Joseph H. Howard

Joseph H. Howard


January 2023

  Pencil drawing by sister, Emmalu (Howard) Bates

At 92, I am allowed to muse on a few things in my life:

Pat is best thing that ever happened to me.  We were married April 10, 1980, and by doing so, got 3 wonderful daughters.    Both of our former spouses had died. 

Furniture Walking

Thanks that our cottage, our furniture is close together.  More often or not, I walk touching furniture as I go.  Friend, Joyce Koch calls it “furniture walking.”  Guilty. 

The Pill

If the “pill” had been invited in 1930, I wouldn’t be here.  It’s had to get your head around not being here and writing about it. 

My parents first child, Dick, was born in 1916 (mother 22); Emmalu was born in 1918 and Bill was born in 1923.  I understand that my arrival 8 years later in 1931 was a shock to Mother who considered that her childbearing was over.  She was 37.  And wow! Carolyn came two years after me.  When Carolyn and I accused her of not wanting us, she never admitted it – but she never denied it either.  Her moral ethic would not allow her to lie.  When I was 6, she wrote a poem about me in which she referred to me as “Nature has dealt me an awful rebound”,

Twisting and squirming, from left to right;
Jumping and dancing, from morning till night,
Perpetual motion, at last I have found!!
(Nature has dealt me an awful rebound.)

Bright faced, adorable, – Just plain sweet;
As fine a little boy as you ever will meet.
Questing is he, for new things to explore
Questioning too, – then questions some more.

Equipped with knee-action and hydraulic brakes,
Takes lots of rough handling, without many aches.
I wish I might tell you he’s sprouting some wings,
But he’s the latest in boys and he’s mounted on springs.

Diamonds and rubies are nothing but rocks,
My gem – a little boy, with holes in his socks,
All other small lads are just little “hicks”,
Beside this young man, who is half past six.

Early Memories

One of my earliest memories was about 1937, during the middle of the depression.  Brother Dick was in college and money was short. Every time Carolyn and I wanted something, the response was that we couldn’t have it because there was a son in college. One Sunday morning, Carolyn and I were sent to Sunday School each with a nickel. We decided to save the money for some candy that we bought at Ms. Cann’s store on the way home from the Church. Evidently, we had chocolate on us when we arrived home and Mother gave us both a whipping for not giving the money to Jesus. Through my tears, I asked “Why does Jesus need all of that money? Does Jesus have a son in college?”

About 5, I thought that my Sunday school teacher was Jesus.  When Jesus asked me what I would like to sing, I responded “There will be a hot time in the old time tonight”.  Jesus didn’t let me sing it.  Jesus didn’t get off to a good start.


In Peace Corps (Malaya/Malaysia), a panel truck passed by 4th floor walk-up saying “Lee Kee Plumbers”.  Most of my local friends were fluent in English; however, their vocabulary didn’t include the word “leaky” and didn’t see anything funny about “Lee Kee Plumbers”,

Also in Peace Corps, there was a restaurant named “Yee Too Fatt” and a tailor, called “Zee Fatt Taylor”. 

In the Czech Republic, a bed & breakfast, had a sign “No moving with the beds”.

A billboard in Japan: “Hotel Fusa, Apparatus Completeness”.

At a park in Beijing: “No Littiling, Do Luster To The Landscape.”  I ask you if that isn’t preferable to “don’t litter”?

In Budapest, Pat and I were both “unbearable”.  The sign at the elevator said “lift under repair today you will be unbearable. 

Peace Corps

In 1963, I joined the Peace Corps thinking that I would be able to help in a developing country.  Instead, it changed me more than I changed Malaya/Malaysia.  It challenged me to do things I would never done in the United States.

    1. Learning by rote Malay and Indonesian Folk Songs – transcribing, teaching, and publishing them on my website (

    2. Another was preparing a world list of Malay manuscripts, most of which were in the Arabic script which I couldn’t read.  It was later published by the University of Malaya.

