Howard T. Howard passed away peacefully at home in Winter Harbor with his family on Oct. 30, 2021, after a long fight with cancer. He was 85.
Many people have wondered how Howard got his name. Howard was born as Howard Lawrence Alwin in Beatrice, Neb., to Dorothy Howard and Max Alwin. After Dorothy and Max divorced when he was 2, Dorothy married Lynn Travis and Howard became Howard Lawrence Travis. When Howard was 5, Dorothy, a music teacher, started him on piano lessons. When he was 9, Dorothy died in childbirth, and Howard was adopted by his mother’s parents, Margaret and Lester Howard of Billings, Mont. Howard became Howard Travis Howard.
The adventure was just beginning. His grandparents moved temporarily from Billings to Sumatra, Mont., a ranching community that lacked electricity and running water (water was procured from a tank at the railroad tracks). When he was 14, they returned to Billings, and Howard started playing the French horn, which took him like a bolt from the blue. Although he had no horn teacher in his senior year of high school, he practiced a lot, played the cello parts in the orchestra and the alto sax parts in a dance band on the horn, and listened to radio broadcasts of the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera. After high school he attended the University of Michigan, where he received his Bachelor of Music Education in 1958. He joined the Air Force, but two-thirds of the way through basic training he was discharged for medical reasons.
He played first horn in the Toledo Symphony briefly, then went to New York City in 1960 to seek his fortune in the music world, supporting himself by substitute teaching the fifth grade in the east Bronx. While playing a variety of concerts in New York, he successfully auditioned in 1961 for a position with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. The next year, he was selected for the principal horn position at the Met, where he was proud to play for 46 years, working with the major conductors of the day, Erich Leinsdorf, Carl Boehm, Fritz Reiner, Georg Solti, Herbert von Karjan and James Levine, and renowned opera singers like Luciano Pavarotti. He loved to travel and was delighted when every spring the Met toured the East Coast and occasionally Paris, Japan, Austria and Germany.
But the adventures didn’t end there. Following his grandfather’s footsteps (who always had rental buildings in Billings), he acquired a couple of brownstones on the west side of Manhattan, serving as the super in his spare time. He also did studio work, recording commercials, Kostelanatz and a film clip for Spike Lee. Most important, however, in the early ’60s, he discovered sailing, bought and rebuilt a Herreshoff S-Boat and for 40 years raced it with much pleasure in Long Island Sound through the S-Boat Centennial in 2019.
Meanwhile, Howard had discovered Maine, first Swan’s Island then Corea. By the early ’70s, he had already met Skiles, a dancer at the Met. They were married in 1975, had their amazing children Adam and Caitlin, and moved to Irvington, N.Y., where they were all active at The Church of St. Barnabas. In 1988, Corea became a regular summer adventure, with the Winter Harbor Lobster Festival a highlight for all. When he retired in 2007, Howard and Skiles moved to Winter Harbor, where he fell in love with the Winter Harbor Public Library, serving as president of the board, and he also served on the boards of the Schoodic Community Fund and the Monteux School and Festival, where he enjoyed giving clinics for horn players. He loved Maine and had so many good times.
Howard is survived by his loving wife, Skiles, beloved daughter Caitlin, son-in-law David Rowe and grandson Hunter Rowe, treasured son Adam and daughter-in-law Jenn Heettner, cousin Marles Nichols, half-brother Jack Travis, half-sisters Peggy Doeksen and Ruth Goetzinger and husband, John, many nieces and nephews and many, many friends. Howard will be interred in the Memorial Garden at The Church of St. Barnabas, and a celebration of his life will be held at the Winter Harbor Public Library next summer.
Memorial donations may be sent to the Winter Harbor Public Library, P.O. Box 326, Winter Harbor, ME 04693; the Schoodic Community Fund, c/o Karin Hartt, Maine Community Foundation, 245 Main St., Ellsworth, ME 04605, for “The Maine Community Fund”; and the Monteux School and Music Festival, P.O. Box 457, Hancock, ME 04640.