Derek Alden Howard
HOWARD, Derek Alden Derek Alden Howard lived many lives in his 72 years, with more ahead if not for a brain injury to which he eventually succumbed on August 1, 2020. He was born in Austin on January 3, 1948, moved several times with his family, but got back here as quickly as he could to attend the University of Texas, where he received a degree in zoology and almost completed his master's in government. His early career was as a hot air balloonist (purchased his first balloon by printing and selling Impeach Nixon bumper stickers), opening the Southwestern Balloon School, and helping found the first Texas Hot Air Balloon Race in 1972. An ardent political and social activist, Derek was involved with many causes, including the founding of the Austin Rape Crisis Center, where he worked the overnight hotline; volunteering with the Austin Tenants' Council; and marching in anti-war protests during one of which he was arrested by Austin Police, resulting in taking legal action against APD for police brutality. This experience persuaded Derek to trade his balloonist career for a law degree, which he obtained at St. Mary's Law School or, as Derek liked to put it, he traded one form of hot air for another. Derek became a partner with Kreisner & Howard upon graduation and then founded his own firm, Howard & Kobelan, where he practiced until becoming ill. It gave Derek great pride when his son joined the firm and, following in his dad's footsteps, became a partner. Derek was a fierce defender of workers' rights and took great pride in fighting the good fight against injustice, David and Goliath-style, on behalf of his clients. Derek was gifted with words, never shying away from impassioned discourse with friends and family on politics, religion, war, life and death. He excelled at Scrabble (only his grandmother, mother and oldest daughter were ever known to beat him, on rare occasions), frequently submitted illustrated cartoons to the New Yorker, and spent hours in his own word-play games that often resulted in hilarity and dad-joke puns (like his classic "I lost paradise to a pair o' dice.") The son of a Unitarian Universalist minister and teacher (both equally gifted orators), he spent his life deeply involved in the work of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, serving on boards and lending many hours and years to nurturing the growth of his beloved UBarU Camp & Retreat Center in the Texas Hill Country. Derek spent countless hours in the kitchen creating innovative and mostly edible concoctions, steadfastly refusing to follow a recipe, a point of pride. His chili was legendary, and the whole family recalls proudly his UU Chili Cook-off win in the late 1980s. Derek loved bodies of water of all kinds and spent time almost daily immersing himself: in the bath, hot tub, one-of-a-kind pool he designed and brought to life in the family home in the '90s, Lake Austin, Lake Buchanan, and Crawdad Creek (so named by Derek). Like the turtles, salamanders, snakes and various critters he rescued over the decades, including his beloved pet pup Marquis de Sade Fernando de la Cruz, Derek was most comfortable in the water. Derek and Donna met, unsurprisingly, working on a political campaign in 1976. They married in 1980 in their backyard with Derek's father officiating. Though recognized by the state as a legal marriage, in their hippie defiance, they never got a marriage license until five years ago, when they filed for a license in solidarity with the legal recognition of their same-sex friends. Derek was a firm proponent of Zero Population Growth but eventually determined that he owed it to society to contribute to the gene pool, and we're immensely glad he did because we have the genetic legacy of his children Blake (Weston), Logan (Sarah), and Shane (Josh). Derek loved his wife and kids fiercely and proudly. For the last five years he's been lovingly known as Boppie to his six perfect grandkids (with one more on the way who happens to be due on Derek's birthday) and had become the goofy, gentle, grinning grandfather that his own father had been to his kids. We take to heart Derek's daily reminder to his kids to "learn at least one thing new and make good choices." We strive to honor his memory by reaching for the bar he set each day. Derek is predeceased by his father, Ernest, and mother, Betty, as well as his brother Greg, who died just four months ago. In addition to his immediate family, Derek is survived by his sister, Sherry Gingras (Tom), and brother Mark (Mona), as well as a bevy of nieces and nephews, cousins and countless friends. We will patiently wait for another time to celebrate Derek's life. In the meantime, if you wish to make donations in his name, he would be honored for you to choose any organization that makes a positive difference in your lives as well as in others'. For Derek, that would be the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin or, in support of his passion for politics and for having a November outcome that will lift all boats, the League of Women Voters.
Published by Austin American-Statesman on Aug. 8, 2020.
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23 Entries
The year, I believe, was 1965, and I was working Saturday evening at the Chattanooga Jewish Community Center. In through the front doors walked my good friend from high school Tom Peterson, and with him was Derek Howard. Tom recently moved to Chattanooga from Houston, Texas, and I had moved to Chattanooga from Corpus Christi, Texas several years earlier...just two Texas boys becoming friends in Tennessee. I knew Derek because I knew his younger sister Sherry. Derek was full of smiles and laughter that evening ...he always brightened up a room and left people feeling good. We talked for awhile then they were gone into the night. Four years later Derek and I would meet again in Austin...all the best to Derek's family.