Another example of pitch problems in Chinese is shown by the story of the Boy Scouts of Victoria Institution, where I directed their choir.  One weekend I went with them on a camping trip to Cameron Highlands.  It was here that they taught me to count from one to ten in Cantonese.  I should have recognized that something was amiss but didn’t heed the warning signs.  The numbers are yat, yi, saam, sei, ng, luk, chat, baat, gau, and sap.  Finally, I had learned them.  Then they asked me to say the Cantonese for 1, 1, 9, 6, 7.  No problem:  Yat, Yat, Gau, Luk, Chat.  Hilarious laughter!  I didn’t know that if you said them in another tone it means “everyday man plays with himself.”  For some unknown reason I still remember this expression –  60 years later. 

My favorite story happened during my first few weeks in the University of Malaya Library.  Every morning as I went into the catalog department, containing about 12-15 people, I would say “Hi.”  Everyone giggled.  After several days of this, I asked my friend Eddie Yoh why they all laughed when I came into work.  He said: “Don’t you know what “hi” means in Cantonese?”  I assured him that I didn’t whereupon he said that it meant “vagina.” 


I feel sorry for those who don’t participate in creating great music.  They miss that thrill of being part of live music.  The Brahms’ Requiem is an example where at the end of the 4th movement, the basses have soaring part up to E flat “wie lieblich, wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen!” I have to gird myself, holding back a little so that my emotions don’t spill over.  I had an E flat in “to good ole days”, but no more. 

What happened to wonderful songs of the past, such as Cole Porter’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”?

Ev’ry time we say goodbye, I die a little.
Ev’ry time we say goodbye, I wonder why a little,
Why the gods above me, who must be in the know,
Think so little of me, they allow you to go”?
When you’re near there’s such an air of spring, about it,
I can hear a lark somewhere begin to sing about it.
There’s no love song finer, but how strange the change
From major to minor.
Ev’ry time we say goodbye.

One of the many reasons that I’m eternally grateful for having been born in the Judeo-Christian part of the world is for its music.  I can’t image growing up into that part of the world without Beethoven, Bach, Brahms part of my being.


Then there are comedians.  In recent years, the world has had a void in wonderful comedians such as Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett for example.  Who of our generation, will ever forget Lucille Ball’s chocolate factory and the stomping of grapes for making wine?  Who will ever forget the dental episode of Tim Conway and Harvey Korman?

The ultimate, however, is Carol’s “Gone with the Wind” when, at the end of the Civil War, with Rett Butler coming down the driveway, Scarlet with nothing to wear, improvised and descended the stairs wearing the curtains with rods still attached?  Oh my!

Thank goodness, technology has made it possible to replay these wonderful moments though the TV.


I had a wonderful English teacher for all my four years in Olustee High School.  Miss Hudson had a great influence over me and my use of the English language. 

  1. Never end a sentence with a preposition.

Winston Churchill’s mother was an American.  This was probably the cause of Winston’s sloppy use of this rule.  He said, “This is something I will not put up with.”  When chided about breaking this rule, he corrected it: “This something, up with which, I will not put.”  You could almost hear the sigh of British relief from across the pond. 

  1. Never split an infinitive.

Not to split an infinitive isn’t followed as strictly today as it used to be, and some split them without remorse. 

  1. Never Dangle a Participle or Modifier

Incorrect:  To brew a good cup of tea, fresh water is needed.  (Water can’t brew tea.)  Correct:  To brew a good cup of tea, you need fresh water.

  1. Possessive before a Gerund

A gerund is a verb form ending in Ing, such as being, doing, having, going, reading, or writing.

I love the Rachel Maddow show but she, an Oxford fellow, violates this often. Every time I hear it, feeling superior, I note it with a silent “snort.”

If I have anything to say about it, when one reaches the Pearly Gates, there will be two lines – the express line for those who observe the above rules religiously and a loong sloow line for those who need remedial instruction.

Lie and Lay.  Recently, my wife Pat and I were, listening to TV, heard someone telling their dog “Lay down”.  Both of us yelled “lie”.  We settled back into our stupor, feeling smug and superior.  Straight to the slow line. 

On June 6, 2019, I heard President Trump, on TV, in speaking to France’s President Macron, say “Between you and I . . .”  I feel there should be a special place for incorrect “I” users and, egregious users like this, will go to the underworld directly by entering by the express line. 


Since the “good ole days” life in wondrously improved by massive advancements in technology.

Medical technology has improved so much when in 2016, when I tripped and fell, I broke my eye socket, and underwent 2 operations to insert a tiny metal mesh “hammock” under the eyeball to bring it back up into the void.  Seeing double for about a year, the eye corrected itself.  I no longer see double except when I try to read.  In the “good ole times” I now would have been blind in one eye. 

