Few enjoyed life so much as Howard Joseph Barnhorst, who found himself in San Diego with the girl of his dreams and a life of pleasure and good fortune beyond what a small-town kid from Kokomo, Indiana, could have ever imagined. Howard was fond of telling anyone who would listen that the biological odds of each of us actually existing was something like one in 470 trillion, so just by being alive we had already won the "cosmic lottery." |
Howard was born on October 19, 1948, to Helen (nee Killilea) and Howard Barnhorst of Indianapolis, Indiana. He grew up with his four younger siblings, Beth, Nancy, Brian and the late Noreen. True to his Hoosier roots, Howard was a self-described hoops legend on the courts of Kokomo High and an underrated knuckleballer in the little leagues. He spent the hot Indiana summers working in the steel mills and sensed that a different life beckoned.
After high school, Howard enrolled at Indiana University at Bloomington where he majored in history, minored in Russian literature, and nurtured his poetic aspirations. He joined the SAE fraternity and was active in campus politics and leadership. But his most significant college achievement was falling in love with his future wife, Margery Ann "Marnie" Wright in early 1970. Confident in his impeccable taste, he proposed within two weeks and they were married that summer. Forty-four years later, Marnie and Barney's love remains an inspiration for all who knew them – from their children's high school friends to their septuagenarian contemporaries.
After college, Howard traveled to Europe with Marnie and spent a year living in a VW van at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens, soaking up ancient history and writing poetry. A souvlaki in the oven brought the lovebirds back to California in 1972, where they've been ever since.
Practicality got the better of his poetic aspirations and Howard enrolled at University of San Diego School of Law. He was hired as a law clerk at Seltzer Caplan and stayed on as a lawyer after graduating in 1975. Howard struck out on his own in 1978 and enjoyed a distinguished legal career managing his own firms for twenty- three years, including Dorazio, Barnhorst, Goldsmith & Bonar, before returning to Seltzer Caplan in 2001.
For nearly three decades, Howard and Marnie raised their family of four children in Point Loma, where their house was a welcoming second home for many family members, friends and international visitors. Their large dining room table was often packed with guests for Sunday family dinners. On weekends, Howard enjoyed running, taking family hunting trips, coaching his children's sports teams, and playing tennis.
And Howard obsessed over golf, devoting hours to learning the game's picayune rules and mastering its skill set to the delight of his playing partners and the chagrin of their opponents. He treasured his golf trips to Scotland with buddies, where he played the world's oldest courses and drank the world's oldest Scotch. Howard made his family promise to include in his obituary that he birdied the Road Hole at Saint Andrews and the 16th hole at Cypress Point.
Howard and Marnie moved to La Jolla in 2002, where they built their dream home up on the hill. The move brought Howard proximity to his beloved La Jolla Country Club and a gourmet kitchen where he cooked up a storm while simultaneously entertaining his guests. It also brought a new group of wonderful friends with whom Howard could share his storytelling talents. He served on the board at La Jolla Country Club and San Diego Hospice, and was thrilled when he was invited to join the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, the world's greatest excuse to drink more burgundy. He and Marnie traveled extensively with family and dear friends, but Howard often remarked that La Jolla was as beautiful a place as any he'd ever seen.
Howard's joie de vivre and warm golden charm brightened every person he encountered. The twinkle in his eye revealed his appreciation for just how lucky we all are to be here. In one of his last moments, smiling and looking toward the ocean, the small-town kid from Indiana remarked that he never could have imagined there was a world as wonderful as the one he got the chance to live in. Howard died just before sunset on April 30, 2014, at home with family after a five-year battle with prostate cancer.
Howard is survived by his wife, Marnie; and their four children, Kiley Barnhorst (Rick) MacDonald of La Jolla, Amy Barnhorst Dixson (Scott Fischbein) of Sacramento, Zachary Barnhorst of La Jolla, and Nicholas Barnhorst (Lori Bergamotto) of New York City. He is also survived by seven grandchildren he adored, Lachlan, Marjorie and Tucker MacDonald, Zoe and Lila Dixson, and Gemma and Leo Howard Barnhorst.
Donations may be made in memory of Howard Barnhorst to the hospice program at: Scripps Health Foundation, PO Box 2669, La Jolla, CA 92038, 858-678-6340.
Published in La Jolla Light on May 15, 2014