HOWARD FREDERICK MOWER / 1929-2008
Respected UH professor also devoted to environment
At least half of the doctors, nurses and medical technicians at the Queen's Medical Center visited Howard Frederick Mower while he was a patient there to say how much his teaching meant to them.
So recounts Nancy Mower, whose husband, a University of Hawaii professor of biochemistry for 46 years, died Sept. 9 at Queen's of complications after cancer surgery. He was 79.
He had expected to teach courses at the medical school this fall, she said, noting he is known to three generations in the medical community. Either they took his undergraduate biochemistry classes, participated in his tutor groups, did graduate research in his lab or attended his lectures, she said.
His death after surgery July 31 was "a total shock," said Ram Bhagavan, professor of anatomy, biochemistry and physiology who had worked with Mower since 1965. "I thought I was going to see him come back and teach his courses and participate in research and all the academic activities.
"Dr. Mower was eternal in what he left behind," said Bhagavan, who was the biochemistry department chairman for almost 20 years. "He was a team player, helpful to his colleagues and students, and his collaboration was international.
"Students admired him," Bhagavan said, because he was able to make the esoteric subject of biochemistry meaningful and applicable to nursing, medicine and liberal education.
He said Mower taught many widely known students, such as actress Nicole Kidman's father, Tony, a graduate student in biochemistry.
Nicole was born at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children, Nancy Mower recalled. She said her husband enjoyed hiking, cross-country skiing, traveling and classical music. He was known for riding his bike to reduce pollution - with one pant leg rolled up and non-matching rubber slippers - going from their Waialae Iki home to the Manoa campus and the John A. Burns School of Medicine in Kakaako.
"Long before many of us had heard the term 'global warming,' Howard was working to save the planet," said Mower, a retired UH English instructor. He didn't like to see anything wasted, so he picked up cans, bottles, discarded clothing and other items that they then donated to charities, she said.
He collected a lot of old slippers.
"We had a whole stack of zoris that didn't match," she said. He would grab whatever fit his feet.
She said she never knew what he'd bring home. One day, he pushed his bike up the hill with a complete bed frame attached that he used to help shore up their house as part of a retaining wall, she said.
Mower was born in Chicago and moved at age 8 with his mother and grandparents to Pasadena, Calif. He earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry and doctorate in organic chemistry at the California Institute of Technology.
He became a researcher at E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Co. in Wilmington, Del., and in 1960 was co-recipient of an award from the American Chemical Society's Delaware Chapter for a paper on cyanocarbon chemistry.
He became interested in biochemistry and in 1962 joined UH-Manoa as the third faculty member in a new Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, which later merged with the Department of Anatomy and Physiology.
He also was associated with the Cancer Research Center and was doing research involving environmental carcinogenesis.
Also surviving Mower are sons Dave and Rick of Honolulu, daughter Carol Ioane of Hilo, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Mower willed his body to the UH medical school. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Oct. 12 at the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu. Donations may be made in lieu of flowers to the National Cancer Institute.