By Philip Howard
My brother, Lawton (Bud) Howard Jr., a recent resident of Ocracoke who had moved to Virginia after Hurricane Dorian, died unexpectedly Thursday morning, Nov. 7, in Chesapeake, Virginia.
Bud, 83, was born Nov. 25, 1935, in Pennsylvania to Lawton W. Howard, Sr., a native of Ocracoke Island, and Kunigunde (Connie) Guth, the daughter of Hungarian immigrants.
Immediately after completing an Industrial Arts program at Ridley Township High School in Pennsylvania he enlisted in the US Navy and served as a radarman on the USS Hazelwood, a WWII-era destroyer deployed to the Far East to enforce an uneasy armistice after the Korean War.
At the completion of his military service Bud began a long career as a telephone repairman and installer with the Bell Telephone Company and AT&T, from which he retired a number of years ago.
In 1961 Bud married Mary Elaine Magee. They had one son, Richard.
In the late 1960s they moved to a rural area of Chesapeake, Virginia, where Bud and his father built a new house. Over the course of several decades Bud and Elaine cared for Richard and a number of foster children, enjoyed their dogs, and raised sheep. They were members of Centerville Baptist Church.
After Elaine died in 2006, Bud began spending more time visiting Ocracoke. Some years later he began sharing his ancestral island home with his new companion, “a singular event I’ll never forget,” as one islander expressed it.
In 2015, Bud moved permanently to Ocracoke, living first with me, his younger brother, and then in his own trailer on my property.
Bud was an avid reader with a near-encyclopedic grasp of European and WWII history. When not reading, he typically spent his days pursuing a daily routine. Almost every morning he visited the Ocracoke Coffee Company for coffee and a blueberry muffin. He always had a twinkle in his eye and a mischievous grin as he shared stories, jokes and his views about national and world events.
By late morning, Bud arrived at Village Craftsmen with coffee for Amy Howard, Finley Austin and Desiree Ricker. He remained there for a couple of hours, perched on a stool behind the counter bantering with staff and customers.
He loved to point to the family cemetery across the lane and enchant visitors with the story of how, when he was 12 years old, he had helped exhume and rebury his Uncle Evans.
Nearly every evening Bud joined Philip, his extended Howard family, and friends for dinner and lively conversation.
Bud was charming and engaging even when ensnaring family and friends into his conversations about current events and obscure ideas, including the search for Bigfoot, the significance of Area 51, and the virtues of elected officials.
Bud is survived by his son Richard Howard of Chesterfield, Virginia, his brother Philip and niece Amy Howard, wife of David Tweedie, of Ocracoke, and nephew Stefen Howard of Weaverville, NC, as well as grand nephews and nieces, Lachlan, Zoe, Eakin, and Eliza.
Members of Bud’s Sunday School class at Centerville Baptist Church are planning a memorial, and family and friends at Ocracoke will gather informally to remember Bud and his unique, amiable and often contrarian opinions.
May he rest in peace!