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Jennifer Ackerman, Deseret Morning News
Sandra Howard comforts her son Connor, cousin to Matthew and Esther Howard, during the combined funeral for Janine, Matthew and Esther Howard Saturday.

HUNTSVILLE — On the day he buried his wife and two of his children, Ben Howard stood firm in his faith that his family will be reunited.

"I stand before you this day as a man filled with peace," Howard told the hundreds of people gathered Saturday for the funerals of his wife, Janine, son Matthew and daughter Esther, who died in a head-on crash more than a week ago.

"This week I've witnessed miracle upon miracle, both day and night," Howard said. "I pray that people of all faiths, of all beliefs, may come to know the mercy of the Lord that I've come to know this week."

Friends, family and other well-wishers filled the chapel and much of an overflow area at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Middleton Ward chapel in this small Ogden Valley town.

Janine and Matthew Howard were killed June 28 when a pickup truck being driven by a 25-year-old Layton man collided with their family car on U.S. 89 in Layton. Esther died the following day at Primary Children's Medical Center but was kept on life support to allow organ donation.

Two other Howard children, 13-year-old Rachel and seven-year-old Caleb were also hospitalized after the crash. Rachel was released and returned to the family's Huntsville home Tuesday, and Caleb remains in critical condition at Primary Children's.

Ben Howard was not traveling with his family, and neither was the family's adoptive son, John DeVores, 19, who has lived with the Huntsville family since he was 8.

Ben Howard spoke in support of organ and blood donation. Four different families have benefitted from Esther's organ donation, according to a press release issued by the Howard family Thursday.

Janine, who was 40, was remembered by her brother Dan Adams as a loving, dedicated wife and mother, and a talented cook, seamstress and singer. She always thought of her children first and loved to take them to museums, shows and other events.

"She loved her children." Adams said. "They were at the center of her heart and the center of her life. They were everything to her."

Adams said Janine chose to home school her children for several years, not because she disliked public schools, but because she didn't want to miss a moment with her children. Janine taught music to the children in her LDS ward, and some of those children performed "I'm Trying to be Like Jesus" at the funeral, a song she had taught them.

Eleven-year-old Matthew was remembered by his aunt Sandra Howard as "a very good boy," who always tried to do what was right.

"His hug was so tight and he'd never let go," she said.

He loved soccer and playing with his siblings, and his family was always amused by his uncommon love of cheese, she said. He excelled in Cub Scouts and school work and was especially good at math. When he began attending public schools he was at the top of his class, she said.

Eight-year-old Esther was "the epitome of a righteous, loving child," who was so pure she couldn't even comprehend the idea of evil, said her uncle Quinn Howard.

"She was always there for a hug and some affection as you came in the door," Quinn Howard said. "You didn't need a pet because as soon as you'd sit down, Esther was in your lap."

Esther had good relationships with her siblings, especially her younger brother, Caleb. She also had a strong imagination, which was shown as she invented games with her siblings.

Ben Howard is self-employed, and the family doesn't have medical insurance, and a fund has been set up to help cover medical costs. Donations to the Howard Family Relief Fund will be accepted at any Washington Mutual bank.

E-mail: dfelix@desnews.com