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Gene of Howard Boats

steamin rice

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RIP Gene, one of the good guys in the boating industry for sure
 

Dirtbag

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I met Gene once.

The 2017 Havasu Boat Show this ole chap comes over to the Shockwave booth where pops and I were sitting and working. The show was slow that day i think it was a sunday and anyhow he says is this Dirtbags boat? Im like wow this ole dog knows about RDP. I say yes sir it is. And I am Dirtbag. He walks right up to me shakes my hand and says Hes Gene With Howard he read the build thread about me and pops building our first boat together. Said it brought him to tears. I immediately introduced him to my dad and Gene pulls up a chair and we bullshitted for a good hour about life. About father and son relationships and how much he really loved what we were doing together. I dont know that we talked much about boats but as he got up to walk away I was immediately a Howard fan. I will always be a huge Howard fan not because of their boats but because of the man behind the boats. RIP sir. and my condolences to the whole family.
 

Sharp Shooter

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Rip Gene! Condolences to the family!


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LargeOrangeFont

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I met Gene once.

The 2017 Havasu Boat Show this ole chap comes over to the Shockwave booth where pops and I were sitting and working. The show was slow that day i think it was a sunday and anyhow he says is this Dirtbags boat? Im like wow this ole dog knows about RDP. I say yes sir it is. And I am Dirtbag. He walks right up to me shakes my hand and says Hes Gene With Howard he read the build thread about me and pops building our first boat together. Said it brought him to tears. I immediately introduced him to my dad and Gene pulls up a chair and we bullshitted for a good hour about life. About father and son relationships and how much he really loved what we were doing together. I dont know that we talked much about boats but as he got up to walk away I was immediately a Howard fan. I will always be a huge Howard fan not because of their boats but because of the man behind the boats. RIP sir. and my condolences to the whole family.

Great story. Such a tragic loss.
 

RiverDave

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I met Gene once.

The 2017 Havasu Boat Show this ole chap comes over to the Shockwave booth where pops and I were sitting and working. The show was slow that day i think it was a sunday and anyhow he says is this Dirtbags boat? Im like wow this ole dog knows about RDP. I say yes sir it is. And I am Dirtbag. He walks right up to me shakes my hand and says Hes Gene With Howard he read the build thread about me and pops building our first boat together. Said it brought him to tears. I immediately introduced him to my dad and Gene pulls up a chair and we bullshitted for a good hour about life. About father and son relationships and how much he really loved what we were doing together. I dont know that we talked much about boats but as he got up to walk away I was immediately a Howard fan. I will always be a huge Howard fan not because of their boats but because of the man behind the boats. RIP sir. and my condolences to the whole family.

That’s about the Gene I knew..

I will tell ya he read rdp more than I do. Lol he’d call me all the time and say “Dave who is this Fuckin guy” or “what’s the deal with”. Lol.

If you think some of the members got spun about the political section.. you shoulda heard Gene. I still laugh about some of the comments
 

98special

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Rest in Peace Sir. Prayers to all.
I never had a chance to meet him, but from what I am reading, he will surely be missed. He must
have been a great guy.
 

retaocleg

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RIP........real loss for the industry too👎.........condolences to mike
 

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Sad to hear. I called him once earlier this year to verify the HIN on my boat. Read the HIN and he knew the boat just by the HIN. Blue/white 21 with the pink pulse stripe built in October of 1990. Even remembered the original owner and the bottle of liquor that had the pink color the buyer wanted on the boat.
 

steak&lobster

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I’m really sorry to hear this, Gene was 1 of a kind! I first met him in 1996 and sold him a truck and bought my 1st Howard. The last time I saw him we pretty much talked about baseball, his grandsons and my kid playing in the same age group. R I P Gene
 

DrunkenSailor

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Damn... My prayers go out to the family and employees. A true legend. Not many of the original guys left.
 

Desert Whaler

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I met Gene once in a shuttle-bus going to the Newport Beach on the water boat show. I was with my girlfriend at the time, and he was with a buddy of his. They were like 2 kids in a school bus making fun of people outside of the bus waiting to get on . . . by the time we got off the bust my stomach hurt from laughing. Super cool dude from the few minutes we spent with him. RIP
 

Joe mama

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Prayers to the family and friends. RIP Gene. Reading these pages paints a great picture of the man.
 

HBCraig

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RIP Gene. Horrible news. Legendary is an understatement
 

HBCraig

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That’s about the Gene I knew..

