Chad (cannibal) wrote,

Grandfather Stories

Howard DeVore was a great friend, not just a great jokester and raconteur. My memory has never been as good as his, but here is the way I remember it. Howard published a zine called Grandfather Stories in many APAs over the years. I had the pleasure of typing up a few of those contributions as Howard dictated, and editing a few more... it was a pleasure to participate, a little bit, in telling some of his stories. When I first met Howard, he was still running his printing press to put out misleading and humorous broadsides, but , after the big printing press got so covered in junk that he couldn't use it, once in awhile I would get a phone call because he had gotten another idea for a joke. When Bob Shaw married Nancy Tucker in 1995, we put together a memorial edition of his "Fansmanship Lectures" for the event under the Misfit Press imprinteur. One year for pulpcon, he decided he wanted dust jackets for such rare books as "The Bobbsey Twins go to The Whorehouse" and "Tom Swift and His Flying F***". Howard got such a kick out of it when someone walked by his table and actually believed one of his whoppers, even for a moment.

My friendship with Howard started at ConFusion in about 1990 when we noticed that we were wearing the same t-shirt, which said "Detroit: Where the weak are Killed and Eaten". I think this was the first sign that we shared the same twisted sense of humor, and started a history of being a bad influence on each other and terrorizing everyone else.

<--Howard being a bad influence on his grandsons, Jesse and Ian.

I've always been impressed with Howard's cool and calm attitude in the face of my rather dangerous driving. One time, on the way back from somewhere on an icy curve, my car ended up sliding sideways while I wrestled for control and got it back onto the dry concrete… Howard sat there calmly, and didn't say a word until we'd pulled off and were driving at a sedate pace through the suburbs, when he simply said. "You might want to drive a little slower." Our driving exploits were memorialized by Tom Sadler in a story in The Reluctant Famulus, illustrated by a drawing of us riding in my car, up on two wheels… in the story, we fought a killer robot, which was eventually conquered by showing it a picture of Howard in his underwear; this caused the poor robot's head to fly off!

In 2001, Howard and I shared a great experience, going on the EAA B-17 "Aluminum Overcast". His daughters and I were a little bit nervous, but again, he was an island of calm, commenting on how new the plane looked without any bullet holes or patches in it. He told me about crawling down into the ball turret, and said about the fantastic view from the bombardier's seat, up in the nose surrounded by plexiglass, with your feet dangling over thin air, surrounded by sky, "imagine that when flak's coming at you!" After the flight, his daughter went to the crew chief to get his WW2 logbook signed – he said he wanted to collect his flight pay!

Front page, Dearborn Hts Press & Guide, Sep 6, 2001, misinformation by Richard Marsh:
Howard DeVore, 76, had not been in a plane since he was discharged from the Army Air Corps at the end of World War II. The 46-year resident of Dearborn Heights, a bombardier in Europe during the war, took his first plane ride in 55 years Monday, ironically in a B-17, the same kind of aircraft he flew in World War II. The special Labor Day excursion was a private flight sponsored by Ford Motor Co. The short flight took six people from Willow Run Airport to the Pontiac area and back to Willow Run. DeVore's friend, Chad Childers, also a WWII Army Air Corps vet, made the opportunity possible.
'Ever since he got out of the air corps, he's refused to go up in a plane, even when a relative of ours worked for an airline and could get us free tickets,' said Karol Sissom of Livonia, one of DeVore's three daughters. 'When he told us he decided to go on this flight, we said, 'Dad, you haven't been in a plane in 55 years, and now you're going up in a plane that's 65 to 70 years old?'. His answer to his daughters was that he was ready for one last great adventure. Sissom and her sisters, Cheryl Walker and Suzanne Reynolds, went out to Willow Run to see their dad off on his first plane ride in more than a half-century.
DeVore said he would have like to have sat one more time in the bombardier's space, but he had gained too much weight since his military days.
Actually, Howard was a ball turret gunner, not a bombardier, and I cannot for the life of me imagine how he ever fit in that ball. I fit in his bomber jacket a lot better than he did, and we both got a great kick out of the fact that the newspaper somehow decided that I was an Army Air Corps vet too. Of course, I was the bombardier. Help the bombardier!

