John was a younger brother of the Chairman of MMTG, Clive. Whilst Clive in his younger days grew into an athletic ‘power-house’, John was intellectually fairly clever, BUT was unbelievably gifted at sport, and grew into what could be described as a ‘poly-math’ of sport. Today he would easily have made his living as a professional sportsman. With his hand-eye co-ordination, virtually all high performance factors at his finger tips, physique, strength, power and speed, his abilities in sport were without a doubt, absolutely awesome! Non-specific, but non the less verifiable references to this ability later in this article, despite the authors love and respect for John, the information is not to be seen as ‘through rose tinted glasses’, but as fact. He ended up concentrating on athletics, although it must be said he could have become an international soccer or rugby star, just as easily.
(This text was added to bring to the attention of the reader content of a meeting programme( 07 July 2007), to see and hopefully (if you wish),- download photos of John. They were originally published as part of the programme for the ‘John Howell Memorial Meeting’. The inaugral British (LSW) Throwers Decathlon Championships 2007- as a one off! They will-not be published by MMTG again. They do not and cannot even scratch the surface when recording John’s life,- which was full and eventful but cut tragically short. There are thirteen photographs inserted into this tribute and they may give some brief ‘snapshots’ over the past thirty years or so of his life. Clive S.S.Howell 10 OCTOBER 2007)
John won two English Schools discus titles, and represented England for his first international, against the home nations. He won a rare double of discus and triple-jump at the national association of boy’s club’s championships in 1971. He had British junior internationals at both discus and decathlon(photo1,photo2) and became a highly regarded and ranked senior international decathlete. His many close friends, team mates and ‘adversaries’ at the time included, Daley Thompson, Mike Corden, Brad McStravick, Nick Phipps, Snowy Brookes, and Pan Zeniou. ( Photo3)
In 1979, John was selected to train for the British Bobsleigh team (Athletes are now regularly recruited, but John was the first!!), and proved to have the qualities required and was selected as ‘brakeman’ on both the #1, – 2 and 4 man bobsleigh crews. Early in 1980, he helped to win the British championships, and won the ‘brakeman’s trophy’.(Photo4, Photo5) To say he was talented here is just a statement but when it is known at pre-Olympic training he was approached by Erich Shearer of East-Germany, the world record holder, with a view to John being his brakeman in an attempt at a new record time, says it all! Prior to this attempt John did something he rarely did, he ‘crashed’ on a run and was slightly injured but injured enough for the record attempt not to take place.
He went out to LAKE PLACID (New York State), for the winter Olympics of 1980, where he met his beautiful wife Jeanne, who at the time was working as a producer for ABC Sport (television). They were covering the games and were and still are as far as I know based in New York. In the games, John was ‘brakeman’ on both 2 and 4 man #1 bobs. Both he and his fellow crew members were placed 9th (2-man), and 10th (4-man). People his family have met all over the world , and I have met here, still hold his contribution to British bobsleigh, with absolute sincere esteem and awe, and 27 years have passed since!!
When he returned from Lake Placid he was 200 points short of qualifying for the decathlon at the summer Olympics in Moscow in 1980. He intended to do the double, but this was finally ‘dropped’ as he decided to move ‘over the pond’, where he became a very successful business man (Photo6), and father to his son and daughter. He kept himself in fairly good shape, so we were shocked at his sudden death after a boating and fishing trip, with his son , in June 2006. Sadly, just 4 days after his 51st birthday.
He was aware of my efforts in throwing, and also my role in helping set up MMTG and its administration and was supportive but said, “these days I prefer golf”! On the last occasion we spoke 2 weeks before he died we were talking about my throwing efforts, and since we were still close he put on his ‘false’ “potteries” dialect and said “…well youth, whatever rocks your boat!!..” John was the rarest of men, he rarely fell out with anyone and despite his wealth in terms of both family and fortune, never boasted about his awesome abilities in sport. He is a sad loss to his extended family in the USA, his family in the UK, relatives in Canada, and his many friends world wide.
Lastly some Photo’s of John and his dear wife and his son and daughter on a happy vacation – with Mum on her visit in 2005 (Photo’s taken in Connecticut) and sadly, one of the last photo’s of John at his son’s wedding in February 2006-Photo7, Photo8, Photo9, Photo10, Photo11, Photo12,Photo13.
Having discussed some of my feelings and John’s attributes with Hugh, he suggested some time we would honour his passing, and in due course he came up with ‘THE JOHN HOWELL MEMORIAL MEETING throwers decathlon’ but not exactly the decathlon as he would have known it!! If he had lived, he would have recognized, supported and respected our aims, since we all aspire at our level to the performances he achieved. He would be pleased that such events take place and maybe would have “put his kit on” and taken part as a one off. We will never know!
It is hoped that members of his family in the USA and UK and his many nieces and nephews will have some role both now and in the future in presentations (or at least be present) for many years to come at the throwers decathlon championships, as we wish them to be an annual British Championship ad-infinitum. C.S.S.H. 04.01.07