Former UC Berkeley Lab Technician Dies at 78

Photo: Howard
Robbie Long/Courtesy
Howard "Howie" Clark rides on a motorcycle with his German Shepherd, Gully.

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Former UC Berkeley lab technician Howard "Howie" Clark, iconic for his motorcycle rides with his German Shepherd, died at the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley on Feb. 8 due to complications from a stroke. He was 78 years old.

Described as a loving friend, radiant colleague and pure Berkeley character - complete with numerous pet dogs - Clark was a prolific figure in the 1960s to those around him, and his love for learning included memorizing the names of all the trees on the UC Berkeley campus, according to those close to him.

Clark, who grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and came to the Bay Area in the 1950s, spent about 30 years on campus as a technician in the lab of the late cell biologist Richard Strohman in the former zoology department - now known as the department of integrative biology - and retired in the 1990s.

UC Berkeley alumnus Robbie Long said he met Clark as an undergraduate in 1966 while studying history, and the two struck up a long-enduring friendship, even though Clark was 10 years his senior. Long said Clark was a campus fixture in the 1960s because of his German Shepherd, "Gully," who would follow him around campus and accompany him on motorcycle rides.

"(Clark) had a wanderer's spirit, the spirit of curiosity," Long said. "He was a troubadour, a real Paul Bunyan. He loved nature and just wanted to see the world."

Apart from spending his nights in Strohman's lab and being a true adventurer during his time at UC Berkeley, Clark served as caretaker for the Donohoe family, in particular for Maureen Donohoe, who had muscular dystrophy and who in turn looked after him just before his death. The two formed a close and special bond that lasted through the years.

"Maureen would cook for Howie, and Howie would bring her flowers." Long said. "They had had a strong connection."

Clark even taught unique classes such as mushroom hunting, Chinese astronomy and I Ching off the UC Berkeley campus, according to Long. Clark studied hundreds of different languages just because he had the opportunity and access to various libraries across campus.

"He never tried to impress people and was larger than life," Long said. "He loved to learn, but he didn't boast his knowledge that he gained while studying deeply and often."

According to long-time friend Mark McLeod, a former graduate student in the department of political science at UC Berkeley and now the executive director of the Berkeley-based Sustainable Business Alliance, Clark was adored by friends and acquaintances.

"Howie was a wonderful character (and) was widely known on campus. He enjoyed working in the (Valley Life Sciences Building) and loved the libraries and loved talking to people," McLeod said.

Clark retired at age 65 but stayed closely affiliated with the campus and was living in an apartment complex by Clark Kerr Campus before his death.

Marvalee Wake, the director of the Graduate School at the department of integrative biology, also worked with Clark during his time as a lab technician during the late 1970s.

"Everybody loved him, and he was enormously affable and helpful," Wake said. "His employment was as a technician, but he frequently sat in on courses and even learned to speak Japanese."

He is survived by his niece, Diane Smith.

"(He was) someone who really lived his life fully and got a lot more out of his life than most people usually do. It was always a pleasure to be around him," McLeod said.


Contact Anjuli Sastry at [email protected]

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