Orlyn Huwe was one of Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity’s most dedicated long-term supporters. He was kind, generous with his time, and passionate about pursuing a way for everyone to have a decent place to live and call home. He was a committed ReStore volunteer, and when our newer ReStore building opened on Harrison Avenue, the store was dedicated to him.
We are humbled to pay tribute to Oryln through the above photos documenting a few of the many moments he spent serving with Habitat and the ReStore. Additionally, we are honored to share some statements from Tonya Thayer (former executive director of RAHFH) and Ed Leach (longtime RAHFH volunteer and current board member), both of whom worked closely with Orlyn over the years.
Here are a few direct quotes from a conversation with Tonya about Orlyn and his impact within Habitat:
“When we were looking for new site supervisors, Ed Leach used to say, ‘They don’t have to know how to build a house, they just have to know how to lead people’. Orlyn Huwe is a great example of a house leader who doesn’t know a thing about building a house, but built a great house every year because he knows how to lead people.”
“Orlyn always felt like fellowship was important, and he would have a cookout in his backyard for all the ReStore volunteers every year, so that they’d have a chance to get together outside the ReStore and get to know each other on a different level. The first year he did that, he had an amazing garden, and he gave us all a tour. He had his raised-bed garden, and he showed us his raspberries, and he walked us all through his very elaborate garden. And I remember he had a bat house, but he didn’t have any bats in it, and he really wanted to figure out how to get bats to his bat house to eat the bugs to save his garden. He had us all trying to figure out ways to lure bats into his bat house.”
“[He was a] very kind man. He was giving, and he accepted people exactly as they were. He was nonjudgmental, and I think that’s why he did so well with Habitat, because he didn’t see the bad in people. He only saw the potential, the positive, the drive, the good. He was that way with the homeowners. He met them where they were at, he helped lift them up.”
“I always appreciated the fact that even though he was a retired pastor, anytime he did a blessing, he was always careful to include everyone. He was inclusive long before people were talking about inclusion.”
“I also love the fact that he made me redo his name tag and take the word ‘pastor’ off of it. He wanted just to be Orlyn. Because he didn’t want people to act different. Or in his words, ‘people act weird when they see the word pastor’. He wanted to just be Orlyn, and he wanted people to know him as that. And he could be himself, and they could be themselves.”
“He had a love for Habitat, because he believed that everyone deserves a safe place to stay. He had a love for the garden. He had love for the earth. He helped us put in rain gardens in a couple of houses, so that where their gutters were, we put in rocks, and we made it natural. And it was important for him to teach the homeowners about the rain garden, and about protecting the earth. He loved his wife Rita. Everything was about Rita, and his grandkids, and his sons. He loved his family. He was a good man.”
Ed Leach shared the following statement to remember Orlyn:
“I have known Orlyn since May of 2000, when I started helping Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity. He was the site leader for the Rockford Lutheran ministries sponsored home. As I later learned was his habit, he greeted, and welcomed me to the site making me feel welcome. He let me fit in where I felt comfortable, and was complimentary of my efforts. We worked together through that year, and after finishing the house, he invited me for coffee. This coffee had a secondary agenda, as he invited me to join the board of Habitat, and lead construction activities. He was complimentary of my efforts, and ‘hooked me in’.
This habit of being complimentary of each person’s efforts is part of what made Orlyn a very special person. He was always a superb site leader, because he could draw in and keep the volunteers returning. Each year, his ‘crew’ would return to build another house.
Orlyn had a strong belief in the Habitat cause of providing housing for the struggling people of our community. Several years ago, Orlyn decided that building houses was no longer the best use of his talents, so he helped establish the ReStore at North Town shopping center.
Since the store opened Orlyn regularly helped on most days they are open. He greeted the customers and helped them with their purchases. While selling the merchandise he also “sold” Habitat’s mission, of helping struggling people to achieve their goal of home ownership.
Orlyn helped with the relocation of the ReStore, within North Town, and again when it was moved across town to near Cherryvale mall. After the store was firmly established at its new location, he started easing out of his active role there.”
Once again, as an organization we are honored that we had the opportunity to know and serve alongside Orlyn. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.
Orlyn’s obituary can be found here.