Robert A. “Howie” Howe, a Vietnam veteran who brought a harsh, take-no-prisoners approach to veteran advocacy, was found dead in a Barnstead camper where he had moved about a year ago, friends and police said.
Howe was found Sunday, Jan. 5, in his camper at the Sun River campground, said Barnstead police Sgt. Jim Sullivan. He appeared to have died of natural causes, he said.
Over the past two decades, Howe, who was 71, proved a vocal force in the veteran community. He would take on volunteer tasks that many avoided but then alienate people with harsh, sometimes personal criticisms, said David Kenney, a retired Navy commander and chairman of the New Hampshire State Veterans Advisory Committee.
“His heart was in the right place, getting things done for veterans,” Kenney said. “He would not hold back. He would call them as he saw them. If he thought people were BS-ing him, he’d call them out.”
Perhaps his most successful effort was Help on the Home Front, where Howe would use email to organize veterans. He alerted them about meetings. And he organized help for veterans who might need home repairs or a place to stay.
“His best venue was really one-on-one with veterans,” he said.
Howe lived in Manchester for several decades. He ran for elected office several times in the 2000s, including mayor, but never made a significant showing.
“I could only take him in small doses,” said Albert Peel, a fellow veteran. They would call one another for support at times. They would go out and have a bite to eat if one was feeling down.
The last time Peel saw Howe, he helped him fix a truck, but they ended up exchanging cross words.
“Howie was a wonderful man in his heart, but he was pretty crass with his mouth,” Peel said.
Howe told friends he was a helicopter gunner during the war.
Keney said it’s possible Howe’s behavior was combat-related. But after a while, people were paying more attention to his delivery than the message.
“He could have gotten faster results,” Kenney said, “if he was a little more amenable.”
Peel said Howe had two sons, who are not local. As of yet, the Union Leader has received no notice of arrangements.