John W. Howard '49

Deceased September 17, 2015

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50th Reunion Book Entry


In Memory

John Howard passed away peacefully on Sept. 17, 2015, after battling idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and heart disease with characteristic courage and dignity. He was 90 and had lived in Vero Beach, Fla., for the past 10 years and summered in Edgecomb, Maine. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Alice Howard (MHC ’49), four children, six grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and many loving nieces and nephews.

John grew up in Walpole, Mass., the youngest of three children. He started at Amherst as part of the class of ’47 but enlisted in the army after his freshman year. John was wounded in the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest and spent over a year in several hospitals. John was a member of A.D. at Amherst, and he often spoke very fondly of the lifelong friendships and bonds he developed as part of the A.D. brotherhood. While his foot wounds added a few strokes to his golf handicap, he still played on the Amherst team and thereafter.

John was an entrepreneur and trailblazer in many regards. With his brother Bob ’45 and Grant Holt ’47, John founded Holt Howard Associates (HHA), which was a pioneer in the housewares import business, sourcing product around the globe. Many Holt Howard products have become highly desirable collectibles due to their whimsical designs and bright colors. John truly loved the business and was fully engaged well into his 80s.

John and Allie raised their children, Betsy (MHC ’75), Chip ’77, Doug and Mark, in Darien, Conn. Despite a busy travel agenda, John found time to coach and cheer on his children’s athletic activities.

John was also a published author, volunteer and tutor. After retirement, he decided to chronicle his life so that his heirs and others may learn from and understand their history. Thus, My Life’s Experiences: Soldier, Family Man, Entrepreneur was born. In retirement, he also lent his expertise to the Service Core of Retired Executives and provided English tutoring through the Vero Beach Literacy Services.

John and Allie greatly enjoyed traveling around the world, but they cherished their family time in Maine. John’s family initially began spending summers in Edgecomb, Maine, during the 1890s. Over the years and the generations, the Edgecomb cottages have become the central gathering point for the family. John, known as “P.J.” (Papa John) to his grandchildren and extended family, will be fondly remembered and deeply missed for his wisdom, kindness, sense of humor and keen insights. He has been the patriarch of this clan, which had come to rely on his counsel and steady hand in all matters.

Chip Howard ’77

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50th Reunion
  • Married: 1950, Alice Van Loon, Mount Holyoke, 1949.  
  • Children: Four: one girl, three boys (one Amherst).
  • Grandchildren:  Four: Two girls, two boys.  
  • Home:  Darien, CT since 1952.
  • Summer Home:  Edgecomb, Maine.  
  • Hobbies:  Golf, boating, reading, music.
  • Business:  
    1. Started Holt-Howard in 1950, an importing giftware business. Sold it in 1969 to General Housewares, a NYStock Exchange company.
    2.   Completed five-year management contract with General Housewares.
    3.  Started Grant-Howard 1974, a Housewares Marketing company primarily selling kitchen-related consumer goods products. Sold 50% interest in 1995. Still actively involved, which requires trips two to three times a year to the Far East, primarily to Hong Kong, China, and Bangkok.

General and Miscellaneous :
I look back at my years at Amherst with great fondness and appreciation. Fondness for the enduring friendships made and the good times enjoyed, appreciation for the education Amherst provided.

While my major was Economics, the most valuable course for me was English with Professor Baird. It has impacted every day how I write and express thoughts. I have never understood why the course was discontinued at Amherst.
Philosophically and politically I have probably become more liberal as the years have progressed. I am conservative on economic issues and somewhat liberal on social issues. The latter probably comes from the observation that too often those at the top, whether in business, law or politics, succumb to greed---an unattractive malady that, if not checked, could produce undesirable long-term results.

Business wise, helping to create and market new products has been fun and has kept me still active in business. The product grouping that our company developed that has had the greatest impact on society was, and is, the coffee mug. Before we started merchandising coffee mugs in the late 1950's, coffee and tea were consumed from cups and saucers. I only wish it had been possible to patent the coffee mug concept.

While I am taking more "time off ' each year, I'm still enjoying the challenge of business and have no specific retirement plans. When it stops being fun, however, I'll have no qualms about retiring.