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George Howatt Jr., an inspiring father, dies at 76

August 3, 2018

The public-comment period at St. Paul school board meetings runs about a half-hour, and with the list of speakers often stacked, many have just a few minutes to air their views.

In July, Clayton Howatt, a parent at Galtier Community School, went to address reports about a teacher who had been accused of sexual harassment being assigned to Galtier in 2015 without the parents knowing.

Earlier, Howatt had informed board members and Superintendent Joe Gothard that his two daughters never would sit in the teacher’s classroom. But as he spoke that night, he did not resort to emotion. Instead, the former Galtier PTO co-chairman spoke calmly of how the issue also was one of equity, and he asked the board to consider why the teacher was placed at Galtier and where others with similar transgressions might now be working.

From his cool yet firm demeanor, one would not guess that Howatt’s own father had died suddenly just days earlier, and that he still was in shock. But it was the father’s influence that went a long way toward explaining why the son went ahead with plans to be there that night to advocate for his children and their school.

George Packey Howatt Jr., 76, died unexpectedly of a heart attack on July 10 while with his wife Cynthia and granddaughter Khloe. He went by the name Packey, and despite having been raised by a physically abusive father, lived a caring life of honesty and integrity, his family said.

“Dad, you were the dad to me that you never had, I see that,” Clayton Howatt said during the eulogy at his father’s memorial service three days after the school board meeting. “The only way I know how to repay you is to be the very best dad that I can for my girls.”

Packey Howatt was born in Yakima, Wash., and grew up in the Cascade Range in a family that held various positions with the U.S. Forest Service. He worked winters on the ski patrol at White Pass Ski Area for David Mahre, the father of Olympic skiers Phil and Steve Mahre.

He graduated from the University of Washington with a business degree, and worked as a computer programmer during the 1960s.

Then, in 1972, he decided to pursue a master of divinity degree, and moved his family to St. Paul to attend Luther Seminary.

After about a year in the ministry, however, he became disillusioned with the church’s political structure and approach to teaching, often saying that “what you learn in Sunday school you are just retaught over and over again,” Clayton Howatt said.

Packey Howatt returned to the IT field, and was a software developer at the time of his death.

At home, he had a workshop, “a place where time seemed to melt away,” Clayton Howatt said. Along with an older brother, Derek, father and sons built a cedar strip canoe, but not until after Packey Howatt spent months on research. He reviewed plans in magazines — anything, in fact, he could get his hands on — and went to a lake to see different canoes in action. But it would be the hours spent working together, having fun and talking, that mattered.

The elder Howatt gave Clayton his time, too, on issues that involved Galtier. He would drill down on the various positions his son would take about the school, helping him strengthen his stances and get to the essence of his beliefs, Clayton Howatt recalled.

Always, there was that “calm sense of support,” Clayton’s wife, Kristin Howatt said. Now, she added, when her husband comforts their daughters Frannie and Luci, it will be a reminder of the example that his father had set.

Packey Howatt also is survived by son Damon, daughter Yvett, and six grandchildren.

Services were held on July 20.

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