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Thomas A. Howell IV

June 8, 1945 — January 29, 2024


Thomas A. Howell IV

Thomas Andrews Howell IV died peacefully surrounded by loved ones on Monday, January 29, 2024 at the age of 78.

Tom was born on June 8, 1945 in Morristown, New Jersey to Alice Whitfield Howell and Thomas Andrews Howell III. He spent his childhood on the family’s farm in Califon, New Jersey with older sister Kim Tyler and younger brothers Hunt and Dick Howell. Tom enjoyed everything about farm life: honest work outdoors, continually learning new skills, solving problems with ingenuity, and getting into trouble with his siblings. 

Drafted into the US Army in 1966, Tom served as a Military Policeman at Fort Eustis until he was honorably discharged in 1968. Aviation was his first love, and he used the GI Bill to attend the Florida Institute of Technology where he studied aeronautics. 

In the late 1960s, his parents sold the family farm and moved into the historic Garden of Eden estate in Dorchester County. There, sailing on the log canoe Jay Dee at a Fourth of July party in 1969, he met Judy Richardson. Tom and Judy were married a year later. 

Tom went to work for his father-in-law, the legendary shipwright Jim Richardson. As an important part of Richardson’s operations, Tom played key roles in noteworthy projects such as Spocott Windmill, tall ships including the Maryland Dove, Constellation, and Philadelphia's Gazela Primeiro, as well as restoration and reproduction of countless Chesapeake Bay vessels. After taking over Richardson Boat Works, Tom built the buyboat Mr. Jim, which was later acquired by Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

Over the years Tom became known as a preeminent expert on the wooden boats of the Bay. Along with Richardson and his brother-in-law Jim Brighton, Tom is credited as a boatbuilding reference in James Michener’s bestselling book Chesapeake. Tom also worked with renowned naval architect, author, and Smithsonian transportation curator Howard Chapelle.

Tom served the local community as a long-time volunteer firefighter at the Lloyd’s firehouse. He helped establish the first-ever ambulance service in the Neck District, saving countless lives and protecting local property as part of the crew. Recognizing his obvious leadership qualities, his fellow firefighters elected him president of the Dorchester County Volunteer Firefighters Association for several consecutive terms. 

As fewer skipjacks and bugeyes plied the Bay, Tom shuttered operations at Richardson Boat Works and took over as head of the boat shop at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. There he oversaw restoration and preservation of a fleet of important floating museum pieces including Edna E. Lockwood, Rosie Parks, and Old Point. 

While at the museum Tom also worked closely with Coast Guard Marine Inspectors to certify the oldest sailing skipjack on the bay, Rebecca T. Ruark, for commercial passengers. Tom spent decades at the museum, where he also functioned as a licensed captain of the historic fleet. 

After retiring from the museum, Tom returned to his first passion, earning several new aviation credentials. The old farmboy took a job teaching young farmboys to fly crop dusters at a flight school in Bainbridge, Georgia. Tom spent his sixties in a Piper Super Cub, just a few feet over Georgia cotton fields. Flying crop dusters was pure stick-and-rudder aviation, and Tom relished the opportunity to pass his expertise on to a new generation of pilots.  

As his grandkids came along, Tom retired from flight instruction. In this later phase Tom became as capable a grandfather as he ever was a craftsman. He always seemed to have a grandkid on his lap, on his shoulders, or headed out on an adventure in one of the old trucks he’d restored. His retirement was busy with turning wrenches on vintage automobiles and fishing with friends and grandchildren. He even returned to boatbuilding, constructing a Chesapeake Bay sharpie sail skiff with the help of his grandkids. 

Tom was known as a quiet man of endless knowledge and capability. He was a lifelong reader, mariner, and outdoorsman. Tom’s impressive list of lifetime qualifications and certifications included Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Commercial Drivers License (CDL) Certified Flight Instructor-Instrument (CFII), Multi-Engine Instructor (MEI), Seaplane Pilot, Agricultural Pilot, and US Coast Guard 100-ton Captain’s License. He loved helping friends with projects, and was a member of the Cambridge Seventh-Day Adventist Church. 

Tom shared his capabilities selflessly. He was a man of quiet strength who freely gave his time, expertise, and skills to anyone in need. He will be missed. 

He is survived by his wife Judy, and his children Elena Clark (Allen) and Andy Howell (Caroline), grandchildren Thomas, John, and Eleanor Howell, Allen, Henry and Julia Clark, his siblings Kim and Hunt, and numerous nieces and nephews. Tom was predeceased by his parents Alice and Tom, and his brother Dick. 

A memorial service is scheduled for 2pm on February 18, 2024, at the Cambridge Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 3105 Mallard Court, Cambridge, MD 21613. Family will receive friends one hour prior to the service. Arrangements are in the care of the Thomas Funeral Home, P.a. in Cambridge.

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