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JOHN HOWARD (d.1990)

With the death in November of John Howard, The Questors lost one of its most colourful personalities and one of its longest-serving members, who had contributed to the theatre's life for more than forty years.

John was one of those who came to The Questors almost straight from wartime military service in 1946. He soon made his mark as an actor and administrator. He became treasurer and secretary of the theatre and was responsible for organising the conversion of Mattock Lodge into bedsitters when Questors bought the freehold in 1952.

As an actor he had a striking stage presence which made him suitable for the heaviest roles. Among his outstanding performances in the old tin hut were Andrew Undershaft in Major Barbara (1953); the title role in Michael Kelly's Gilgamesh (1956); and Falstaff in Henry IV Part One (1961). He appeared less frequently in the new theatre but with great effect when he did so. Perhaps his best-loved performance was also his last, as Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night (1982), which later went to the Minack. That was his final bow, ill-health preventing his being active in recent years although he still visited the theatre, the last appearance being at the Golden Oldies reunion in September.

John was also a founder-member of the Grapevine and its first treasurer, and his conversation enlivened many a dull evening in those early days when there were few customers. He had a ready wit, a keen brain and an encyclopaedic knowledge, so he could turn from discussing an obscure mathematical point to Ibsen or Shaw at the drop of a hat. He loved music and was not only a member of the West London Bach choir but a sonorous bass in the Questors Temperance Quartette, which originally appeared in the melodrama The Drunkard in 1958 and was so successful it entertained on other occasions for many years after (the surviving members are Tony and Dolly Barber and Kit Emmet).

A truly civilised man, John had wide-ranging interests and was a keen sailor. For many years he led a Questors fleet on an annual pilgrimage to the Norfolk Broads and many of the present Questors sailing fraternity gained their introduction to the sport through John, including our chairman and myself.

In 1957 John deprived Questors of one of its best stage-managers when he married Ruth Milner. To her and his sister Susan (also a member) we offer our condolences on the loss of one who brought a breath of fresh air to everything he did. The funeral service was held at Hanwell Church and attended by many Questors. Vincent McQueen gave the address and delivered as John's epitaph the quotation from Hamlet, "He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again". Those who knew him would agree.

[Questopics 319, January 1990]