Survived by his beloved wife Vivienne (Kwissa), his brothers-in-law Donald Bedford (Christine) and Richard Kwissa (Joan); his nieces Tracy and Tobi Kwissa and their children Emily, Fletcher and Megan, Sophie and Alexander. Predeceased by his parents John and Bertha (Messenger) and his brother Raymond.
Howard emigrated from England to Ottawa in September, 1967, just in time to celebrate his 26th birthday in October and enjoy Expo 67 in Montreal. His first year was lived apartment sharing with a friend who was spending Howard’s contributions to their living expenses behind his back and disappeared back to England when found out. As co-signer, Howard had to take on a large debt for which he wasn’t responsible. Luckily for me, he moved in with my family as a boarder “until he could get things sorted out” and we married two and a half years later in 1971.
Our first year of married life was spent travelling to British Columbia and back to Ontario while Howard audited the General Tire stores in the western provinces. The New Westminster stay was particularly nice, lasting close to five months. We stayed at a hotel bachelor apartment directly across the street from the store. It was like having our first home and I could look from the 4th floor balcony to see Howard crossing the road. We traded in our first “baby”, a 1967 Pontiac Firebird that had barely got us through the Rocky Mountains from Edmonton, for a 1970 Pontiac GTO muscle car. I think that was always our favourite set of wheels and earned me my only speeding ticket!
We bought our first house in the countryside in 1979 and Howard put his enjoyment of reading DIY books to good use in building decks, raised gardens, and creating lovely flower beds. His interests moved more to the indoors when home and work computers evolved. He had a natural skill working on the computer and helping others with work and home projects. Howard and I had always shared a mutual love of music and a large accomplishment on his part was to create the first extensive website on jazz pianist Thelonious Monk. He spent hours and months inputting information as a tribute to the great musician and received much recognition and appreciation for his efforts. It surprised me that eventually he couldn’t go on with the project. I thought it was because other sites on Monk were appearing on the Internet but now I think it was because he was slowly becoming ill.
Howard retired from his work with the City of Ottawa, Social Services, in 2007. He described it as being his “last job and his best job”. I thought he would have many years ahead of him to enjoy a well-deserved retirement and that his need to start walking with a cane was just from age and fatigue. We went through several house moves in a short space of time trying to downsize and improve our finances. Howard was one of the brightest people I knew but was suddenly having difficulty keeping the car from drifting to the right when he drove, repeating things I had just said as though they were original thoughts, always saying “I’m just getting old”. It took two years to convince our family doctor that something was wrong. It took the neurologist just a matter of minutes to diagnose the problem as PSP, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. I think we just looked blank at the diagnosis having never heard of it before but I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach by the words, “I’m very sorry”. I knew then that this was something that couldn’t be fixed and our time remaining would be drastically different.
PSP is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s Disease. Sadly, there is no cure and as the name says, it’s progressive. It’s main symptoms are loss of balance and falling backward, difficulty looking up and down, eye sensitivity to light, and weakening of the throat muscles leading to pneumonia. Howard battled the disease for eight years but eventually made the choice to let it run its course. His body wasted away and he had no strength left. He spent his last year living at the Hilltop Manor, Merrickville. The staff did their best to keep him as comfortable as possible in his final days and marvelled at how long he held on. I think it was a great unhappiness for both me and them when he let go.
Our time together wasn’t always perfect, Papa, but one thing I told you often will always be true: You always were and always will be my very best friend. I will miss you every day. I hope your suffering is over and your spirit is with past family, friends, and the many lovely “critters” that shared our lives.
All my love,
In lieu of flowers donations in Memory of Howard may be made to the Cure PSP organization. Arrangements entrusted to the Byers Funeral Home, South Mountain (613-989-3836). Online condolences may be made at www.byersfuneralhomeinc.ca