Marguerite Parrish Howard
1928 – 2023
Our beloved matriarch, Mrs. Marguerite Lee Parrish Howard, 94, of Greenville, SC, passed away peacefully on February 28, 2023. She was an amazing woman who had a remarkable life, most of which was spent in service to God and others in India, the land of her birth.
Marguerite was born April 18, 1928, in Jha Jha, Bihar, India to missionary parents, Rev. Marvin Evander Parrish and Alma Ethel Clower Parrish, ministering in Colonial India. The Parrish family later grew to include Helen, Marvin Jr., Giles, and David. When Marguerite was seven years old, she came to faith in Christ. She spent her formative years in small-town Bihar and later attended Woodstock School in Mussoorie, a hill station in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, which was 900+ miles away––a three-day train ride from her home on the plains.
When Marguerite was 14 years old, the events of World War II made it necessary for the Parrishes to leave India. They were evacuated from Bombay in May 1942 on the S.S. Brazil, an ocean liner that had been converted to a troop ship. The six-week voyage during wartime was full of danger, but they arrived safely in New York Harbor, greeted by the Statue of Liberty. Upon their return to America, Marguerite’s family lived in Roanoke, VA, Buffalo, NY, and Toledo, OH. During high school, her goal was to be an executive secretary; however, in January 1946, she accepted God’s call to return to India as a missionary. Her secretarial training stood her in good stead, and she used the skills, especially typing, acquired in high school on a daily basis in her work as a missionary. She graduated from Libbey High School in Toledo, OH in 1946 and left for Greenville, SC later that year to attend Holmes Bible College in preparation to serve in India as a career missionary.
While at Holmes, Marguerite fell in love with Rev. Hobert Hoover Howard of Advance, NC, a very handsome returning student who, in October 1945, had felt the call of God on his life to minister in India. Both Hobert and Marguerite completed their Th.B. degrees at Holmes in 1948 and 1949, respectively. They were married in August 1949, and she joined him in ministry at Thomasville (NC) Pentecostal Holiness (PH) Church. In June 1951, the Howards sailed from New York Harbor on a freighter to India, docking in Calcutta in a newly independent India after a 50-day voyage. They took the train up country to live and work for the next 62 years in the area of Bihar where Marguerite’s parents, the Parrishes, had served years earlier.
As new missionaries, Marguerite and Hobert attended a two-year Hindi language course at the Landour Language School in Mussoorie, where Marguerite had attended Woodstock School. They were diligent and motivated students and both mastered reading, writing, and speaking Hindi beautifully. In time, the Howards welcomed three daughters, Evelyn, Patricia, and Linda, all of whom were born in Bihar and later went on to attend Woodstock School. Though separated from her daughters by 900+ miles for months at a time, Marguerite spanned the miles with daily letters to each one, assuring them of her love and care. Each summer, Marguerite took the long train journey to Mussoorie to be with her children for a few months, and Hobert joined them for a few weeks.
Traveling was a significant part of the Howard family’s life. Ships and planes took them to various countries including England, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Aden (Yemen), Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, and beyond. Travel domestically in India meant adventures by train, bus, taxi, tonga, rickshaw, ox cart, Tuk-Tuk (auto rickshaw), boat, “dandee” (coolie-borne palanquin), “kundee” (wicker backpack basket chair for carrying toddlers in the mountains), on foot, and in the Howard’s bare-bones Land Rover! This all meant that Marguerite was an expert packer, a far-sighted planner, and an adaptable traveler. Travel in India meant bringing safe, boiled water, food, and bedding on every trip.
Marguerite always had a tender heart towards children, and the Howards prioritized education by raising funds and administering child sponsorship programs. She and Hobert continued the PH ministry to children begun by her parents and their colleagues years earlier. The mission boarding schools accepted children from many backgrounds, including many from villages and some children who had been orphaned. These schools educated the children’s minds, expanded their horizons, and taught them about God’s love. Children were encouraged to pursue higher education, training, and/or trades, and many chose to become pastors or teachers, later returning to work alongside the Howards and their fellow missionaries. Over the years, churches were opened in new areas, increasingly further away, and were pastored by young men who had been raised in the mission schools. Initially, ministry was to smaller communities but expanded across the nation and eventually included churches planted in India’s largest cities and in Nepal and Bangladesh.
