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John Forman Howes

John Forman Howes

Male 1924 - 2017  (92 years)

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  • Name John Forman Howes  [1, 2
    Birth 1924  Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Born 19 Jun 1924  Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Gender Male 
    Honour 2003  [3
    Order of the Rising Sun 
    • One of Japan's highest honours
    Died 4 Feb 2017  Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    • Obit from the Vancouver Sun
      HOWES, Prof. John Forman 1924-2017

      Noted Canadian/American scholar of Japanese history and dedicated railway enthusiast John departed on his last train February 4th. Preceded by his beloved wife of 46 years, Lynn, he is survived by his two sons and their families; Christian Howes and Cathy Noyes, and Forman and Jasmine Howes, and grandchildren Faith, Keegan, Ian, Finnegan and Anais. John died peacefully in his sleep.

      Over his 35 years at UBC and at Obirin University near Tokyo John introduced generations of students to Japan. As a scholar of Japanese history he was a leading biographer of such influential Christian figures as Nitobe Inazo and Uchimura Kanzo.

      Born in Chicago, Illinois to a family with a long missionary history in India and China, John enrolled in the U.S. Navy School of Oriental Languages in 1944. Service in the postwar U.S. Occupation of Japan made him a life-long 'Japan hand.' Yet from 1960 when he joined the faculty at UBC, Vancouver was always home. Many thanks to the staff of Cavell Gardens and Dr. Sue Turgeon who helped him to the end. A memorial service is scheduled for 2pm Saturday, 18 March at Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver. In lieu of flowers please donate to the John Howes Lecture in Japan Studies at The University of British Columbia.

      Article from the Toronto Globe & Mail, Aug 17, 2017
      Scholar. Teacher. Railway enthusiast. Good Samaritan. Born June 19, 1924 in Chicago; died Feb. 4, 2017 in Vancouver, of old age at 92.

      When a 22-year-old U.S. Navy officer set foot on a Yokohama wharf on Jan. 1, 1947, no one could have foretold this as a pivotal step in Canada-Japan relations. But for decades, John Howes shaped Canada's modern view of Japan, mainly through the eyes of thousands of University of British Columbia students.

      Fresh out of U.S. Navy language school, John was sent to Tokyo to join General Macarthur's postwar occupation. But where most occupiers shunned "fraternization," John plunged headlong into the chaos of a city still bombed flat and hungry. What began as abstract study of "the enemy language" suddenly became his passport to befriending people wherever he went. And that experience struck two deep chords in his soul.

      Born to a mother whose family had been missionaries in India since the mid-1800s, he was a compulsive do-gooder. So any spare moment was soon devoted to random acts of kindness, helping Tokyo's many hungry and homeless. Years later, he also connected Hiroshima A-bomb victims with New York's top plastic surgeons. That was never forgotten: In Japan there is no gaijin, or foreigner, who commands more respect than one who spontaneously helped people through the nation's worst time.

      John also fell passionately in love with Japan's rail network, already a marvel even before its massive postwar expansion. As the son of a railroad civil engineer, he came by this honestly – and even at age 90 no present from Japan delighted him more than the latest Jikokuhyo, the phonebook-thick nationwide timetable.

      In 1980, I was a callow UBC undergrad in Asian Studies with zero interest in Japan – as I saw it, a land of grey-suited dullards. But the only course to fit a hole in my schedule was Professor Howes's first-year survey of Japanese History.

      John was by then the grand old man of UBC Asian Studies, having joined the department at its inception in 1961. Before getting his PhD from Columbia, he'd returned to Japan in 1949 as the first postwar grad student at the University of Tokyo, where he began a lifetime study of the 19th-century Christian intellectuals who precipitated the most profound reordering of Japanese thought in millennia.

      But from the first lecture in a crowded hall, John Howes held my rapt attention. More than just a brilliant lecturer, with personal anecdotes that shone light into the Japanese soul, John was that rare prof happy to devote his time to any undergrad. We discovered a mutual love of trains and thus began a four-decade mentor/friendship that's left me living in a Japanese forest and writing about the country.

      Not that my experience was unique. John kept in touch with scores of former students who went on to play prominent roles in Canada-Japan relations: diplomats, businesspeople, journalists and academics.

      Happily, in 2005 we were able to honour John's profound contribution to our lives, writing in support of his successful nomination for the American Historical Association's Roelker Award for teaching excellence. In 2003, Japan's emperor needed no such persuasion, conferring on John the Order of the Rising Sun, one of Japan's highest civilian honors.
    Person ID I119770  ONS
    Last Modified 17 Aug 2017 

    Father Harold Rohrer Howes,   b. 16 Apr 1883, Mount Forest, Cook, Illinois, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 24 Jun 1960, Maywood, Cook, Illinois, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 77 years) 
    Mother Florence Dorothea Forman,   b. 28 Jun 1891, Fatehgarh, India Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 16 Aug 1969, Slingerlands, Albany, New York, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 78 years) 
    Married 27 Jul 1923  Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Family ID F36161  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Living 
    +1. Living
     2. Living
    Last Modified 15 Feb 2017 16:42:17 
    Family ID F36159  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBirth - 1924 - Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 19 Jun 1924 - Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 4 Feb 2017 - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Sources 
    1. [S2281] Vancouver Sun, 2017 Feb 14.

    2. [S406] Howes Genealogy, Joshua Crowell Howes, revised by Col. Bob Howes, (1892, revised in 2006).

    3. [S2426] Toronto Globe & Mail, 2017 Aug 17.