Frank Howard was a 'Marine's Marine'

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 10, 2011 - 9:27 PM

He twice served as mayor of St. Louis Park.

Frank Howard

Photo: Submitted Photo, Star Tribune

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The wounded Marine in Life magazine's World War II pictorial was undeniably Frank Howard. But over the years, Howard, who was awarded the Purple Heart after being wounded in Okinawa, refused to acknowledge that he was the person pictured.

"He had shrapnel in his body the rest of his life," Paul Howard said of his father, a former St. Louis Park mayor who died from pneumonia Sept. 27 at age 88. "But he was a Marine's Marine, an opinionated guy who only talked about things when it was necessary."

Those sometimes strong opinions led Howard to the St. Louis Park City Council, where he served for 10 years. He was mayor from 1970 to 1972 and probably lost his bid for reelection after voting for a city recreation center. By the time Howard was appointed to serve as mayor the final four months of 1979, many people who voted him out of office seven years before were thanking him, his four sons said.

Howard rarely gave in to convention. A longtime insurance agent who started his own company, he went to culinary school after his retirement because he wanted to be a short-order cook. He took a civil-service test so he could become a postman, said son David Howard.

He donated much of his spare time to the VFW, American Legion, Knights of Columbus, Lions Club, Rotary Club and Masons, said his son Tom. He often went out of his way to give people rides -- because he knew what it was like to be without.

Howard grew up in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. His mother died when he was 8. His father, an Englishman who spoke five languages and served as a translator during World War I, lost his hearing during the war.

Howard was 18 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. In Okinawa, he was ordered to cross a bridge with two other Marines and a photographer. An 8-inch shell ripped through the photographer, Paul Howard said. Frank Howard was hit by shrapnel in the neck, chest and leg.

He spent a night in a foxhole with the bodies of two Japanese soldiers.

"'We didn't care, because we didn't think we were going to survive the night,'" Frank Howard Jr. recalled his father saying.

Howard met Jeannette Charrette in 1946, and they married and settled in suburban New York. Frank Jr., the oldest of the four boys, recalled going to the Polo Grounds in New York City and watching Jackie Robinson, of his father's beloved Brooklyn Dodgers, steal home against the Giants.

But Frank Sr. fell in love with Minnesota on business trips and moved his young family to the Twin Cities in 1951.

Jeannette died more than 20 years ago, but Howard kept living a full and active life, his sons said. Charming and inquisitive, he asked his son David, "Tell me about Twitter, about Facebook. ... Should I be on there?"

In addition to his sons Frank, Paul, David and Tom, Howard is survived by former spouse Arlene; friend Dixie Leek and seven grandchildren. Services have been held.

Paul Levy • 612-673-4419

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