Richard James Howe, PhD

It is with great sadness we share that Desiree's beloved husband, Dr. Richard James Howe, passed away Monday, March 20. He passed in peace as he lived his life. Please take a moment and read about his life in the Obituary below.


Richard James Howe, PhD



Dr. Richard James Howe, retired President and Chief Operating Officer of Pennzoil Company, died peacefully at his Watercolor home in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida on March 20, 2018 at the age of 89. He was born October 15, 1928, in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Mildred and Chauncey Howe.

Dr. Howe graduated with honors from Breck School, St. Paul, Minnesota and entered the University of Minnesota where he earned his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. with distinction in Mechanical Engineering in 1953. His doctoral thesis dealt with the dynamics of oil well pumping systems. At Minnesota, he was a member of Mensa, Pi Tau Sigma, Tau Beta Pi, Sigma Xi, Iron Wedge and Phoenix Honor Societies and President of Chi Psi and Kappa Beta Phi Fraternities. In 1965, he was selected as a Sloan Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he earned an added M.S. degree in Industrial Management.

He joined Shell Oil Company as a mechanical engineer followed by service as an Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force where he worked on projects involving nuclear bomb blasts, aircraft landing gear vibrations and high temperature effects on supersonic aircraft. After returning to Shell, he designed and installed offshore production platforms and became one of the early authorities on the design and operation of offshore mobile drilling units. He later became a founding director of the Offshore Technology Conference, which is now the largest oil and gas trade show in the world hosting 100,000 attendees. He also was a Distinguished Lecturer for the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers and a member of the American Petroleum Institute.

After joining Exxon in Tulsa, he became head of drilling research followed by a year in Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela where he was the Production Superintendent responsible for producing one million barrels of oil per day. His Exxon career also included General Manager of oil and gas production research for Exxon worldwide, Assistant Manager of Exxon Company USA’s East Texas Division and Planning Manager. His final assignment was Public Relations Manager during the nation’s first energy crisis.

In 1978, he joined Pennzoil Company as Vice President of Corporate Communications and became President and Chief Operating Officer in May 1985. During his time at Pennzoil, the iconic Pennzoil vs Texaco trial began, culminating in the $3 billion settlement to Pennzoil in 1998. After his retirement, he became an advisory director of the company and served on the boards of Battle Mountain Gold Company and Fugro-McClelland, N.V.

Following his retirement, Dr. Howe was treated successfully for prostate cancer and subsequently became one of the nation’s leading lay authorities on the disease. He served on fifteen national committees and consulted with thousands of his “patients.” His illustrious business career gave weight to his voice in building the early prostate cancer community of survivors and increased research funding. Among his many accomplishments in the field, he was published in the Journal of Urology and received numerous awards, including the Presidential Award from the American Foundation of Urologic Disease in 1996.

Dr. Howe was also an avid collector. His most passionate interest was in mechanical musical instruments and associated literature, including antique music boxes, player pianos, calliopes, violinas and nickelodeons. After assembling the world’s most comprehensive collection of literature on mechanical musical instruments, he donated the collection to the University of Maryland, which is now housed at Stanford University where it is a significant source of musical research. He also authored many articles and two definitive books on mechanical musical instruments and was active in the Musical Box Society International to which he donated the only private collection of every US patent gazettes ever printed, a six-ton acquisition.

Dr. Howe was also active in Seaside Florida Chapel, Second Baptist Church and multiple civic affairs serving on the boards of the Houston Grand Opera, Houston Ballet, United Way, Florence Crittendon Home, the American Porphyria Foundation and The Kelsey-Seybold Foundation.

He married Charlotte Ellen Relf in 1951 and had three sons – Richard James Howe, Jr, Dwight William Howe and Roger Relf Howe and a daughter, Emily Jane Howe (who died in 1965 at age five days).

After Charlotte’s passing, he wed Desiree Heflin Lyon in 1997. Together they engaged in numerous cancer advocacy efforts, including a speaking tour on prostate cancer in over 100 major hospitals across the country and providing their home to cancer patients in need.

Friends and family speak of his character as a moral compass; his humor as the “king of one liners;” his happiness as contagious; and his friendship and love as all encompassing. Dick was a complex man of great intellect, yet he took joy in the simplest things in life. He was a righteous man.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Charlotte and his sons, Richard, Jr. and Dwight. He is survived by his wife, Desiree Lyon Howe and son, Roger, and his wife, Bera Peacey Howe of Sydney, Australia; stepdaughter, Lelia Ellane Polly and her husband, Ronald Glen Polly, Jr. of Atlanta, Georgia; grandsons, Dwight William Howe II of Bulverde, Texas, Robert Richard Howe and Rory Michael Howe of Sydney, Australia; granddaughters, Elizabeth Grace Brougher and Charlotte Mason Polly; grandsons, William Stafford Brougher and Miller Olsen Polly of Atlanta, Georgia; daughters-in-law, Sharon Orsak Howe of Corpus Christi, Texas and Deborah Eidson Howe of Austin, Texas; his dear friends who were family to him and his beloved Maltese, Weenzie.

The family extends their special thanks to his caregivers; Maria Gonzalez, Peggy Morales, Darlene Ripperger, Cordelia Ntsabo, Susan Nieuwold Smith, Janet Aaron, Staci McCall, George Aaron, and Edrin Williams.

A memorial service will be held in Houston, Texas on Saturday, April 21, 2018 at 11 AM at Second Baptist Church, Hankamer Chapel, 6400 Woodway Dr. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center or to your own places of worship to the Glory of God in memory of His servant, Richard.