Robert D. Howson

Dec 10 1933
May 1 2019
85 Years

Robert D. Howson, 85, of Honey Brook, passed away on Wednesday, May 1st, 2019 under the care of Tel Hai Retirement Community.  He was the husband of Agnes Howson, with whom he shared 58 years of marriage.   

Born in Philadelphia, Robert was the son of the late Mary (Holmes) and Richard Howson.  He served honorably in the US Army from 1953 to 1956.   

Robert completed his BS in 1959, his MS in 1960, and his PhD in Engineering in 1965, earning all of his degrees from Yale University.   

He retired from Bell Labs in Holmdel, N.J. after 36 years of employment.  

An avid sailor he sailed at, and was a past Commodore of, Monmouth Boat Club, Red Bank NJ and a member of Eugene Yacht Club, Eugene OR. 

His two favorite sailboats were a Woodpussy (PopPop’s Ship) and an Albacore. 

Robert is survived, in addition to his wife, by his four sons: Douglas, Geoffrey, Eric, and Stephen; 10 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.    

At Bob’s request, there will be no formal service held. A graveside service will be held at Washington Memorial Chapel in Valley Forge at the convenience of the family. 

Arrangements have been entrusted to Wilde Funeral Home of Parkesburg.  Online condolences can be posted at 


Bob was my mentor when I came back to the Navesink, always reminding me to let the wind, water, and boat show me the way...keep it simple.  When Bob walked into the boat yard we all knew it was "game on" and fun converations around the picnic tables would follow after the races with full red cups.  One Sunday he told me to look up.  As I was scanning the sky he said to me,"There is no greater cathedral ceiling than that."  Agnes, thank you for sharing Bob with MBC.  I will miss him but I know he will be with me guiding me to sail my best  and have fun!

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am deeply saddened by this news, but know that Bob is now on a new endless Journey with Our Lord Jesus Christ ~~~_/)~~~ may he find Fair Winds & Following Sea's, as I will pray for him.

The Hon. John R. Doon, Jr. Ret.

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Bob, a fellow Woodpussy sailor, and mentor to me here at Monmouth Boat Club (I even won a couple of times the Howson Bridge Race trophy) in our WP 873
Bob is a true Bell Labs engineer, and I say that very fondly
* Bob once gently told me the bow of a Woodpussy is a pathway, not a destination (if you stand there you end up swimming)
* Bob showed me what I fondly call the "Howson Method" of raising the WP mast using a loop and the hoist here at the club, vs standing on the trailer, with all that "excitement" and a 22' stick
* I show people that method all the time, and this past weekend he must have been thinking of us, as I saw a fellow WP sailor Taugh Lynch raising his mast using the "Howson Method"
Bob is also a lifetime "Honorary" member of Monmouth Boat Club, and truly brought Honor to the club.
Bob, my family and I will miss you, and I think of you often at the club. It was truly an honor to be able to call you my friend.  God Bless you,
Agnes, and all of your extended family, truly a life well lived that touched others, you are all in our prayers
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I first met Bob circa 1970 at Bell Labs while looking for a small sailboat.  There were Monday lunch gatherings, and he was a fun participant, eager to share his knowledge of the sport.  Over the next many years, my wife, Kay, and I often raced against Bob in Albacores.  He often sailed with his eldest son, Doug.  Doug was 10 when they got their Albacore. It was great FUN!!  We learned so much from him.

In the mid 80's, I had the good fortune to be part of a team at Bell Labs in which Bob was the lead designer.  The team also included two people from the end customer in the Netherlands who were on temporary assignment to Bell Labs in northern NJ and a rather difficult to work person on loan to my grojup.  Bob's technical brilliance, his very careful attention to details and the needs of the customer, and his ability to clearly communicate his work made this complicated team function very well.  

After we moved to Pennsylvania, I continued to sail at MBC, and it was always great to meet up with always smiling Bob, by this time sailing his WP.  Bob conmtinued to be a great friend, and we missed him after he and Agnes decided to follow a dream and move to the west coast.  We are saddened by his passing.  Our condolances to his wonderful wife Agnes and the rest of the family

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Agnes, Doug, and family,

Toni and I wish you peace, comfort, and courage.

It was always a joy to be with Bob, never more than during the three years I owned “Petrel”.   A meticulous navigator with great sailing skills, happy though cold and wet, always ready to help with the maintenance.  Could not have been a better shipmate. 

One light air morning Bob had us gaining on a much larger boat while I was preparing a breakfast below.  Bob passed the larger boat about 10’ to windward, chuckling gently, but not suggesting that the fellow loosen sheets for the broad reach. 

Another time, at night in big following seas, we kept rolling up the jib, trying to wait for dawn’s light to help us enter a harbor – Bob’s reaction to the ever increasing wind?   “This is just great.”  He enjoyed the rush of the wind and the moon sparkling on the white caps. 

For a couple of days, near the end of three weeks together, we were tied to a fixed dock while the remnants of a hurricane battered the harbor (Whitehead, Nova Scotia).  It was raining hard and we entertained ourselves with a radio tuned to CBC.  A program had cat lovers calling in – Bob starting laughing and there was no stopping the laughter for a full half hour – I can’t remember what was funny, but the tight quarters, the steamy, sweaty interior of a small yacht in port in heavy rain, and Bob’s finding everything funny stays with me; nearly 25 years later I think of Bob whenever I hear about somebody’s special cat. 

Bob was Commodore of MBC when I joined in 1980, and I have admired him since then.

He had a rapier sharp mind, if something interested him, he learned about it and soon knew more than most.  He will be missed.

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So sorry to hear of Bob’s passing. Not only was he a friend in sailing at MBC, but he was the only person I ever knew (post military) that was stationed at Herzl Base in Germany. Heidi’s hometown is only a few kilometers away. Sail on Bob.

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