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He's gone ... but his words remain: remembering Gary Howard
By SEAN CHASE - Pembroke Daily Observer


He wrote passionately about sports, politics, everyday life, and the community he loved. His poems found their way onto some of Pembroke's landmark murals. His pen is now, sadly, silenced.

Gary Howard, a prominent Pembroke author and poet who wrote for several publications including the Daily Observer, died last Saturday. He was 69.

"He was a great community promoter," said Mayor Ed Jacyno.

Born and raised in Pembroke, Mr. Howard began a 35-year career with the federal government. He held numerous administrative positions in Pembroke, Ottawa, Belleville and Toronto with three different departments until leaving the public service in 1995.

In retirement, Mr. Howard obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Ottawa. While he volunteered as a probation officer and tutor, he found his niche in writing. Throughout the 1990'


s, his works appeared in numerous Ottawa Valley publications.

Mr. Howard became an active member of the Daily Observer editorial board in 1999. Three years later he started his own column titled "Howard's Harangues."

"Gary Howard was an enthusiastic supporter and contributor to The Daily Observer and to say we will miss his input and his opinions is an understatement," said Observer managing editor Peter Lapinskie.

His insightful and thought-provoking columns quickly gained him a reputation as a writer to be reckoned with. The topics of his columns varied from giving an historical perspective of the community to the current issues of the day. As a young man he played minor hockey, a sport featured prominently in many of his works. Whether it was writing about the rise of the Pembroke Memorial Centre or the founding of such storied hockey clubs as the Renfrew Millionaires or the Pembroke Lumber Kings, his enthusiasm for hockey's rich heritage was boundless.

His first book, published in 2008, ironically focused on a sport not often identified with the Ottawa Valley - wrestling."The Rassler from Renfrew" chronicled the life of Larry Kasaboski and the story of Northland Wrestling Enterprises, which staged matches throughout the valley after the Second World War. Mr. Howard's own childhood served as an inspiration for the book. He remembered days of his youth when he flocked to the Mackay Street Arena and paid 25 cents admission to watch such combatants as Larry Kasaboski, Whipper Billy Watson and Gene Kiniski.

"From the opening bell, we fell hook, line and sinker for these wrestlers and the matches," Mr. Howard told interviewer Tom Van Dusen. "Eventually, everyone knew or suspected the bouts were predetermined, but no one could ever quite explain the intricacies and hidden secrets of the game."

An avid poet, many of his works were etched onto the murals that dot the city. The murals were the subject of his final column on April 15, 2011. Mr. Howard was also a frequent contributor to the Observer's letters page, offering not only his thoughts about national issues but local matters that concerned him. Many of those letters would also find their way to city council.

"I valued his opinion," said Mayor Jacyno. "He will be missed."

For the past several years, Mr. Howard and his wife Pierrette were enjoying their retirement years as avid travellers, often leaving home for extended periods to visit foreign destinations. Frequently these ventures would be featured in his column.

"Gary was one of those people with a zest for life and a curiosity about the world around him, who was gifted enough to be able to communicate in different ways," Mr. Lapinskie added. "The Daily Observer has lost one of its most prolific contributors and that loss will be deeply felt. To Pierrette and their children, on behalf of the Observer I extend our most sincere sympathies."

Gary Howard is survived by his wife, Pierrette, and children Mark, Joanne, Cathy, Nancy, Michael, George and Lynn. The couple had 15 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

A memorial mass will be celebrated today at St. Columbkille's Cathedral. As an expression of sympathy, donations to the Carefor Health and Community Services or the Marianhill Memorial Fund would be appreciated.

RELATED LINK

  • Gary Howard tribute and story archive