Howard Thomas Soldwedel, of Treasure Island, passed away on February 10, 2018.
To make sure that her child was not born on a Saturday, Anne Ryder Soldwedel waited until very early Sunday morning, January 29, 1922, to birth her “wild and wonderful” child, Howard Thomas. The third child in the German-Irish family, a little brother yet to come, he was baptized in the Roman Catholic faith at St. Barnabas Church in Woodlawn.
Spending his earliest years in the Lower Bronx, when Howard was about five years old, the family moved up the Bronx to the area known as Woodlawn Heights. It was in this little village within the Bronx where the curious boy would explore to his heart's content. During the “Great” Depression his father, Frederick Soldwedel, was lucky enough to find a job as a superintendant at an apartment in the neighborhood. Howard got to follow his father around, asking a lot of questions, to learn about all kinds of useful things such as furnaces, machines, and electricity. His boyhood playground was the woods nearby. Exploring this universe, the boy, about nine years old by then, came across a small monument that read “August 31, 1778 Upon this field Chief Ninham and Seventeen Stockbridge Indians as Allies of the Patriots gave their lives for Liberty.” This discovery affected Howard deeply and was instrumental to his becoming what he called a “Spiritual Brother” to the American Native.
At Public School 19, Howard was the child who asked “why”, “why not”, and “how come” more often than not. It wasn't to cause trouble but was his sincere quest for knowledge. It was at this elementary school that Howard and some of his buddies started a Radio Club which they used to teach each other about radio. That was a subject not taught in schools back then so the boys did research and shared with each other what was learned. As a result Howard and some of the other club members were able to pass the FCC test to become HAM Operators. At 14 years old!
High school years (1936-1940) were spent at Evander Childs H.S.. Howard's quest for knowledge continued on weekends with trips with his best buddy to the big city, New York, to visit all of the museums. After graduation Howard was employed by Induction Heating Corporation to work on the new development of Radio Frequency Heating (RFH), a process used in the manufacture of war material. He traveled the country teaching the new technique to companies converting commercial products to military product. They knew war was coming; they just didn't know when.
After Pearl Harbor, Howard enlisted in the Army to serve in the Signal Corps. Following Army Radio School in early 1943 he was sent to various military installations in the U.S. to teach radio and the newest technology at the time, Radar. His assignments, top secret, landed him at Hickham AFB in Hawaii where he served the Pacific Theater. He was stationed there until 1946.
It was in 1946, during one of his trips home from the military that he met his love, Beryl Becker, at the wedding of a mutual friend. The Army wanted him to continue his valued work with Radar but Howard made the decision to head home and start a family. He and Beryl were married in January, 1948.
Howard worked for time for American Airlines as a radio communications technician. Then in 1948 he went with a company called Radio Communications, Inc. in Patterson, NJ. Howard's position required him to interact with the Military in various areas--his engineering experience deepened. The company, RCI, became Electronic Communications, Inc. (ECI) when it relocated to St. Petersburg, FL in 1957. The major move was to focus on Aerospace Engineering. We were going to space.
Howard became Manager of Special Devices. His department developed guidance systems for the missiles which did, in fact, put the rockets into space and men on the moon. He stayed with ECI until the company merged with Raytheon in the early seventies.
After ECI Howard remained in the technology industry with his own sales company. More time at home allowed him to explore the world of personal computers. He had his own PC in the 1980's, with his knowledge of computers he surfed the web, as small as it was back then. In the 90's he chatted on the internet in The Bronx Board, a site for sharing history of that place and Woodlawn. Howard took courses at St. Petersburg Junior College to learn new things. He became a stained glass artist. He took it upon himself to paint the exterior of his house where he and Beryl raised their children. He took beach walks and went to the gym three times a week after his bypass at 83. Beryl passed away in 2015. There was never a day since then that Howard didn't miss her. He left to be with her on Saturday, February 10, 2018. He left behind his children: Maura Soldwedel Taft, Karen M. Johnson, Neal Thomas Soldwedel, D. Anne Soldwedel, three grandchildren: Zak, Ian, and Zoe Robinson. He loved his other family members as well: Randy Durst, Tom Johnson, Marie Barba, and Steve Levine.
An Honor Guard service will be held at Bay Pines National Cemetery on Thursday, March 22 at 2:15 pm
In lieu of flowers the family asks that a donation be made to St. Joseph's Indian School (www.stjo.org) or to the National Museum of the American Indian (www.nmai.si.edu), or to Suncoast Hospice.
Howard wrote these words a while back:
“I will walk again, in the little trail beyond the Indian monument, and listen to the voices of the days we played there...and maybe I will hear the Indian calls, and smell the smoke of the campfires in the woods of Van Cortlandt”