Cal lost one of its most loyal—and nicest—alumni when Howard “Howdy” Brownson ’48 passed away on April 19, just a few weeks short of his 89th birthday.
The death notice in the San Francisco Chronicle said it all: “Howdy Brownson—song leader, barbershopper, safety engineer, community volunteer, and Cal alum extraordinaire—has sung his last tune.”
A founder of the Men’s Octet, Howdy was a popular feature at every Octet reunion, entrancing younger alums with colorful tales of the old days and leading them in Cal fight songs. He also led the crowd at the Cal Alumni Association’s 140th Charter Gala last year in singing “Hail to California,” just as he did at the 1948 Gala, when he was an undergraduate.
He and his wife Mary ’48 were lifelong supporters of Cal music, especially the Octet and the Cal Marching Band. They were also big supporters of CAA. Howdy was elected to the Board of Directors in 1984 and was chairman of the Scholarship Committee in 1987. The couple created the Howdy and Mary Brownson Alumni Scholarship, and they did more than just write the check—they were deeply involved in every stage of the process and interviewed the applicants personally.
Howdy worked as a safety engineer. After his retirement he and Mary became enthusiastic world travelers. On a wall in their living room is a huge map of the world smothered with pins indicating the places they’ve visited—so many, in fact, that if they visited but didn’t stay overnight, the place doesn’t merit a pin. His advice to other travelers: “Just have fun. We go places for the going, not the getting there.”
Howdy is survived by Mary, son Donald ’81 (also a member of the Men’s Octet and the Cal Marching Band), daughters Kris Carey ’75 and Nancy DeRoche, nine grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and hundreds of CAA scholarship recipients and younger Glee Club, Men’s Octet and Cal Band alums, who will always remember his generosity of spirit.
There will be a celebration of his life, featuring lots of songs and stories, on May 19 at 2 p.m. at Grandview Pavillion, 300 Island Drive, in Alameda.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Howdy and Mary Brownson Alumni Scholarship Fund at the Cal Alumni Association, c/o Joani Carpenter at 510.643.391 or firstname.lastname@example.org or 1 Alumni House, Berkeley CA 94720.
Posted on April 26, 2013 - 3:26pm