Earl J. Howard; Aerospace Technician

Earl J. (Bud) Howard, a technician who worked on engines used in the Apollo space missions, died of cancer Thursday at Los Robles Hospital. He was 71.

Many Newbury Park residents knew Howard as the Santa Claus at St. Julie Billiart Church, where he listened to the wishes of children for 20 years.

Howard was born in Yoncalla, Ore., on Jan. 31, 1924, but spent most of his life in California.

In 1945, Howard met his wife, Patricia, in West Los Angeles. According to his daughters, Patricia’s father plotted to introduce the couple, although both were engaged to be married to others.


Eleven days after meeting, the couple was married. Three days later, Howard was sent to Europe, where he served as a signalman first class on Navy ships during World War II.

In 1946, he returned and settled with his wife in West Los Angeles. The next year, he was asked to join the Brooklyn Dodgers organization as a pitcher but rejected the offer to be near his wife and their 3-month-old baby. Howard found work as a mechanic for a bus company.

As the family outgrew one house after another, they moved in 1949 to Van Nuys and in 1953 to Granada Hills--where Howard in 1960 started work at Marquardt Corp. as an engine test mechanic.

Seeking the country life and better schools for his children, Howard moved his family to Newbury Park in 1963.

There he found an outlet for his continued passion for baseball, coaching Little League for his sons’ and granddaughter’s teams.

He will be entombed with a baseball his granddaughter--one of two girls playing in boys’ Little League--once hit over the fence.

In addition to his wife, Howard is survived by two daughters, Susan Nevinger of Palmdale and Colleen Whitlaw of Lancaster; two sons, Michael of Malibu and Patrick of Kihei, Hawaii; a twin sister, Erlene Starr of Arizona; 13 grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.

Visitation will be from 6 to 8:30 p.m. today at St. Julie Billiart Church, with the rosary said at 8:30 p.m.

Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Monday. Entombment will follow at the mausoleum at Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to St. Julie Billiart Church in care of Father Xavier’s Orphanage at the Catholic Mission in India. Arrangements are under the direction of Pierce Brothers Griffin Mortuary, Thousand Oaks.

Ventura County obituaries are published free of charge as a public service to readers. Obituaries are based on information provided by mortuaries.