We share these tributes to Howard Peacock from friends, old and new.
Many people might not realize what a highly cultured person Howard was. He loved fine literature, classical and popular music, theater, and any beautifully trained voice. In truth, I saw Howard as a direct descendant of the 19th-Century American Transcendentalists. His great joy in living was Whitman-esque. His deep spirituality and faith in the inherent goodness of both man and nature was in line with Emerson, Longfellow, and Henry David Thoreau. Howard may have been a man of small physical stature, but he had a very large soul. I think he was most rare in this respect. He manifested the Oversoul in his day-to-day life. And that is a remarkable feat.
Christopher Cook, Prague, Czech Republic
A Rare Bird
Howard was one of the few people I've ever known to truly have a twinkle in his eyes. He had a most brilliant, alive, and curious mind; a wonderful (at times impish) sense of humor and playfulness; and he maintained a truly gracious sense of dignity even when his health and personal caretaking abilities began to fail him, which I know worried him greatly. Howard was a rare bird, no doubt about it.
Helen Ballew, San Antonio
Made Others Feel Special
Howard used his “interviewer” style with each new person he met that made them feel special and let them know he was truly interested in who they were and what they had to say. I think that is the essence that attracted me to him. We have had coffee together each Thursday morning for the last couple of years and it will feel a lot empty at that time of the morning each week.
David Lodge, San Antonio
Howard was a great listener. From years of journalism, he knew how to draw people out with questions. He always made everyone feel special, because he wanted your opinion on whatever your special interests were. He really listened, and made people feel as if they were the smartest, most informed person in the world, just by his careful listening. He had a great appreciation for wordplay of any kind, laughing and clapping his hands in delight.
Cece Box, San Antonio
Guac, Jazz and Fresh Ideas
For the last few years I have been going down to San Antonio almost every Wednesday to have lunch with Howard. When we went to La Fonda, he would always have a guacamole salad no matter what else he ordered. I've never known anyone who loved guacamole as much as he did. Most of the folks at La Fonda knew Howard by sight. Sometimes I would call Howard just to check in. Once I called and asked him what he was doing. He said, ”I'm strutting around my apartment listening to some good New Orleans jazz music.” He loved his jazz! He also really enjoyed walking down on the San Antonio River Walk and people watching. He had a favorite bench where he would sit, and there was always someone who would come and sit down and start talking. He really loved young people because he said they had such fresh ideas and outlooks on things. It made him feel better to be around them.
Pam Turner, Austin
An Unlikely Friendship
Howard initially hired me to help him get his papers in order, and as a fellow writer, I looked up to him as a mentor. We became fast friends, and long after I stopped working for him, we continued to meet every Wednesday evening to eat Subway subs, watch [the TV show] Lost, and discuss life. It may have been an unlikely pairing—he an octogenarian, WWII vet and I a 22-year-old new college graduate—but we quickly developed a strong friendship, one that lasted years and was meaningful to both of us. I feel like our friendship has changed me for the better, that it's helped me to become the person I want to be. He taught me about what it means to be a good writer and what it means to live life to the fullest, which in many ways is the same thing.
Maureen Turner Carey, Austin
Farewell, Texas Hero
I would meet Howard downtown and we would walk the River Walk together. He was always in a state of joy, swinging his arms as he strolled. Despite his age, he seemed ageless. Even on casual meetings, people connected with his warmth, curiosity, and willingness to interact. He was very grateful for the compassion and gratitude in people. He was a true man of letters who prided himself on his beautiful penmanship. We both loved the handwritten letter. I regret anytime a hero dies. I certainly think Howard was a Texas hero.
Naomi Nye, San Antonio
A True Scholar, Renaissance Man
Howard Peacock was a true scholar, Renaissance man. He was always learning about his world. Howard believed in research, and the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, a facility of the Texas State Archives, was honored when he started archiving his materials here in September 1994. As the executor of his will, I learned of Howard's habits in his last few years. He loved the Great Books program on CDs, and at the end, he was listening to Adam Smith Versus Karl Marx. Howard always was learning something, a true liberal. He advised writers that an acting verb, when someone was doing something, was always more powerful than past tense. He took that principle as a guiding light for his life.In 2008, Howard told me that he moved to Woodville to be in the Big Thicket because of a religious “burning bush moment” that occurred when he was driving on SH 190 between Livingston and Woodville. Howard said, “I never told my wife or anyone else, but as far as I was concerned, God told me to move to Woodville and the Big Thicket. The timing was right in terms of our jobs in Houston, and I just told Kitty that we had to move and we did.”After the death of Kitty, Howard moved to San Antonio due to his friendship with Murray Maverick Jr., who offered him accommodations and a new start in the Alamo City. Howard never changed though, and loved his Big Thicket to the day he died. He gave his body to science, his worldly possessions to organizations that helped the needy, and his funds to Big Thicket organizations.
Robert L. Schaadt
Former Director-Archivist of the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Liberty
Feel free to share your own thoughts on Howard Peacock.