Howard Cornish, 81, of Billings, passed away on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014, at Billings Clinic.
Howard was born in Hamilton to John and Mabel Cornish on June 8, 1933. He was the youngest of eight children. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Army, serving as a company clerk and playing in the U.S. Army band during the Korean War. Howard returned to Hamilton and Missoula, putting himself through college, working as a grocery clerk, fry cook and playing in a dance band. While in college, he had the opportunity to play with numerous big band groups, such as The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and Louie Armstrong. He met his dream bride and love of his life, LaVern Hollinger, while skiing at Lost Trail Pass. He was a man of dedication, as it took many attempts to get close enough on the rope tow to learn her name written on her rope tow belt. They have been married over 56 years.
He graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in business and music. Upon graduation, he accepted a position as an accountant with the Ryan Wholesale Grocery Company (IGA) in Billings. Two children were born: daughter Cheryl and son Don. After managing and moving briefly to Great Falls, he rose to the position of vice president back in Billings. In that position, he created and implemented the IGA Tiger Discounter program. As the Exec. VP, he showed his compassion and respect for the people whom he had the opportunity to work with. He found the truck drivers’ and forklift operators’ equipment was in poor condition, so he ordered new semis and lift trucks for them with their names lettered on them. He implemented the newest state of art computer system, the IBM Century Computer System. Howard hired Bob Grummet (wife Marion) from IBM to run the system, and they became lifelong friends.
As a tireless entrepreneur, after leaving the grocery industry, he became a life insurance agent with Northwestern National Life (ING) and a real estate broker. He went on to own and operate many businesses, including a self-serve carwash, farm irrigation company and many properties, one of which was home to one of his favorite charities, Growth Thru Art. After selling his real estate company, he became the executive officer for the Billings Association of Realtors. During his tenure, he led the Association and the Billings MLS system to a budget surplus and integration to the Internet.
Howard’s love of the outdoors started as a child in Bitterroot Valley, hiking with his favorite pal, his dog, Tags. He was an avid fisherman and backpacker, owning a cabin at East Rosebud Lake and a ranch on the Stillwater River. Howard was strongly opposed to any damming of the East Rosebud River and to fracking or any energy exploration in the Beartooth Mountains. Howard was blessed by wonderful grandchildren: Luke and Annah, Teresa, Spencer and great-grandchild Thatcher. Also two very special girls: Meerim and Rabiia from Kyrgyzstan.
Howard was preceded in death by his parents; sisters Vivian and Louella; brothers John, Bob and Jim. He is survived by his wife, LaVern; brother Charles of Bremerton, Wash.; sister Stella Kratofil of Spokane, Wash.; daughter Cheryl and husband Carl Anderson; son Don and wife Lori Cornish.
Services will be held at a later date.