I will tell ya he read rdp more than I do. Lol he’d call me all the time and say “Dave who is this Fuckin guy” or “what’s the deal with”. Lol.

If you think some of the members got spun about the political section.. you shoulda heard Gene. I still laugh about some of the comments
That put a smile on my face. Truly old school from what these stories are saying. Never met Gene but I wish I would have.
 

Cole Trickle

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Sad news...Thoughts go out to the family :(

I only talked to him once when i listed a boat for sale. He was nice on the phone and quite the salesperson and negotiator...lol
 

Havasu Surfer

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Sad news...Thoughts go out to the family :(

I only talked to him once when i listed a boat for sale. He was nice on the phone and quite the salesperson and negotiator...lol
Thank you for all your contributions to the boating industry. You always reminded me of my father. Godspeed to you Gene
 

Take The Long Way Home

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To the Howard family, Gene was a very generous man, my condolences to you and your family. My prayers and wishes are with you throughout this time.
This was my first Howard 25 Bullet in I think 2003-2004 at the old showroom. I had a second boat built after this with a few changes.


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Lavey5150

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Godpseed Gene, met him a few times at Boat Shows and when I was looking to build my first boat,.Such a personable guy, and very
transparent in our conversations.
 

Outdrive1

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I still can’t believe he’s gone. I feel like we just recently talked and he was sharp as whip. It’s so frustrating to me that so many of the industry greats are getting old. No one will replace these guys. The knowledge, the stories, the trials and errors. Their generation built what have today. Guys like Gene Willen, Dave Hemmingson, Bob Leach, Bob Teague, Lee and Stan at Schiada, Jody Gamble, etc etc. When their generation is gone/retired, the boating industry will never be the same.

It saddens me so much. I didn’t sleep at all last night. RIP Gene.
 

twocents

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Not sure how many people know the story about how Gene wound up buying Howard Boats from Howard Brown. I got two versions – the “Gene” version and the “Howard Brown” version. I’ve known Gene a very long time, before he bought Howard Boats back when he was a very successful liquor salesman.

Anyway, “Gene’s” version – “I was in the process of ordering a new Howard Boat from Brown down at his Lakewood/Bellflower shop and during our conversations about the new boat, Howard mentioned that his business might be for sale. I thought about that a bit and we started talking about how a purchase might happen. And before I knew it, I was in the boat business.”

Howard Brown’s version – “Gene came into the shop one day and was interested in buying a new boat. It was evident from the get-go that this guy was pretty picky about what he wanted and how he wanted it. After this went on for a few weeks I finally told him – why don’t you buy the business and then you can build the damn boat any way you like. And that’s what Gene did."

You pick which version you like best. The bottom line is that Gene and Mike have done a magnificent job of enhancing the Howard Boats legacy – it was obviously in great hands. Hope the brand continues on this path for a very long time to come.
 

DILLIGAF

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Not sure how many people know the story about how Gene wound up buying Howard Boats from Howard Brown. I got two versions – the “Gene” version and the “Howard Brown” version. I’ve known Gene a very long time, before he bought Howard Boats back when he was a very successful liquor salesman.

Anyway, “Gene’s” version – “I was in the process of ordering a new Howard Boat from Brown down at his Lakewood/Bellflower shop and during our conversations about the new boat, Howard mentioned that his business might be for sale. I thought about that a bit and we started talking about how a purchase might happen. And before I knew it, I was in the boat business.”

Howard Brown’s version – “Gene came into the shop one day and was interested in buying a new boat. It was evident from the get-go that this guy was pretty picky about what he wanted and how he wanted it. After this went on for a few weeks I finally told him – why don’t you buy the business and then you can build the damn boat any way you like. And that’s what Gene did."

You pick which version you like best. The bottom line is that Gene and Mike have done a magnificent job of enhancing the Howard Boats legacy – it was obviously in great hands. Hope the brand continues on this path for a very long time to come.
Appreciate that story. Pretty cool
 
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Not sure how many people know the story about how Gene wound up buying Howard Boats from Howard Brown. I got two versions – the “Gene” version and the “Howard Brown” version. I’ve known Gene a very long time, before he bought Howard Boats back when he was a very successful liquor salesman.

Anyway, “Gene’s” version – “I was in the process of ordering a new Howard Boat from Brown down at his Lakewood/Bellflower shop and during our conversations about the new boat, Howard mentioned that his business might be for sale. I thought about that a bit and we started talking about how a purchase might happen. And before I knew it, I was in the boat business.”

