By Charlotte Jackson, Contributing Writer
“Hey pretty lady. How are you?” seemed to have been a standard text message or greeting over the past 20 years from my friend Howard Fontenette. We first met when my youngest son started playing football at the age of 6. With his size and energy, everyone encouraged me to let him play youth football. Finally I gave in and stopped in at the Jim Fonteno Courthouse on Wallisville one afternoon. From that first meeting with Howard, I knew I was blessed. Not only did he listen to me ask a zillion questions about the youth league he founded, but he took the time to tell me all about the Wallisville Road Athletic Club (WRAC).
As a single mother of three, I was not going to be able to afford the registration fee or anything else my son would need to play. But before I could even tell him, Howard looked me in the eyes and told me not to worry about any fees. “What really matters is that you get him to practice and let him be around other boys, as well as the many men who are dedicated to the program. God will take care of the fees,” Howard said. I knew right then that God had sent me an angel.
And as God would have it, Howard did not just bless me with the registration fee and everything associated with my son playing WRAC football, He allowed Howard to introduce me to one of his Wheatley Wildcat classmates, Dr. Oscar James. Over the years, I would reach out to Dr. James for assistance as well. He was involved with the local Justice of the Peace and facilitated behavior modification classes juveniles were often court-ordered to attend. Being a single mom is no easy task, especially when you have limited assistance and support. However, God somehow knew I needed help, and He sent me these two outstanding men to help me guide my sons.
I came to notice that there were even more men who routinely stood in the gap for my sons and so many others. Many times these men were connected to Howard and Dr. James. Seems like Wheatley High School produces not just successful graduates who go on to make the world a better place, but men who have lifelong bonds that are unbreakable.
Late last year, we learned that Howard suffered a stroke. His children naturally became protective of their dad, as they had already lost their mother to ALS a few years ago. There was hardly a week that went by that one of the former WRAC coaches or players did not stop by my office or call to see if I had heard any updates on Howard. On the night of March 21st, as I was driving home from a conference, I suddenly had a sinking feeling. Later on that evening, I received a call that Howard had passed.
Howard left a great legacy, and he will be missed. I pray that his children know that they are saturated in prayer. Howard was kind, and I was blessed that he was my friend. So many times we worry about leaving material possessions behind for our loved ones, but what about the legacy? I hope that the mark I leave on this earth is one that God is pleased with. What legacy are you leaving behind?