Marguerite and Hobert were amazing ministry partners, and their ministry was undergirded with daily prayer and Bible reading. (Marguerite read her Bible cover to cover each year for much of her adult life, completing the entire Bible at least 60 times.) Their ministry over the years was broad and included preaching, teaching, leadership training, friendship evangelism, planting churches, mentoring, women’s ministry, and parenting their Indian sons and daughters. They also raised funds for ministers’ training, orphans’ weddings, support of widows, child sponsorship programs, and building churches, schools, and parsonages. Marguerite played the piano beautifully, and she and Hobert often sang duets together. The family frequently gathered for impromptu hymn or worship chorus singalongs when Marguerite sat down to play the piano.
Out of respect for the Indian culture, when she was in her late thirties, Marguerite adopted Indian dress and wore it for the rest of her life. She thoroughly enjoyed wearing sarees, from colorful everyday cottons to exquisitely embroidered silks. Wearing sarees was her signature style, and it provided her with the opportunity to talk to others about the land of her birth, her faith, and her ministry.
Marguerite and Hobert were 13,000 miles away from their adult daughters and their families for many years; however, as grandparents, they tried to be present for their grandchildren’s births, graduations, and (pre-COVID) weddings. They looked forward to fun family reunions, many at the lake, telling stories and celebrating family milestones. Marguerite’s gift of corresponding meant her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren regularly received cards and letters, and the Howards thoughtfully brought unique Indian gifts to their loved ones.
Though the Howards retired from full-time ministry at age 85 to the city where they met, their hearts never stopped beating for India. Even in retirement, they were busy raising funds for special projects and medical needs in India. Marguerite was in ministry until her final days. She continued pray for her family, friends, and loved ones around the world even though failing health limited her ability to travel. Her life touched thousands of other lives globally, and her legacy is ongoing.
Surviving are her husband, Rev. Hobert H. Howard; three daughters: Evelyn M. Lettieri (Dr. John T. Lettieri), Patricia H. Lyons (Dr. William L. Lyons), and Linda K. Niehaus (Mr. Theodore W. Niehaus); seven grandchildren: John W. Lettieri (D’Ann G. Lettieri), Ruth Lettieri McElroy (J. Andrew McElroy), Samuel L. Lyons (Kendra P. Lyons), Joseph H. Lyons (Alexis M. Lyons), Rachel L. Niehaus, Michael W. Niehaus, and Bethany E. Niehaus Merrick (William T. Merrick); five great-grandchildren: Jack W., Rose P., and William O. Lettieri, and Luke B. and Lily S. M. McElroy; and many beloved extended family members.
A funeral service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 11, 2023, at Redland Church, IPHC, Advance, NC, where the Howards have been members since the 1940s. Interment will follow at Bethlehem United Methodist Church cemetery, Advance, NC. The family will receive friends from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the church prior to the service. Additional information can be found at www.hayworth-miller.com.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to one of the Bible Schools below. Training the next generation of Christian ministers was always close to Marguerite’s heart.
Howard-Parrish Fund fbo Holmes Bible College (Greenville, SC)
c/o Mr. Reggie Till (Treasurer, IPH Foundation)
5511 Ramsey Street, Suite 100
Fayetteville NC 28311
Please make checks payable to IPH Foundation (memo: Howard-Parrish Fund fbo Holmes Bible College)
India Donald Memorial Training Center, Hyderabad, India
Project Number 25004P
IPHC World Missions Ministries
PO Box 270420
Oklahoma City OK 73137
Livestream the funeral service at 2:30 p.m. USA Eastern Time on Facebook Live or YouTube: https://rphc.net/
A Note from World Missions Ministries
Mrs. Howard was one of the most Christ-like, loving, gentle, supportive, and kindest people I have ever met. Together with her beloved husband Hobert, they served the Lord and the IPHC faithfully as Career Missionaries in India for 62 years from June 1, 1995, through February 13, 2013, – an unparalleled term of service in our ranks.
Brother Hobert and Mrs. Marguerite were inseparable and proved to be great examples that challenged Stephanie and I every time we were around them. I don’t know if I have ever seen a couple that honored one another more than they did. Every time I spoke with brother Howard on the phone, which was frequently, I could hear sister Howard in the background making comments, and particularly asking about Stephanie and instructing me to be sure to share her love for her and a special greeting. I still recall the gentle kiss she placed on my cheek the last time we visited with them as she told me that she loved me. I will miss her encouragement, love, and trust. Every person needs a Marguerite Howard in their life!