Mocha Test

The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (often referred to and pronounced as “mocha”) is straightforward.  The test asks patients to perform various simple cognitive tasks, like memorizing strings of words, identifying pictures of animals and drawing a clock with hands set to particular times.  It is a standard test; however, the words may vary.   Each of the questions on the test is designed to probe for “mild cognitive impairment” in different areas of the brain.  Different forms of dementia, including the well-known Alzheimer’s disease, first appear as small deficits in the areas of the brain they damage.

Trump took the test sometime in 2018.

Trump tweeted “My two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart.”

In a subsequent tweet, he said how the fact that he won his presidential bid on his first try “would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!”

Trump has bragged about taking and “aceing” the test at least 4 times recently by being able to repeat “Person. Woman. Man, Camera. TV” – twice during the testing. 

In early June 2020 he, unprompted, talked about how well he had done on the cognitive test.

On July 9, 2020, in a phone interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News he said that he’d “aced it.”

On July 19, 2020, in an on-line interview with Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, he again bragged about it. “And then 10 minutes, 15, 20 minutes later, they say, remember the first question, not the first, but the 10th question? Give us that again. Can you do that again?  And you go, ‘Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV,” he said, it’s not that easy. There were other questions tougher than what I just did. But it’s not that easy,” Trump, who’s 74, said, clearly pleased with his performance.  He further declared “I’ll guarantee you that Joe Biden could not answer those questions.”

On July 22, 2020, he again bragged about it in a White House news conference. 

My wife and I have taken the test twice at Collington – once before we arrived (the words were Red, Velvet, Face, Church, Daisy) in 2008 and again, in 2019 when MedStar replaced the Collington Clinic.  The words were the same.  On both we had to subtract by 7 starting with 100.  The second time, I practiced.  We also identified the pictures of rhinoceros, camel, elephant – no problem. 

Then came the section in which I was to say as many words beginning with “F” as I could remember in a minute.  It should be no problem.   After about 30 seconds my brain froze.  For some reason I could not say out loud two words that came to my mind, so I stopped and said, “that’s all.”  This brought my score down from a perfect score of 30 to 26.  Pat, my wife, gloated that she had made a perfect 30. 

Any guesses as to what those 2 “F” words were?

For those who don’t know Sarah Cooper, you should “google” her.  She is a comedian who lip synchs Trump’s actual words and in his own voice.  Here is the link to one of Trump’s statements about his cognitive test.

Epilogue.  Passing the test, Trump would be eligible to move to Collington where, by his definition, he would be among most of us who could be characterized as geniuses but don’t brag about it because we can’t prove it. 


Problem Solving

I have aways loved solving problems.  I get restless without a problem to solve.  However, since moving to Collington, I find that a prefer being the boss so that I will be the one also to implement.

Right person

All my life, I been blessed for being the right person at the right place and at the right time.  This is also true when we moved to Collington where we have many friends. 


Do Luster to the Landscape!



Born January 15, 1931, Olustee, Oklahoma

1952, Bachelor Music Education, University of Oklahoma

1952-54, US Army, Korean Conflict, Corporal

1954-56, Vocal Music Instructor, Kiowa, Kansas

1957, Master of Library Science, University of Oklahoma

1957-1963, University of Colorado Library (Music Librarian, Circulation Librarian, Associate Director of Libraries for Public Services)

1963-65, Peace Corps Volunteer, Malaysia IV (University Library, Lecturer in Music at Maktab Perguruan Bahasa, Directed 4 Choirs)

1965-67, Chief Catalog Department, Washington University Libraries, St. Louis

1967-1983, Library of Congress (Assistant Chief and later Chief Descriptive Cataloging, Chief Serial Record Division, Assistant Director of Processing Services for Cataloging, Assistant Librarian of Congress for Processing)

1983-1994, Director National Agricultural Library

1994, Retirement

Awards: Several cash awards for outstanding employee, Department of Agriculture; University of Oklahoma Library School Alumni for outstanding contribution to Librarianship, American Library Association’s Melvil Dewey Medal

Consultancies:  Smithsonian Libraries, US Department of Education, Food and Agricultural Organization, Chulalongkorn University