My Howard

Because I know a few people with the same first name, at some point over the past few years I began referring to my friend Howard Carey as “my” Howard. I never realized that until Susan pointed it out last Friday.

“I’m texting my Howard to see if he wants to meet us for lunch,” I told her.

Your Howard?” she replied.

Yeah. Howard Carey was my Howard.

I met Howard Carey when he started working as a contractor for the FAA in 1999. He worked on the help desk for a while, and did desk side support, and was the lab technician. Sometimes he changed positions because a contract would end. Other times he changed positions because someone would realize what a hard worker he was and steal him away. In 2010, Howard was working for a help desk in another building when my department had a domain administration position open up. Howard was the first person I thought of, and my co-workers Emily and Johnny all agreed that he would be a great fit. I met Howard for breakfast that day and asked him if he would be interested in “coming back home.” He immediately said yes, and within a few weeks, I had got my Howard back. For the last eight or nine years, I haven’t sat more than six feet away from him at work. Every day we were both in the office we drank coffee together and ate breakfast together and went to lunch together.

I wish I had kept a list of all the projects outside of work Howard had helped me with over the past decade and a half. When Susan was secretly turning our backyard shed into an arcade for me as a surprise for my 30th birthday, Howard came over to our house several times (without my knowledge) and helped Susan move arcade games from the garage into the building. He even donated his bumper pool table to the arcade. When I was looking for a basketball goal for Mason, Howard gave me his old one. When I bought a giant wooden jungle gym for the kids for Christmas, Howard came over and assembled it. Sometimes he would accept payment for these jobs and sometimes he wouldn’t. Howard installed a shower in my dad’s house once. He wouldn’t accept any cash for the job, but finally agreed to take a bottle of Jack Daniels in trade.

In 2014, the Cleveland Cavaliers came to Oklahoma City Thunder on Mason’s birthday. Because Howard’s from Ohio and loved basketball, we bought three tickets so I could take both Mason and Howard to the game. Howard took us to Five Guys burgers before the game for Mason’s birthday, which he loved. Everything went fine until we got to the game and learned that LeBron James had decided not to play that night. I don’t know where LeBron James was that night, but wherever he was, he could probably hear Howard yelling at him.

Over the past few years, Howard has spent a bunch of time and money turning his backyard into the ultimate resort. I’m not kidding, it looks like the kind of place you would see on a vacation postcard. After he had an in-ground pool put in, he built a Tiki Hut, and then a wrap-around grill, and a shade area, and surrounded the whole thing with a giant bamboo fence. Every now and then he and his wife Susie would host pool parties in their backyard and I swear it looked like a movie set. Every time I went over there he had added something new.

On Saturday, June 3, Howard was out working in his backyard when he suddenly collapsed and died. Nobody knows why. Howard was the healthiest 62-year-old I ever met. He played racquetball three times a week, and was on a basketball league before that. There were a lot of us at work who wished we were as healthy as Howard Carey, that’s for sure.

After receiving the horrible news, Howard’s wife asked me to let Howard’s friends at the FAA know. This may have been one of the hardest things I have ever done. Each call I made started with shock and most of them ended in tears. Every single person I spoke with told me two things. After telling me what a great guy Howard was, each person shared something that Howard had done for them. I don’t think there’s a person alive who Howard hadn’t put a sink in for, or helped change out a water heater, or helped move. Howard was one of the nicest, most generous, selfless, and hardest working guys I ever met.

And after making those calls I realized that he wasn’t just my Howard.

He was everybody’s Howard.

Rest in peace, Howard Carey. We all miss you so very much. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

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6 comments to My Howard

  • After reading your story about Howard’s selflessness, I just had this epiphany that the best investment one could make in themselves, is to invest themselves in others. It seems like Howard had a good life having a similar helping attitude. He must have been a great example to others. I’m sorry to hear about the loss of such a good friend.

    Jeff
    VintageVolts

  • Liz

    I’m so sorry Rob and Suzy. I know you thought the world of him. ((HUGS))

  • Stacy May

    Howard will definably be missed! He helped me so many times when I would go out to leave work and my car was dead. I will miss the smile and the positive spirit that Howard could not help but share with others! Howard your smile will live on in my mind for eternity.

  • Jack O'Hare

    So sorry to hear this news Rob – he was a great guy. A very nice tribute Sir!

  • Tawny Wiles

    … Sending my Love, Hugs and Prayers. My deepest sympathy for all. What a beautiful Angel on earth and in Heaven!
    Very sweet & beautiful sharing.⚘

  • CARL

    Great words Robo! Howard was such a great guy and still broken hearted over the news of his passing.

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