- Deceased's name: Thomas Patrick Howard
- Age: 84
- Date: June 26, 2012
- Hometown: Cape St. Claire
Family and friends of Tom Howard, as well as the many members of Anne Arundel County’s recovery community, are mourning the loss of a good man, a trusted friend, and a valued mentor. At the same time, however, they are celebrating a life well lived and a legacy of prodigious progeny (Tom loved to use big words) and the lasting value of family and service to others.
Born November 19, 1927, in Philadelphia to Thomas P. and Margaret M. Howard, Tom grew up as the middle child among five. He attended grade school at St. Agatha’s and then St. Thomas Moore High School. After graduation in 1945, Tom served in the Army and was stationed in the Philippines before the end of WWII. He graduated from St. Joseph’s College in Philadelphia and worked briefly in the area before meeting the love of his life, Peggy Love of Upper Darby. Together they raised nine children, and as Tom’s career in personnel management with the US Department of Agriculture gained momentum, they moved from the Philadelphia area to Annapolis, MD, in 1966. The family settled in Cape St. Claire, where Tom took pleasure in his prolific vegetable garden, fishing for “blues” with Peg, and the spreading network of families that relied on “the Howards” for babysitters.
The phrase “darkest before the dawn” has real meaning in Tom’s life. Suffering from alcoholism, in a time before it was widely recognized as a disease, Tom experienced years of strife, sorrow, and struggle. The suffering, however, eventually led him to AA, and ultimately to the most meaningful and rewarding phase of his life. His recovery from alcoholism began as a daily commitment (one day at a time) and grew to include over 32 years; a Brobdingnagian (another of Tom’s favorite words; it means “enormous”) network of friends from “the program”; an inestimable number of hours in service to others struggling to get sober; and an inner peace, a generous and tender heart, a friendly and outgoing manner, and a profound and hard-earned wisdom.
It’s hard to measure Tom’s commitment to and involvement in AA, but one telling indicator is the stockpile recently found stowed in a closet: 12 pounds of congratulatory cards from fellow alcoholics received over the years on the annual anniversary of his sobriety, all of them wishing him well and most of them thanking him for his example. For 31 years he volunteered weekly at The Red House, a facility serving alcoholics in distress supported by the Annapolis-area Inner Group of AA. He was also on the board of directors of The Good Samaritan House in Annapolis and The Chrysalis House in Crownsville, the former a sober home for men and the latter for women. To say that Tom was instrumental in helping hundreds of alcoholics seek and maintain sobriety is not an exaggeration.
Since anonymity is a key feature of the AA program, many of Tom’s friends and admirers may not even know his last name, but all will remember some of his favorite lines. An energetic “Top drawer!” was his frequent response to people asking how he felt. And if you told Tom it was nice to see him, he would likely respond with a twinkling eye and, “Better to be seen than viewed!”
The only aspect of Tom’s life more important to him than his recovery work was his family. Married for over 58 years to his lovely Peggy, Tom considered himself to be blessed beyond measure. Though not one to seek attention himself, he thoroughly delighted watching her shine in various comedy antics at church fundraisers and tap dancing performances at family gatherings. Together they enjoyed their many children, “grands”, and “great-grands”; crossword puzzles; exercise class at Anne Arundel Community College; membership at St. Andrew’s by the Bay; and scrapple, a breakfast delicacy popular in their hometown.
Tom was enormously proud of every one of his nine children. While seven daughters surely brought challenges, for Tom, they were far outweighed by the rewards. He savored and supported their many educational and athletic pursuits while growing up, and praised their personal and professional accomplishments as adults. Tom’s two sons, born after the girls, only added to his joy and increased both his pride and his praise. At the end of his life, Tom repeatedly said he was a successful man because all his children remained true friends. Beyond his own children, Tom also delighted in his sons- and daughters-in-law, his 26 grandchildren, and his eight, soon to be ten, great grandchildren.
To the family, Tom was many things: a supportive and generous husband, father, and grandfather; a steadfast source of experience, strength, and hope; and a powerful example of God’s grace and love. He was also a conniving hearts player, the crooner of many an off-tune birthday song, and an ardent liberal loyalist. Perhaps Tom’s most-loved (and fattening) contribution to family lore is the now-famous Pop Pop’s Breakfast, a 4-hour marathon he prepared on family vacations consisting of cooked-to-order eggs; sausage, scrapple, and bacon; cereal and toast; orange juice, sticky buns, and more scrapple.
Tom will be lovingly remembered by his family not just because of the way he lived, but also because of the way he died. Felled by a stroke on December 29, 2011, he survived with a modest amount of his motor and cognitive abilities intact. Over the next six months, however, they declined, and he became more reliant on the care of others. To the end, he was patient and humble and grateful in accepting this care, teaching yet the principles he valued. The family was fortunate to have him at home for his final months, with his daughter Ginger and his wife, Peg, leading the rest of the family in providing care and comfort.
The list of Tom’s survivors is extensive. His brother Joe and sister Bernadette still reside in the Philadelphia area. Peg lives in Severna Park. Other family members include: Kathleen and Tim Meredith of Severna Park; Regina Yaroch of Sandwich, MA; Bernadette and Matthew Wagner of Hagerstown, MD; Patricia and Mike Schiro of Severna Park; Barbara and A.T. Conord of Stafford, VA; Lorraine and Patrick Delaney of Ellicott City, MD; Virginia and Jay Baker of Westminster, MD; Chris and Susan Howard of Millersville; and Matthew and Susan Howard of Leesburg, VA. Grandchildren and great grandchildren include Ben, Jess, and Liz Meredith; Patrice and Tim Clarke; Alyssa and John Laurie, and Cooper, Tate, and Beckett Laurie; Brianne and Jared Keenan; Tim Wagner, Mike and Mary Wagner, Matt Wagner, Beth and Laura Wagner; Nicki and Dave Wagner, and Ella, Hope, and Sarah Wagner; Molly Barnes; Jed Barnes; Mike Schiro; Rich Schiro; Jeff Conord; Zach and Sarah Conord; Malia Conord; Katie Delaney; Drew Baker; Lisa Baker; Ashli and Brandon Johnson; Maddie and Jack Howard; Grace, Lily, and Liam Howard.
To celebrate Tom’s life and to acknowledge his passing, the family will host a gathering at Barranco Funeral Home, 495 Ritchie Highway, Severna Park, MD, 21146 on Sunday, July 1st from 5:00 – 8:00 pm. A memorial Mass will be held at St. Andrew by the Bay Catholic Church, 701 College Parkway, Annapolis, MD, 21401 on Monday, July 2nd 11::00 am with a luncheon in the Parish Hall to immediately follow. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to The Samaritan House (samhouseannapolis.org or 2610 Green Briar Lane, Annapolis, MD, 21401) or The Chrysalis House (chrysalishouses.org or 1570 Crownsville Rd., Crownsville, MD, 21302).