A man known for his big heart has left many hearts mourning following his death on Tuesday night.
Howard Hallett, who was to turn 75 on March 1, died as a result of a Feb. 4 collision on the Trans-Canada Highway just east of Salmon Arm involving his pickup truck and two semis.
“He was a big man, but his heart was 10 times bigger than he was,” said Mike Smith, who has known Howard since the ’80s. “Never known a man with a bigger heart.”
In a separate interview, Steve Hammer, also a longtime friend of Howard’s, uses strikingly similar words to describe him.
“His heart’s bigger than Salmon Arm, he was just a great big friendly giant.”
Howard Hallett was something of an icon in the motorcycle-riding community.
He and his spouse Leslie were two of the founders of the Summer Stomp, a party that began in 1989 and has expanded in size, audience and attractions over its 30 years.
The idea of the Stomp was born at a birthday party for Mike Smith that was held at the home of Howard and Leslie, then on Beatty Avenue in Salmon Arm.
“We had such a good time at the party, we thought maybe we should have a rally,” recalls Smith.
Hammer recounts how Howard was known as ‘the fire guy’ at the Stomp. The bonfire was his and his alone to manage.
“Don’t even touch his fire, don’t put a piece of wood on his fire. If you want to see the gentle giant turn into a mean fighting machine, throw a piece of wood in his fire. The first time you might get a stern tongue lashing, the second time you might get thrown in the fire,” laughs Hammer.
Smith agrees, the bonfire was one of Howard’s trademarks. He says Howard was a fixture at the event.
“When people think of the Stomp, they think of Howard.”
He was also heavily involved in the Christmas Toy Run put on by Stomp organizers.
“He used to ride his vintage 1940 Indian Chief motorcycle, wearing his duck suit,” Smith says. “Howard the Duck.”
Both Smith and Hammer say Howard’s generosity knew no bounds.
“He was an old school, redneck biker with a heart bigger than any town that he lived in. He would absolutely never, ever, no matter what was going on, drive by or ride by a broken-down bike,” says Hammer.
He would always provide a place for the owner to fix the bike and to stay as long as they needed.
“He’d help them out any way he could and they’d become fast friends,” adds Smith.
Although Howard was big in stature – over six feet tall, maybe 280 pounds, with a handshake you would not soon forget, the people who found him threatening were the ones who didn’t know him.
Hammer is getting a patch made up to honour Howard that will say only: “I lived and did it my way.”
“That is Howard. I’m not saying it was always the right way,” says Hammer with a laugh, “but he always did it his way and nobody was going to tell him any different.”
Howard leaves behind his wife Leslie and his two adult daughters, Samantha and Sondra.
A ride in honour of Howard Hallett will be held on March 30, leaving at noon from the Crown and Anchor Pub in Salmon Arm and ending at Leslie Hallett’s place on Lyman Hill for a bonfire and celebration of life.
“I think the big thing is, it will be a big chunk out of the biker community,” says Hammer of the loss.
Smith voices the same sentiment.
“He will be deeply missed in the community for sure. Anybody who ever met him, regardless if you were a motorcycle rider or who you were. If you ever met the guy you wouldn’t forget him.”