Shortly after my first visit to India in January 2013, the Howards retired and returned to the US. At that time, I was privileged to travel to four different conferences and hear their farewell remarks to those whom they had given their lives in ministry service to for 62 years. I know that Evelyn, Trish [Patricia], and Linda are their biological daughters, but I met hundreds of people who loved and deeply revered them as not only their spiritual parents but “adoptive” as well.
Two stories that Mrs. Marguerite told during those conferences, and relayed to me on numerous occasions since then, have impacted me greatly, and I often use them when talking with young leaders.
The first was a story from when she was a student at Holmes Bible College and was struggling to surrender to her call to missionary service during a Wednesday evening prayer meeting. She said she had repeatedly told the Lord that she was not “missionary material”, but the Lord spoke to her very clearly and told her that He did not need “material” but “availability”, and that He would take her gifts, talents, and abilities and use them for His glory.
The second story I heard Mrs. Marguerite tell with tears streaming down her cheeks is recorded in The Simultaneous Principle by Dr. Frank Tunstall. It reads:
“One of the toughest and most memorable experiences of Marguerite’s missionary career came in 1959. As her parents before her had done, she and Hobert had to leave Evelyn, their firstborn, 900 miles away in a boarding school. Marguerite found it almost impossible to do – in part because she knew how lonely she had been when her parents left her. Her emotions included anger, resentment, and bitterness at the prospect of leaving their six-year-old, so she cried out to God:
Lord, I love you with all of my heart. Hobert and I have left parents, family, friends, the comforts of our country, and everything for you. We’re happy to do that and we rejoice that we’ve had the privilege of fulfilling the call you placed on our lives, but this sacrifice that you’re requiring of us now is more than I can bear. I cannot just walk away from my little child and place her in this boarding school.
Tears streamed down her cheeks as she walked on up the mountain, contemplating the separation that was only days away. As she sobbed, her mind went to the story of how Abraham offered Isaac, his precious son. Abraham had the wood, the knife, and the fire. He turned to his servants at the bottom of the mountain and said, ‘We go up to worship.’
The Lord spoke to Marguerite in that moment and said, ‘If you love me as much as you say you do, then make this parting with Evelyn a part of your worship.’
Marguerite walked on in the fog, pondering this message. As she did, she discovered the fog in her soul beginning to clear. It was as if a cloak fell from her shoulders. Her negative feelings were left on the path. Marguerite comprehended in a new way that her Heavenly Father, who gave His only Son, knew all about that terrible separation. Every year afterward when the Howards parted from their children – first Evelyn, then Patricia, and then Linda – they endeavored to make the departure part of their worship.”
When the Howards sailed from New York on June 11, 1951, India had three pastors and five churches. Today India reports having 2,347 churches (1,985 churches in North India and 362 in South India including the Father’s House affiliate churches) and 63,720 members (47,991 members in North India and a membership of 15,729 in South India which includes the Father’s House affiliate members). What an eternal impact this dear lady of great faith and courage made for the Kingdom’s sake. Her life glorified the God she served in every respect!
When I think of women missionaries that I have known and whom God has used powerfully, this Godly, saintly lady must be included in this listing along with names like Ms. Fannie Lowe, Mrs. Charlene West, Mrs. June Carter Canavesio, Ms. Anne Lyons, Mrs. Judith Perez, and Mrs. Maxine Lopez.
Years ago, Winston Churchill planned his own funeral. At his direction, at the close of the service, a bugler positioned high up in the dome of that great cathedral sounded Taps: ‘Day is done, gone the sun’. But then came a very dramatic moment, as Churchill had instructed. Another bugler was placed on the other side of the massive dome, and he played the notes of Reveille, the universal signal that a new day has dawned and ‘It’s time to get up in the morning!’ This was Winston Churchill’s testimony that at the end of our lives, the last note will not be Taps, but Reveille! Jesus too will play a sort of Reveille one day. He will say, Marguerite, “It is time to get up!”
We honor and remember the life and ministry legacy of this precious Saint of God and gift to our church and The Church, knowing that eternity will fully reveal the Kingdom impact that missionaries like Marguerite Parrish Howard have made in our quest to ‘Go and make disciples of every ethnic group’.
On behalf of IPHC’s World Missions family,
Bishop J. Talmadge Gardner
Executive Director, IPHC World Missions Ministries