Howard Brown’s version – “Gene came into the shop one day and was interested in buying a new boat. It was evident from the get-go that this guy was pretty picky about what he wanted and how he wanted it. After this went on for a few weeks I finally told him – why don’t you buy the business and then you can build the damn boat any way you like. And that’s what Gene did."

You pick which version you like best. The bottom line is that Gene and Mike have done a magnificent job of enhancing the Howard Boats legacy – it was obviously in great hands. Hope the brand continues on this path for a very long time to come.

I started buying performance boat magazines mid 1970's and the Howard Brown version is the one I remember reading...

..
 

v6toy4x

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Not sure how many people know the story about how Gene wound up buying Howard Boats from Howard Brown. I got two versions – the “Gene” version and the “Howard Brown” version. I’ve known Gene a very long time, before he bought Howard Boats back when he was a very successful liquor salesman.

Anyway, “Gene’s” version – “I was in the process of ordering a new Howard Boat from Brown down at his Lakewood/Bellflower shop and during our conversations about the new boat, Howard mentioned that his business might be for sale. I thought about that a bit and we started talking about how a purchase might happen. And before I knew it, I was in the boat business.”

Howard Brown’s version – “Gene came into the shop one day and was interested in buying a new boat. It was evident from the get-go that this guy was pretty picky about what he wanted and how he wanted it. After this went on for a few weeks I finally told him – why don’t you buy the business and then you can build the damn boat any way you like. And that’s what Gene did."

You pick which version you like best. The bottom line is that Gene and Mike have done a magnificent job of enhancing the Howard Boats legacy – it was obviously in great hands. Hope the brand continues on this path for a very long time to come.
I have only Known gene for a brief amount of time on our current boat, I was talking to him in his office one day and Pam came in and asked how I was doing. I said couldn't be better, sitting around talking about boats all day. Gene looked at me and said "a couple mill and you can sit up here every day, did you ever here how I got this place?" He gave me a version that probably cut right down the middle of those two! To which I responded "so you're telling me I have to cough up 2 mill to get the boat the way I want it?" We laughed!

After the few conversations we had, I was looking forward to being part of the "howard family", one of the "boys" and looking forward to crossing paths with him somewhere down the road and listen to him tell me everything I shouldn't have done!! You can't teach that, make that, bottle that or buy that.
 

gqchris

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RIP Gene.

When I was working at LBYS, whenever a bank repo/ Consignment Howard came in, we knew it was like GOLD! No matter the condition or price, the name spoke for itself. Thats how I learned about Gene and met him in the beginning. I knew not much about boats, but I knew that if a boat came in with the name "Howard" or "Schiada", be prepared for that phone to ring!
 

hallett3

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Not sure how many people know the story about how Gene wound up buying Howard Boats from Howard Brown. I got two versions – the “Gene” version and the “Howard Brown” version. I’ve known Gene a very long time, before he bought Howard Boats back when he was a very successful liquor salesman.

Anyway, “Gene’s” version – “I was in the process of ordering a new Howard Boat from Brown down at his Lakewood/Bellflower shop and during our conversations about the new boat, Howard mentioned that his business might be for sale. I thought about that a bit and we started talking about how a purchase might happen. And before I knew it, I was in the boat business.”

Howard Brown’s version – “Gene came into the shop one day and was interested in buying a new boat. It was evident from the get-go that this guy was pretty picky about what he wanted and how he wanted it. After this went on for a few weeks I finally told him – why don’t you buy the business and then you can build the damn boat any way you like. And that’s what Gene did."

You pick which version you like best. The bottom line is that Gene and Mike have done a magnificent job of enhancing the Howard Boats legacy – it was obviously in great hands. Hope the brand continues on this path for a very long time to come.
I got the Gene version how he inquired Howard boats also, and we talked a long time at his shop when my son was ordering his deck boat. He also told My son and I that he loves seeing a good father and son relationship. I will never forget those words he told us. Then he came out with some photos when was into weight lifting. Man he was ripped as heck. I’m sure a lot of people have great stories because he loved to talk. He will be greatly missed in the boating world. God speed Gene.
 

4Waters

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Not sure how many people know the story about how Gene wound up buying Howard Boats from Howard Brown. I got two versions – the “Gene” version and the “Howard Brown” version. I’ve known Gene a very long time, before he bought Howard Boats back when he was a very successful liquor salesman.

Anyway, “Gene’s” version – “I was in the process of ordering a new Howard Boat from Brown down at his Lakewood/Bellflower shop and during our conversations about the new boat, Howard mentioned that his business might be for sale. I thought about that a bit and we started talking about how a purchase might happen. And before I knew it, I was in the boat business.”

