CIP email@example.com_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-08-15 published
By Steven DENURE, Julia WOODS, Michael HOMER, Marty SILVERSTONE Friday, August 15, 2003 - Page A28
Friend, husband, father, rugby player. Born September 17, 1952, in Ottawa. Died June 15, in Toronto, of cancer, aged 50.
Friends experienced a quintessential Howard HOAG moment a few years ago on the dock at a friend's cottage at a remote spot in Georgian Bay. They had an old recurve bow and a quiver full of new arrows, and were taking turns shooting at -- and missing a floating target anchored far out in the bay. As was his lifelong habit, Howard arrived much later than anticipated. He stepped out of the boat with a nautical flourish, and, after being roundly berated for being late and bringing what looked to be only six (warm) beer, he picked up the bow and tested its pull. Then he turned and fired an arrow and hit the previously unthreatened target the first time, with a satisfying thunk, like an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence. In the moment of stunned silence that followed, he gave a withering Hoagian look. "That's how it's done," he said, and picked up his six-pack and his knapsack, which turned out to be full of wine, and headed up the hill, leaving the merry band on the dock properly put in its place.
His Friends spent so much time waiting for him that they dubbed it "Howard time." The wait was always worth it. At every party there was "before Howie" and "after Howie." With his arrival, the conversation always sparkled a little more, the wine tasted better, the room seemed to grow bigger -- plus there was his unique ability to infuriate and/or entertain everybody in the room.
Howard grew up in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, the youngest of four children born to a production manager at the mighty CIP paper mill. As a child he was a Boy Scout, soloist in the church choir and an avid canoeist. He would later tell stories about paddling around the islands in the St. Lawrence River and watching the foam from the mill make the paddles disappear.
His voice eventually changed and, when he got to Montreal's McGill University, so did the songs. Howard studied environmental biology, but his true passion was the game of rugby. In recent years, Howard was best known as the heart and soul of the Toronto Scottish Rugby Club, as well as a key organizer of its annual Robbie Burns night. In Montreal, however, he's a legend: it was his monumental gaffe (he loudly lambasted a group of football coaches while the men in question sat in the next room listening to every word) that led to the creation of the Howie Hoag Award. Since its inception in 1971, "the Hoag" has been given out weekly during the MacDonald College football season to the player who performs the most remarkable misdeed of the week.
We are comforted to know that the last several years of Howard's too-short life were the absolute best. At 48, the classic lad and confirmed bachelor met the love of his life, the incomparable Louise RICH, and her daughter, Odette HUTCHINGS. This perfect trio -- whose adopted nickname was H.R.H. -- did not have anything like the number of years they deserved together, but what they did have was packed with enough love and laughter to fill many longer lifetimes.
Tragically, last Christmas Eve, Howard, who'd battled cancer as a child, learned that the radiation treatment that had saved his life 42 years earlier had probably led to the growth of an inoperable tumour in one of his bile ducts. In early June, Howard was given only a few days to live, but survived long enough to marry Louise and spend another week with his family and the Friends he loved. He also lived long enough to die on the day and at the hour of what used to be his absolutely favourite kind of night: just after midnight on a midsummer's eve with a full moon, which Howard used to say was "God's flashlight."
Steve, Julia, Mike and Marty are Friends of Howard HOAG.
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