Robert Benowitz
Friend
August 2, 2021
I'll always remember the very terrific Derek Howard. We were in the midst of Covid, there was no vaccine, we were socially distanced and not going anywhere, but the men's group at the First Unitarian Church had a memorial service anyway. It was an unusual service, as befit the times and our friend, Stories of Derek's, and about Derek. That meant plenty of material. Jon, and Mark, and Michael from the UBarU board and our church were there, and the other Jon from Live Oak, and I was there, too. We did it over zoom. Lots of stories. Did you know that Derek and Donna picked gender neutral names for their children, or that Derek once bought a whole side of beef and roasted it when four couples were on vacation together in Portugal, or of specific successes as a lawyer for those who would have been downtrodden except for him? Here's a little from the email before our tributes: Topic: 1st UU Men´sFellowship Virtual Luncheon Time: Sep 16, 2020 11:45 AM Central Time (US and Canada) This will be the Derek Howard tribute
John Keohane
Friend
August 2, 2021
We of the men's group at the First Unitarian Church did not not let something like Covid-19 delay us honoring our friend Derek, in our own way. We did a zoom luncheon in his memory, sharing Derek stories, both stories by Derek, and stories about Derek. We got some of who knew Derek best, including many from our church, and three who served with Derek on the board of UBarU. We honored him, respected him, and had a good luncheon. I think Derek would have relished it. We loved him. We miss him. He really was terrific.
John Keohane
Friend
May 9, 2021
Derek was a great person..For the short time I knew Derek , l learned how smart , intelligent Derek was. HE told me about hot air balloons , his family and the many other things we talk about.. Always smiling and ready to greet...I send my condolences and prayers to Derek's Family and Friends.. May God bless your family...
Clarence Connally
Friend
December 19, 2020
My heartfelt condolences and sympathy to Donna, Sherry, and Derek's family. I was friends with Derek in Chattanooga and we were roommates for a period of time in Austin in 1969. He was bright, always in good humor, inquisitive, creative, and a champion for social justice. I spent my last night in Austin having dinner with Derek in early January 1970. Derek led a remarkable life and comes from a remarkable family. Derek will be greatly missed...Godspeed.
Robert Benowitz
Friend
October 3, 2020
Wish I had known Derek. He sounds like someone I would have really liked! Peace to you, Donna and Blake, and your family.
Deanne Heinen Brown
Friend
August 16, 2020
Condolences. God Protect him on his new journey. He was a dedicated husband to a great wife, Mrs. Donna Howard. God be with the family to comfort them.
Gloria Morales Pannu
Acquaintance
August 14, 2020
John Pitts
August 12, 2020
Dorothy Ann Compton
August 12, 2020
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow. Our deepest condolences.
Brandon Garcia
August 10, 2020
Derek was a joyful force of nature who will truly be missed. His energy, his caring, his humor all made the world a better place. He was taken much too soon. I am deeply sorry for your loss. I’m holding you in my heart.
Dede Clark
Friend
August 9, 2020
Janet Hyde
August 8, 2020
Donna, I am so very, very sorry for your loss. He sounds like an amazing man and life partner. Blessings to you and your family.
Todd Williams
Friend
August 8, 2020
Derek Howard was a kind and caring person who worked for social justice. Donna Howard continues to do that as a member of the Texas legislature. My condolences to Donna and her family. The world is a better place thanks to them.
Edward Sledge
Edward Sledge
Friend
August 8, 2020
May his memory be a blessing and may Donna and her family be in safe keeping.
Jayne Keedy
August 8, 2020
Derek truly will live on through the legacy of
his amazing good deeds on this earth.
sherri greenberg
Friend
August 8, 2020
Derek was a very special human being, true to himself. He was a great friend and Steve and I will always miss him. Donna, we love you and are here for you and your family.
Carolyn Swinnea
Friend
August 8, 2020
Wow! What an amazing life and legacy Derek built! But Ofcourse! We see the reflection of all his amazing attributes in his family and many friends!
Jessica
Friend
August 8, 2020
thank you for always giving amazing hugs and asking what was new in my life.. and then listening. you were one of my favorite people to talk to. i could sit down for hours and talk to you. you will be so greatly missed.
esperanza
Family
August 8, 2020
A very beautiful tribute to a remarkable human being. Best wishes and prayers as you continue his legacy every day.
Kenneth Heydrick
Friend
August 8, 2020
I am very sorry for you loss, and wish I would have had the opportunity to meet Derek. Please be assured of my prayers, and thoughts.
Herman Prager III PhD
Friend
August 8, 2020
What an extraordinary man whose legacy and love will live on!
My thoughts and prayers are with Donna and all his family.
Claire Hill
Friend
August 8, 2020
I’m writing on behalf of my dear mother, Jean Wyllys, who died in March 2019 and loved and appreciated Derek and Donna. Every good wish to all the family, with love.
Erika Allbright
Friend
August 8, 2020
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