Howard Brown’s version – “Gene came into the shop one day and was interested in buying a new boat. It was evident from the get-go that this guy was pretty picky about what he wanted and how he wanted it. After this went on for a few weeks I finally told him – why don’t you buy the business and then you can build the damn boat any way you like. And that’s what Gene did."

You pick which version you like best. The bottom line is that Gene and Mike have done a magnificent job of enhancing the Howard Boats legacy – it was obviously in great hands. Hope the brand continues on this path for a very long time to come.
Usually you can tell which story is most likely the truth, one seems pretty straightforward and the other is out in left field, They both seem pretty legit🤣
 

steak&lobster

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Not sure how many people know the story about how Gene wound up buying Howard Boats from Howard Brown. I got two versions – the “Gene” version and the “Howard Brown” version. I’ve known Gene a very long time, before he bought Howard Boats back when he was a very successful liquor salesman.

Anyway, “Gene’s” version – “I was in the process of ordering a new Howard Boat from Brown down at his Lakewood/Bellflower shop and during our conversations about the new boat, Howard mentioned that his business might be for sale. I thought about that a bit and we started talking about how a purchase might happen. And before I knew it, I was in the boat business.”

Howard Brown’s version – “Gene came into the shop one day and was interested in buying a new boat. It was evident from the get-go that this guy was pretty picky about what he wanted and how he wanted it. After this went on for a few weeks I finally told him – why don’t you buy the business and then you can build the damn boat any way you like. And that’s what Gene did."

You pick which version you like best. The bottom line is that Gene and Mike have done a magnificent job of enhancing the Howard Boats legacy – it was obviously in great hands. Hope the brand continues on this path for a very long time to come.
That is Gene to a T. When I used to sell him his Ram trucks he would only sign the paperwork if the truck was still in its original shipping wrapper with cosmoline all over it. He didn’t want anyone but me to move it etc. LoL
 

riverroyal

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There are only 2 boats I would buy (next time) A Howard or a Nordic.
Gene sat with me in 2015 as we tried to get me to pull the trigger. He spent way more time than needed, because of that it earned my respect and potential business.

Its non of my business, but what happened? A slip and then ??

Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Thanks for time and laughs Gene
 
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KAP

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I am at a loss for words and extremely upset about the passing of my friend Gene Willen.

How do I grasp reality and my emotions right now regarding Gene's passing.

I am still very shell shocked.

KAP
 

Done-it-again

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There are only 2 boats I would buy (next time) A Howard or a Nordic.
Gene sat with me in 2015 as we tried to get me to pull the trigger. He spent way more time than needed, because of that it earned my respect and potential business.

Its non of my business, but what happened? A slip and then ??

Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Thanks for time and laughs Gene
RD said he slipped wiping off his boat.....I wonder if it was his boat that was in the harbor.
 

92562

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Wow, I just can't believe this. I met Gene and Mike in 2004 when ordering our 25 Bullet. He was exactly as everyone else has said and I always loved how he would tell it like it is. He invited me to the 2005 Hot Boat trials in Havasu to have my boat tested since it was well outfitted. He put me up for the weekend, showed me a great time and gave me a full detail afterwards and a labbed prop (and a few martinis). Later that year he asked if I wanted to hang out for the Powerboat trials. I met up with him one evening and after a few drinks he looked at me and said, "Rob, I need a steak! Do you want a steak?" It was like 9:30pm on a Wednesday and I drove him to the Blue Water Grille and I watched him devour a huge steak at 10:30 at night (and a few martinis). Next time I saw him I had put the Whipple on and he said that I was crazy. After that every time I saw him he greeted me with, "So, did you blow it up yet?" He was always a gracious host at the regattas too, with such a soft spot for kids. As for reading RDP, each time I gave my opinion on Howard boats he would email me thanking me for my continued support, followed by, "did you blow it up yet?"

RIP Gene Willen and my prayers to Pam, Mike and his family.

---Rob

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Seas

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Like everyone who has previously posted, I have my own fond memories of Gene.

I purchased my 25' Bullet in 2005 which he delivered first to the Powerboat Magazine performance tests in LHC. My wife and I drove out to watch our new boat get wet and Gene took us out for dinner and drinks (only Ketel One!) at Rumors (no longer in business) that evening . After the 2005 season we decided we made a foolish and costly mistake buying the 25' when for a relatively few dollars more, we should have bought a 28', which we did in 2006 with him taking the 25' as a trade in (and much more additional cash than if we had bought it initially!). Our 28' was tested in the Performance Boat (now Speedboat) Magazine inaugural tests at Cottonwood Cove in 2007.

