Lincoln Wellness Foundation, which assists in providing medical care for those less fortunate residents of the East Lincoln area.
Another is Purple Heart Homes, which is dedicated to providing housing for service connected disabled veterans. These homes are substantial in function, design, and quality and are fit to welcome home the fighting men and women of America.
Children’s Hope Alliance (Barium Springs and Grandfather Mountain Home for Children), an organization that works to provide a safe, healing journey for hurting children and families, creating hope now and in the future, is the third.
Finally, Night Stalkers Association, which is a U.S. Army association that will provide scholarship funding in the name of the “Ron Howard Memorial Scholarship Fund” to military families. The 2019 ride raised over $20,000 which will be divided evenly between the four organizations.
Howard retired as a Chief Warrant Officer 5 in the U.S. Army. He was responsible for all air operations while also serving as the Commanding General’s UH-60 Blackhawk pilot. During the initial implementation phase of the Dayton Peace Accords, he established and managed the Commanding IFOR aviation support to the Balkan Theater.
“The military was his passion,” James said. “He loved protecting his country. I know I’m biased because he was my dad, but he was the epitome of everything that I think a veteran would strive to be. After he retired he devoted his life to bettering the country.”
With his son, KC, Howard founded IOMAX USA, Inc. in 2001. The company, which is located in Mooresville, was established to provide operational support, technology insertions and development for the Department of Defense, Special Operations Forces and other government agencies. In 2008, Howard transitioned IOMAX into aviation by managing the development of a new air-to-ground weapon system. In 2009, he started discussions with a key U.S. ally and entered into a series of contracts to design, produce and deliver state of the art border patrol aircraft, currently assisting in the fight against global terrorism.
The plane is called the “Archangel” and one flew over the memorial service on Saturday.
“That first year, things were raw,” KC Howard said during the service. “It was such an emotional experience. I was focused on Ron Howard at that time. As with everything, time heals and life moves on. You grow and you learn from those experiences. Coming into this week and thinking about this ride, it’s less about that raw experience and losing your father and your best friend, and it’s more about, what did Dad leave behind and what was important to him. When you look over this crowd, you see what he left behind. This is the special part.”