Howard Kidder has traveled to Egypt, Pakistan and places all over the globe on medical aid missions, but the 90-year-old got the scare of his life right outside the St. Paul church where he earned his Boy Scout badges and has worshiped for 78 years.
Kidder was making one of his regular trips to Mounds Park United Methodist Church on the East Side about 12:30 p.m. Thursday when a suspect donning a Halloween mask from the hit horror movie “Scream” accosted him and asked for money. The confrontation escalated within seconds, and the suspect flashed a gun at Kidder.
“I doled out a five dollar tip and told him he had a spectacular costume, or words to that effect,” Kidder said Friday with a laugh. “Things deteriorated at that point.”
The suspect, whom Kidder believes is a teenager, took the $5 and pulled up his shirt to reveal the butt of a handgun protruding from his pants pocket. Kidder, a retired Honeywell electrical engineer who knows a thing or two about guns, didn’t toy with the suspect.
“Well, it got my attention right away,” Kidder said with a mix of humor and seriousness. “I backed off right away because I was afraid I was going to be shot.”
Kidder threw his billfold to the ground and the suspect fled with it, joined by two plainclothes teenagers who had been standing off to the side.
“It was pretty obvious to me that they knew the character in the mask,” Kidder said of the two teens. “We didn’t introduce each other.”
The wallet contained more cash and two credit cards.
The crime is especially egregious, said those who know Kidder, because Kidder has served as a cornerstone of the community and church, and has spent his life giving back to causes that benefit the less fortunate. Kidder lives in his childhood home just blocks from the church, and has been a member longer than anyone else.
“He brings me flowers all the time,” said church secretary Kaite Knack. “He brings me lunch. He’s too sweet a guy for something like this to happen to.”
Still shaken from the Thursday ordeal, Kidder brought a bouquet of sunflowers to Knack Friday morning as he has for years. It’s that generosity and unexpected kindness that Kidder is known for among the approximately 150 parishioners, said Pastor Dennis Alexander.
“He’s … an anchor to the congregation,” Alexander said. “He’s here every Sunday.”
Police found the “Scream” mask abandoned nearby, but no arrests have been made. Sgt. Paul Paulos, a police spokesman, said that Kidder reacted correctly in the situation, and that there’s no evidence linking the robbery to other crimes.
Knack and Alexander could not recall any recent issues with crime in the area near the church.
Kidder grew up on the East Side just blocks from his mother’s childhood home. His father, a farm boy from southern Minnesota who became a downtown St. Paul attorney, and his mother, the legal secretary, first started attending the church in the 1000 block of Euclid Street.
Kidder earned his Boy Scout badges there, and eventually became a scout leader at the church. When he wasn’t delivering sandwiches or flowers to Knack, Kidder was flying across the world delivering medical aid in the middle of civil wars.
He’s been to Haiti several times, running the x-ray service at a small hospital. He’s seen enough to know that the “interesting confrontation” he found himself in Thursday afternoon was no reason to forsake the life he’s built on the East Side.
“I was disturbed by it … but I just happened to be a convenient victim,” Kidder said. “It’s a nice neighborhood. It really is.”
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708