Big Hearted Howard never stopped giving help to everybody whose life he touched. Only a week or two before he died, we were talking about some problems with a house I wanted to buy, and he offered to come out with me and look at it that weekend. We'd been talking about going to Sharon's Stilyagi party, and I told him that if he wasn't feeling well enough to go to the party, I wasn't going to make him go out and do that for me… but I think he actually got the strength to go on from the many people he was always helping. He made friends with the owners of two local independent bookstores, and always kept an eye out for them. One time it was a set of shelves, he found, boxes of books from his endeavors as a bookscout, anything he could do to help Kathy or Al. I have a few friends that I think of that much… but Howard's heart was big enough that he had at least five or ten people that he loved that much, plus his daughters and grandkids, who he loved even more.

Howard's 80th birthday party last year was a beautiful thing. His daughters & grandkids made several nice collages & displays of old pictures & SF stuff, seven of his friends & all the family except the grandson who is in Turkmenistan with the Peace Corps showed up, even one great-grandson. My girlfriend pointed out that it was great evidence that Howard had a successful life... his kids turned out well, the grandkids were actually helping out quite a lot and being the hosts for the party… what are the percentage chances of having three teenagers nowadays that all turned out to be nice kids? There was quite a lot passing around of photo albums and "who is in that picture?" including E.E. "Doc" Smith, Gene Rodennberry, Bob Tucker, Ben Bova, and Isaac Asimov.

Four of the birthday party crowd were guys he'd known over 50 years, Elliott Broderick, Dean McLaughlin, George Young, and Fred Prophet. All of them, incidentally, were on the concom for the 1959 Detroit Worldcon - the only one missing was Roger Sims, who lives in Florida now.

It may indicate that I'm old-fashioned, or a dirty old man before my time that I have so much in common with Howard, but there were also a small younger crowd of Howard's friends in attendance: me, Kathy from the bookstore, and Sharon Myers Shaw. Hmm, I just realized that I was the only one of Howard's younger friends who happens to be male… do you think that might be significant?

It is hard for me to say goodbye to Howard. I felt like I couldn't get my words to come out right at his wake last week at ConFusion, but I kept getting choked up. Mike Glickson and Larry Tucker did a much better job of saying the right thing, they started telling jokes, like when Larry said he wished he could call Howard up and tell him, "Hey, did you hear, Howard DeVore died!". I think many of us probably got those calls from Howard, when we lost Busby, Hedwig Biggle, and any number of other people who I *didn't* know, Larry was absolutely right. He got us laughing, not just feeling sad, and that's exactly what Howard would have wanted.

I try to find deep and meaningful morals in things. At the wake, I was trying to say that Howard was a walking embodiment of Jophan, from the way he looked out for Lynn Hickman's son Mark, to how Ted McAdam's son Pete showed up at his wake to pay his respects. My moral was that he was a great example in the way he took care of us, and we in Fandom should take care of each other in his memory. Larry caught me out when I misremembered something from his movie Faans, though, and I don't think anybody could make heads or tails of my lofty sentiments.

There's a better moral, though, one that Howard would have loved. One time, when my heart was breaking over some femmefan who had just dumped me, I remember Howard and I went and sat on his front porch to talk about it. He thought about it, and he realized just how important she was to me, and how important she was in the great scheme of things, and he said, "Remember, women are like streetcars. There'll be another one along any minute." Howard never passed up an opportunity to make a pass at a pretty girl. He was terribly disappointed when he couldn't get the mundane bridesmaids at a wedding at the con hotel drunk enough to take wheelchair rides in his lap last year, like he did the year before. Howard was a great example… whenever we would talk about my friend Marie Miesel, whom I adore, he would reminisce over what a fine looking woman her mother, Sandra, was. So all of you in fandom, raise a glass of whiskey and drink it, in memory of him… and when you make a pass at a pretty girl, do that in memory of him too… Amen and God Bless you all!


All photos and text Copyleft under the Creative Commons License by Chad Childers, all fannish use permitted.
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