Former board member, Citizen of the Year Howard Hern, dies

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October 11, 2018

Former board member, Citizen of the Year Howard Hern, dies

Howard D. Hern of Richardson passed away Sept. 4, 2018. He was 89 years old.

When Howard and Evelyn moved to Richardson in 1958, the population was around 16,000. His life was really defined by his volunteer work to lead the growth and development of Richardson and north Texas. From 1963 – 1969, he was a member of the City Planning Commission, serving as Chairman for the final two years. He was the chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission from 1970 – 1971. From 1971 – 1979, he was elected to and was a member of the Richardson City Council. From 1987 – 1990, he served on the Board of Directors of the Richardson Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber recognized him as their Citizen of the Year for 1985.

Howard was born in Oran, Missouri on July 28, 1929 to Carl Clayton Hern and Marjorie Whittington Hern. He grew up on an Illinois farm during the Great Depression. Howard had no desire to retire to the country, and often remarked that once he got off that farm, he was never going back to another one. 

Howard graduated from Melvin High School in 1946. He was a good athlete in school, and a dedicated sports fan later in life. He was captain of the Melvin High basketball team and played baseball. Howard was even offered a contract in the Chicago Cubs organization after he graduated, but his mother would not agree to sign the contract.

With no baseball career in his future, Howard decided to serve his country. He joined the US Marine Corps and served from 1946 – 1950 in the 2nd marine Air Wing as a radar-radio technician. He was stationed at Paris Island, Cherry Point, Corpus Christi, Memphis, Pensacola, and Puerto Rico. While stationed in Corpus Christi, Howard met Evelyn Landram. They were married on May 2, 1949 in Benton, Kentucky. Howard was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 1950.

The next step was a college education at the University of Illinois. Howard graduated, with honors, in 1954, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.

After college, Howard started work in 1954 at Collins Radio Company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa as an electrical engineer. He started post graduate work at Iowa State University in 1954 and 1955, but became enmeshed in his career. Howard worked with aircraft communications, relocating to Richardson, Texas with Collins’ expansion in 1958. He was finally home! He eventually moved into manufacturing operations, serving as the Director of Operations for the Telecommunications Group. Unheard of today, he worked for Collins (and successor Rockwell International) for well over 30 years, leaving the company in 1990. Howard went to work for Digital Switch Corporation in the 90’s, then went on to work with displaced executives, assisting them with other employment. Howard finally retired for good in the 2000’s and devoted his time to volunteering at hospitals in Allen and Plano, Texas.

 Unfortunately, Evelyn passed away just after their 33rd anniversary in 1982.

Howard had two other marriages. The first was in the late 80’s to Barbara McCormack, whom he met while she was working for the City Manager in Richardson. That union ended after 13 years. In 2006 Howard married Marion Coonrod, a good friend and neighbor from the 70's with whom he reconnected. They enjoyed golfing and travel, until Alzheimer's eventually interfered.

Howard's final years were spent in a battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. The one thing this horrible disease could not destroy was his basic decency and kindness. When Howard was only able to remember and say just a few things, the words were always friendly. He'd tell the nurses and attendants, “I like you,” “You're very good,” and “You look good!” over and over. And over. That friendliness earned him a lot of goodwill and affection with the people who looked after him. The other thing Howard remembered, and was proud to tell people was, “I'm from Richardson!”

Howard will be remembered as a man of great character, integrity and honesty. He was brilliantly smart, loyal, modest, kind and quietly generous. He was a loving husband, father, and grandfather, who delighted in the success and happiness of those around him. Howard was also a great grandfather, but never had the joy of getting to know his great grandbabies, as Alzheimer's had already taken his mind.

The family would like to thank the staff at Wyoming Springs Assisted Living, Park Valley Inn, and St. Gabriel’s Hospice in Round Rock for their kind and compassionate care.

Howard is preceded in death by his wife, Evelyn Landram Hern and son, Phillip Lee Hern. He is survived by his sister Helen Thompson of Gibson City, Illinois, children Scott Hern and his wife Alison of Round Rock, Texas, Cathy Presnall and her husband Mitch of Amarillo, Texas, grandchildren Randy Hern, Hannah Luster and her husband Zane, and Andrew Hern, and great-grandchildren Madilyn and Elizabeth Luster.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to one of the following charitable groups:

• The Alzheimer’s Association, in support of their research to find cures and treatments for the disease that took his life.

• The Richardson East Rotary Club, in support of their efforts (along with the City of Richardson) to build a new inclusive playground at Cottonwood Park. Howard dedicated a great amount of time to serving the City. Donations to this project would be an extension of that work, and a great way to honor the quiet charity that he practiced throughout his life.

Published in Dallas Morning News on Sept. 28, 2018