A pioneer in Nebraska’s tourism industry and ultimately a legend, Gordon Howard passed away Monday at the Residency Care Center in Scottsbluff at the age of 85.
After his birth in a sod house southeast of McGrew, Howard lived in the area his entire life, except for a time in the Army. For 28 years, Gordon, his wife Patty and their family operated their trademark business the Oregon Trail Wagon Train.
A can’t miss tourism attraction, the Oregon Trail Wagon Train gave visitors a one of a kind meal with options for canoe and stagecoach rides plus campfire entertainment at the base of Chimney Rock.
Karla Niedan-Streeks, Gering Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director, said Howard’s passion for Chimney Rock and Oregon Trail history made him “an icon.”
Niedan-Streeks said “When you talk about icons of tourism, Gordon Howard is who you see in Webster’s. He truly represented everything good and great about the tourism industry and those who have been involved in the industry up until today. ”
Neidan-Steeks said Howard was a personal friend and a mentor from her first tourism conference when he showed her his covered wagon train tattoo on his tooth and told her to follow him if she wanted to know the ropes of the tourism industry.
With Howard leading the charge, Chimney Rock was included on the Nebraska state quarter. Former Bayard Mayor Paul Leseburg said Howard was “an ambassador for the region and was always a wonderful person to be around because of his knowledge of western Nebraska history”.
Gordon and Patty’s love for Chimney Rock was fulfilled when they donated their land for the Chimney Rock Visitors Center. Howard was the recipient of the Henry Fonda Award and was an admiral in the Nebraska Navy.
Per Gordon’s request cremation has taken place and there will be no visitation. A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Residency. Memorials may be made in Gordon’s honor to Community Christian School, Buckboard Therapeutic Riding Academy or the donor’s choice. Online condolences may be made by viewing Howard’s memorial page at Bridgmanfuneralhome.com