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.