Lt. Col. Allan D. Howser, U.S. Air Force (ret.), age 93, of Shalimar, Fla., passed away, Aug. 26, 2013. Al was born in Concord, N.H., on Oct. 3, 1919, to Clarence G. and Elizabeth R. Bowser, the fifth of six children. He has lived in this area since 1973. He spent his teen years and young adult life during the "Great Depression." When he was 16, he went to live temporarily with relatives in southern California to continue his education. Travelling during the Depression was a luxury that most people of that era could not enjoy. A trip by a 16 year old teenager from the mountains of New Hampshire to orange groves in California was sensational in itself as was the change in scenery, environment and way of life. He would return to New Hampshire to spend each summer and return to California each fall. After four years in California, in 1940, having graduated from Redlands High School and with an associate's degree from San Bernardino Valley Junior College, he returned to New Hampshire to stay. He was a surveyor for one year with the New Hampshire State Highway Department and then matriculated at the University of New Hampshire, where he was pursuing a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering. On Dec. 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked and on March 7, 1942, he enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Assigned to Fort Belvoir, Va., he was trained as a Combat Engineer. He was selected to attend the U.S. Army Engineer School Officer Candidate Course and upon completion was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army on Sept. 2, 1942. After several assignments to Aviation Engineer Battalions in Georgia and Oklahoma, his orders sent him to Fort Walton Beach, Fla., for duty at Eglin Field, as they were known then. This is where intense training of Aviation Engineer Battalions for overseas duty was under way. All of the enlisted personnel in the Battalions to which he was assigned were African American. They initially were bivouacked in pup tents in the small town of Florosa, about four miles west of where Hurlburt Field is now located. This is the location where infrastructure construction for a new installation was under way.
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He and his survey crew ran a centerline for a runway that was one of the first runways constructed for what today is now known as Hurlburt Field. From there he was deployed to Europe where he served in other Army Corps of Engineer duties until the war's end. These duties in the Army Air Corps were later converted to what is known to the present day Air Force as the "civil engineering field" in which he remained until his retirement. He then served another overseas tour of duty at Goose Bay Labrador. During this time, the Air Force was designated an autonomous entity of our military establishment. Upon his return to the United States, having spent seven years as an army officer, and now working for the newly designated autonomous United States Air Force, and aware of the post-war downsizing of the army as well as the growing prominence of air power, he transferred in grade to the Air Force. After two more overseas tours in French Morocco and England, his last assignment was at Strategic Air Command headquarters, Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Neb., in the Directorate of Civil Engineering from which he retired in 1964 after more than 22 years of service to his country. Following his retirement, he was employed by the Bendix Corporation at Merritt Island, Fla., which is now known as the Kennedy Space Center, from 1965 to 1969, during the introduction of the Apollo program with the Saturn V missile. He left that employment after Apollo flight No. 11, which carried the first astronaut to land on the moon. He moved from the Orlando area to Fort Walton Beach with his wife, Cecile ("Cece") of Fort Walton Beach. In 1974 Al was the president of the Fort Walton Beach Downtown Merchants Association, which later became known as the Fort Walton Beach Downtown Business Association and in 1978-1980 he was the president of the Executive Board for the Community Chorus. Al was a charter member of the local barbershop chorus and a member of one of their quartet's and sang with them for 10 years. He was a past member of the Fort Walton Beach Kiwanis Club.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Cecile; his parents, one sister, and two brothers. Al is survived by his sons, Allan D. Howser Jr., and Marcus S. Howser, of California and New Mexico respectively; several nieces, nephews, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; brother, Donald G. Hawser and his wife and family of Billerica, Mass.; and a sister, Doris H. Charbonneau and family of Glendale, Calif. Late in life (age 86), Al made a profession of Faith, was baptized and became a member of the First United Methodist Church of Fort Walton Beach. His membership was transferred to the Shalimar United Methodist Church in 2010 and at his request, the lead pastor reaffirmed his baptism and Christian faith, which became central to his daily activities and was very gratifying to him. He loved his flag, his country and his church. He enjoyed playing golf and also his piano accordion which he started playing at the age of 12. His two older sisters joined him in his music making, one playing a Spanish guitar and the other, a piano accordion. As a trio they played professionally for several years in their native New England area, until separated because of World War II and consequently Al enlisting in the Army. He shall always be remembered for his keen sense of humor and forever being a "people person."
A visitation will be Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, from 5 to 7 p.m., at Emerald Coast Funeral Home, 113 Racetrack Road, N.E, Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Funeral service will be Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, 10 a.m., at Shalimar United Methodist Church, 1 Old Ferry Road, Shalimar, FL 32579.
Expressions of love and sympathy may be viewed online at www.emeraldcoastfuneralhome.com.
Emerald Coast Funeral Home
161 Racetrack Rd NW
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547
Published Online in Northwest Florida Daily News on Aug. 29, 2013