I want the phone to ring and hear, “Hey, what are you doing”, one more time. My brother Peter was saying, he wanted one more game, that one more time at Fenway or the Garden. There are a lot of one mores we all will carry.
Indulge my remembrances, for as much I and others have said in various forums about Howard Leibowitz, I guess now is the time that his name and legacy become a more public thing, something he never sought in life. I was telling Conny that he was even trending on Twitter for a bit, which he would have enjoyed immensely. As much as he was online, Facebook and Twitter have become a virtual shiva, a virtual wake for a life fully lived and that has touched so many people, in so many ways.
Nothing makes me prouder than hearing every story about how he championed social justice issues. Among the kind words I’ve seen from Mayor Flynn, was Howard being considered one of the “Sandinistas” there. He had that passion to make change, but did so in a way that didn’t alienate anyone. I can’t even begin to tell you how many posts I’ve read – I worked with Howard on this campaign, I worked with Howard on this issue. He was everywhere, but behind the scenes. I think one of the ways to keep integrity is when people know you are not doing things for personal gain or attention, but because it’s the right thing to do. Ending homelessness, making sure people have access to good nutrition, from local vendors, getting kids in the projects, projects we lived in as kids, access to computers – all were the right thing to do. His was a story that you can rise out of a hard background and make a difference.
That is the legacy of Howard in the public sector. Many of his friends have also shared stories of his other passions, and those were often the center of our family gatherings. Politics, sports, food and music were pretty much the common themes. And laughing. We were always somewhat in awe of his accomplishments, but it was never anything he pushed out there. He loved when his love of sports and government converged. Working behind the scenes on the Bill Russell statue project was hugely satisfying. He was telling me a story recently about when the city was trying to attract the Democratic Convention. The selection committee was in town and they were being brought to Fenway to catch a game up in one of the suites. He said he walks in and there’s Bobby Orr, greeting people, and offering him a beer. He was incredulous at the idea that one of the great heroes of Boston sports was offering him a beer.
Conny remarked on Sunday that Howard left us on Mayor Menino’s birthday. Their bond was genuine and meaningful. Even during the time he left the city to work on other projects, he was always available to the Mayor. One of those other projects was having been Executive Director of the fledgling idea of the Boston Public Market. His own words tell the story of that start and the development of food policy initiatives under Mayor Menino.
Personally, he set the trail for me. He got into politics, I followed. Red Sox… Patriots…. Celtics all family passions. And Bruce. NO wait, I mean Bruuuuuuce. I used to wonder, who was this Springsteen guy he was crazy about? I more than found out. We both saw the last show of the last tour at Mohegan Sun. Howard was lamenting that he didn’t get any tickets for the upcoming tour in Boston or DC, but something would come up. When I go in February, I know some of him will be with me. On the last tour, Bruce would remember departed band members Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons. Like Howard to so many of us, Clarence was this central, mythical figure…. the Big Man! So how did Bruce handle this, what words would work? He’d be on stage, introduce the band and ask, “Who are we missing?” And the crowd would start to cheer and it would get louder under Bruce’s prompting. And he would sing sometimes, say sometimes – If you’re here and we’re here… they’re here. And repeat it. And the noise would get louder. So keep Howard in your heart in all the ways and all the places that were special to you, and he’ll be there too.
To my sister in law, Conny Doty, his life partner and his rock, I don’t really have or maybe will ever have the right words to share. The things Howard couldn’t do…. oh little things like drive or cook for himself, she was always there for him. She was his sounding board, collaborator, best friend and great feline cat parents! Conny had the best opportunity to escape the Leibowitz’s when at her first Passover seder, she ended up with wine on her dress. But if you know Conny, you know she perseveres and we are so fortunate to have her as a sister.
I’m going to miss his stories, his posts, his companionship, his enjoyment of life. It is only small consolation that I can take in how totally full his life was, how much he accomplished, how much he cared. My love and appreciation to each and every one of you that has reached out, shared a story or have your own memories. We are planning a public memorial service for Howard soon, I hope to know that today.