Howard Garrett of Montgomery, NY, passed away on August 14, 2020 at the age of 88, after a long illness.
Howard was born in Brooklyn on October 13, 1931. He grew up in a small Crown Heights apartment which he shared with his sister and parents. Howard earned a BA in education at Brooklyn College, where he met his first wife. Howard was drafted into the army during the Korean War and served his country in Fort Benning, Georgia. After his discharge, they moved back to Brooklyn and he became a teacher for a short time. They had two children and moved to North Massapequa, where he lived until 1978.
While teaching, Howard tried door-to-door Encyclopedia Britannica sales to supplement his income. He quickly realized that this wasn't his path forward and began selling commercial metal shelving full time instead. He proved to be a talented salesman. He worked for Dexion for many years, and then for Metropolitan Wire, where he was the first person to suggest putting wire shelving units in retail stores such as Bloomingdale’s and in food establishments such as bakeries. Later, he became a very successful independent distributor of office furniture and warehouse shelving, remaining friends with some of his contacts for years after he retired.
Howard was an avid collector. He began collecting 19th century magazines, books and folk art with his first wife; they turned it into a side business, and co-authored The Poster Book of Antique Auto Ads. Over the course of his life Howard loved buying, selling, trading, and discovering artists. Howard has collected and traded Americana (e.g. cigar stores indians and barber shop poles), Native American carvings, African carvings, Asian carvings, arcade games and pinball machines antique and modern, antique music boxes and Victrolas, in addition to the antique print collectibles.
Music was especially important to Howard. In his early years he dreamed of a career in show business, and he pursued those ambitions by singing bass with The Gilbert and Sullivan Light Opera Company. During his lifetime he collected over 20,000 records, tape recordings and CDs of classical, baroque and folk music. He became friends with a nationally syndicated classical DJ, DeKoven, and became DeKoven’s assistant for his radio shows in the 1980s. Years later, Howard hosted his own Sunday morning classical music radio program in Orange County.
In 1980, he married Judy Hosmer, whom he met while singing the lead role in a production of The Mikado with the Huntington Choral Society. They moved to Montgomery, New York, where he and Judy created full lives for themselves. They enjoyed making music together, and produced a CD of their original compositions. Their "painted lady" Victorian house on Union Street became a well-known landmark to residents of Montgomery, and he filled it with his collections including a totem pole he had custom-made for their living room. Howard and Judy celebrated their 40th anniversary this May.
When Howard and Judy moved from NYC to Orange County, his friends wondered how he could thrive away from the vibrant cultural life of the city. But Howard created his own. He began by starting a music appreciation group which met at their home twice a month for over 30 years, drawing from his vast collection of classical, baroque and chamber music recordings. When he discovered that Orange County didn't have a local Amnesty International chapter, he started one. He even created a local holiday, Orange County Appreciation Day (June 1).
Howard was a gifted music impresario, and is perhaps best known for the Grand Montgomery Chamber Music Series, which he and Judy founded in 1987 and ran for 31 years. He booked the artists and found corporate sponsorship so that these concerts were always free to the public. Howard passed the torch to Aleksander Vezuli in 2018.
Howard enjoyed being an eccentric. After retiring from business, he spent his free time playing a monkey organ at community events across Orange County while dressed in fanciful costumes. On one occasion it happened that Pete Seeger was the opening act for Howard's monkey organ show, a fact Howard never failed to mention.
For all of his contributions, Howard was awarded "Champion of the Arts" by the Orange County Arts Council in 2008, which was one of many awards and recognitions he received.
But above all, Howard was a generous soul with a larger-than-life personality and a big heart.
Howard is survived by his beloved wife Judith (Judy), his children, Harvey and Deborah, Judy's Sons Philip, David and William, grandsons Michael and Gabriel, Judy's Grandchildren Rachel, David, Andrew, Timothy, Jeremy, Harrison and Oliver, great-granddaughters Lily, and Sophie, and her great-grandchildren West and Emmeline.
Howard was a member of the Rock Tavern Unitarian Universalist Society, and was affiliated with the Society for Humanistic Judaism.
Due to the pandemic there will only be a small private service at this time. When our world returns to normal – whenever that is – there will be a larger public memorial event to honor and remember Howard and all that he gave to us.
Memorial contributions may be made to Grand Montgomery Chamber Music Series through their website: montgomerychambermusic.com or to a charity of one's choice.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Howard Garrett, please visit our floral store.
Montgomery Chamber Music Series