My Dad, Philip E. Howes, died Aug. 1. He was many things to me, our family and his community, far more than a trial lawyer for 52 years. He was a touchstone for my years as a working journalist — reporter and editor in the early days, auto writer and foreign correspondent based in Germany, business columnist for the past nine years — and an exemplar of competence, integrity and erudition in so many things.
“There is no person who taught me more about how to be a man than my Dad,” I said at his funeral on Aug 10 in our hometown of Canton, OH. “How to make a living with my brain, not my back. How to do what you say you’re going to do and not do what you say you won’t do. How to be faithful without being pious. How to be loyal without being needy. How to be defined by more than your work. How to fish, to wield an axe, to sharpen a knife, to drive a nail. How to be – and sometimes not to be — a husband, a father and a son. In all of that, and more, I shall be eternally grateful.
“Dad became a lawyer by accident. He left North Canton for Penn State in the fall of 1953 intending to play football for the Nittany Lions and to major in forestry. All that changed when he blew a knee and sat in his dorm room listening to the Army-McCarthy hearings on the radio. Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy was investigating communist infiltration in the Army, among other things, and Joe Welch was defending the Army. Dad was hooked – the intellectual combat of law exhilarated him.
“Corporate and family law didn’t juice him like litigation, those recurring turns in courtrooms evoking ‘the arena’ described by Teddy Roosevelt in his 1910 speech in Paris:
‘It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
He wasn’t perfect; none of us is. But he exemplified for me and the people who knew him well the timeless values of honesty, hard work, deep faith, love of family and doing the right thing with what he called “a pure heart.” In that, he was the best mentor a son could ever have. RIP, Dad.