Howard M. Smith, a good friend and stalwart member of the rowing community for many years, died unexpectedly on May 26, after returning home from a morning run. Howard had been recovering nicely from shoulder surgery and was looking forward to getting back on the water in his favorite "Fossil Four." An active oarsman and referee, his commitment to the sport was unflagging. As reiterated by his wife, Jean, "Rowing was the love of Howard's life."
Howard's rowing career began in 1946, when he enrolled at Cornell University. He stroked the varsity eight his junior and senior years and was captain his senior year. While serving in the Air Force in Michigan after graduation, he participated in the 1952 Olympic trials, where he lost to the eventual gold medalists in the pair. From 1954 to 1959 Howard was freshman and varsity coach at Rutgers. In 1960 he began his many years as an official, receiving his international license in 1982; he refereed regattas in France, Germany, and Czechoslovakia.
The DuPont Company hired Howard in 1951, and he moved from his native Utica, New York, to Wilmington. And we are fortunate that he did. In 1984 he and Tom Colgan founded the Wilmington Rowing Club, which has grown from the original membership of 25 to the present 120. To the numerous Masters rowers along the East Coast, Howard was better known as "Mr. Diamond State," having organized the successful Diamond State Masters Regatta every year since its inception in 1990. The regatta has now appropriately been re-christened the Howard M. Smith Diamond State Masters Regatta.
The recipient of awards too many to mention, Howard was honored most recently in 1997 with the George L. Shiebler Award from the Eastern College Athletic Conference. The award was established to honor Shiebler, the ECAC's second commissioner, and recognize a dedicated athletics official. And on Friday afternoon, officials from the IRA Regatta in Camden (where Howard had been scheduled to referee) traveled to Wilmington to present Jean Smith with yet another citation, which Howard was to have received at the regatta.
A dedicated husband, father, and grandfather, Howard will be missed by all. A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, June 5, 11:00, at the Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church, 500 McKennans Church Road, Wilmington, Delaware (302-998-0434). A reception will follow.