I remember when ordering my first boat from him, I told him I wanted 2 bilge pumps installed for redundancy. His response was that I only needed 1 as Howards don't leak! I won that argument but he was correct!

I also was trying to decide where the best place would be to store my tool box on board (I'm no mechanic but coming from owning a jet daycruiser for 25 years where I did most of the work on the 460 Ford, it seemed a legitimate concern. His answer was that, with my limited skills, I was never going to work on my new Mercury Racing HP525. Again, he was correct (but tools are still on board to tighten an occasional loose bolt on the bimini top or seat base!)

Gene was one-of-a-kind as mentioned by so many above, and he could be an SOB, but he could also be charming and knew his business. And he always gave my wife a hug and a kiss whenever we met.

The photos below are of my 25' Bullet at the 2005 Powerboat Magazine performance tests,
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Seastrom 28 Bullet.jpg
and the day I took delivery of my current 28' Bullet at the factory in 2006.
 

Bite the Bullet

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I was honored Gene would introduce and refer to me as, "a good friend of mine".

For the time being, thinking about my new Bullet in 22 isn't the same.

RIP old friend.
 

BeerMaker

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Wow. What sad news to wake up to today. Gene was a special character. Rip sir
 

farmo83

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I still can’t believe he’s gone. I feel like we just recently talked and he was sharp as whip. It’s so frustrating to me that so many of the industry greats are getting old. No one will replace these guys. The knowledge, the stories, the trials and errors. Their generation built what have today. Guys like Gene Willen, Dave Hemmingson, Bob Leach, Bob Teague, Lee and Stan at Schiada, Jody Gamble, etc etc. When their generation is gone/retired, the boating industry will never be the same.

It saddens me so much. I didn’t sleep at all last night. RIP Gene.

Was talking with Alexi about this when I picked up my boat this summer, sad indeed.

Never met Gene but my condolences to his family. I don't think I can say anything not already mentioned in this thread.
 

traquer

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This is giving me tears a bit. Rest in peace sir.
 

92562

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From Facebook

Click on "see more" to see some great pictures of Gene from back in the day.
 

little rowe boat

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I met Gene in the early 1990"s at the Anaheim boat show. Gene was the relatively new owner of HCB and quite honestly at that point I had never heard of Howard Custom Boats. I was at the show to look at Hallett and Cole boats. I was trying to decide which of the two I wanted, it was a research/doing my homework on these two builders and their respective boats. I was walking past the Howard space, not even looking at their boats but Gene asks me, if i am there to purchase a boat and I said no just doing some homework on the two previously mentioned. He told me to ask them about their hull warranties and a few other things. I asked them the questions and on my way back past the Howard display Gene asked me what they said about those things. I told him what they had said. He then says if you want a real custom boat, do your homework on Howard. Ask me those questions. So I asked the questions and got some different answers than I did from Hallett and Cole. I made several trips to their then facility in Irwindale at the time, to get more info and BS with Gene. After saving some more $$$ over the next couple of years and in early 1995I showed up at their Valencia facility and ordered my HCB. The boat I still own today and use on Havasu as much as possible.
 

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RVR SWPR

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rowe boat,no doubt when you ordered your Howard Gene remembered talking with you previously at boat show. Those were interesting years at the LA shows. Founders at just about every booth. Cole himself sitting at a Card table and folding chair.
 

Lars_The_Swedish_Viking

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93262044_1thumb_550x410 Howard (3).jpg


Feeling really 'blue' about these incredibly tragic news.

Around 1990 and I had seen an ad in one of the boating magazines with Gene flying his first built Howard 23 Offshore. This wasn't

a Crusader built one, HCB was Cal Kustom at its very best and I had to check it out. Drove up to Irwindale from Orange County.

Gene was all smiles and though I was in my mid-twenties did not brush me off. He showed me around the place for at least an

an hour and when he gave me his business card he apologized that he only had one of his liquor distributing cards.

Gene was a tour de force and I will miss him. Finally ended up buying a Howard 23 Offshore in 2006, and that was unquestionably

based on my pleasurable experiences meeting Gene over those many years. Mike's talent as an innovative, successful boat designer

is remarkable and his 255 VTX will most likely be my next Howard.

R.I.P. Gene, and may Mike & Pam continue The Family Boat Building Legacy for many many years to come. 💙

 
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