More About Robert

I  am John Howard and I am one of Robert’s brothers. The pieces of Robert’s life I want to talk about are his devotion to his family, his friends, and his work.

Robert was a great dad!

Robert was a great dad.

I can picture countless times that Robert would stop by our house on his way out to Saturday excursions with the girls loaded in the back of a bike trailer, his Suzuki, or his car. They were usually headed to a park or some other outdoor place. That was his special time with them and he really loved it.  Sam and Nica told Robert they were interested in motorcycling a month ago.  Robert borrowed two minibikes from my sister’s family.  I stopped by and gave him a youth helmet for Sam.  When I arrived late in the evening, the bikes (which hadn’t been started in years), were not running.  I thought “Hmm, hard to believe this trip is gonna happen tomorrow.”  The email from him the next night said the trip was a wild success.  He’d stayed up late into the night.  Disassembling the entire fuel system and rebuilding it.  He could fix anything and nothing was going to make him let down the girls.

He loved having kids in part because he stayed a kid. Robert loved creating and having a creative “builders” home was in his DNA.  Those of you who know Howards know that we are packrats. Ana-Maria was working on him, trying to pare down the stuff. One sticking point was the number of Legos. Robert wanted more in his, I mean the girls’, stash.  My daughter, Amanda, told me this week that  he would buy new kits and slip them to her having her mix them in when she was babysitting.  Thus the Lego pile grew.  Wherever they are Ana Maria just gave Robert “THE LOOK”.

Robert became a consummate PTA dad.  Volunteering in class and hosting an annual 4X4 excursion auctioned off each year at El Carmelo’s silent auction.  And, of course,  schlepping and setting things up for Ana-Maria’s art and volunteer events.

Another 4x4 Adventure

Robert was a true friend!

He was part of a really tight group of guys right out of high school — they are still tight. They are here today. Four of them gave each other nicknames to make them sound more cool. One of them was named Bond.  Robert intended to call himself Rutger after Blade Runner’s Rutger Hauer.  They contracted Rutger to Rat and so he was to them these last 30 years. Rat would host parties in his first home on the flight path to Moffett field during the air shows.  We’d watch the shows sitting on the roof.  In the fifties his house had been hit by a Navy jet and rebuilt.  For one of the shows they made a Papier Mache Jet tail-section and mounted it on the roof.  He always felt safe there because as he said: “This house was pre-disastered!”

For Robert, anything longer than a weekend meant a trip out of town. He would constantly go on for four-wheel driving adventures or pack up the camper with the family and their stuff and take off. He joined a group of my friends on an annual Fall camping trip to desert hot springs. Robert introduced us to new secret places that he had found in his own adventures.  It was on one of these trips that he took me 4 wheeling.  After three hours of being alternately thrown against the dash, passenger window, and roof I told him I wasn’t getting the appeal.  He stopped at the top of a steep, stair cased descent.  Looked over and said.  “Here, you drive it down.”  I was hooked.  I bought another Samurai and the two of us had several adventures as we progressively fixed it up.

Robert was a Builder, Teacher, and Engineer

Robert was a builder.

Robert was a gifted designer, craftsman, and engineer. Robert could design and build anything.  And chances are he’d have the material in his vast array of “extra parts”.  In High school he modified a moped to be a cafe racer.  Complete with fairing and dropped handlebars.  Later in life, he continually modified and optimized cars and houses to meet his exacting ideas.  No one I knew could do it better and I have no idea where he found the time.

He and I worked at Apple at the same time and he was considered “one of the creative ones”.  Robert also became a talented manager and was called into save several programs.  He loved design and designing.  At work he worked closely with the engineers and created a fun  team environment.  While going through his files the other day I found a note from  Jean-Louis Gassee, an early Apple Executive VP, congratulating Robert for his work on an Apple project.  How this was exactly the kind of innovation needed and to keep up the good work.  Robert wrote Jean-Louis back, “Thank You.. and that’s very nice of you…, but I really thought it was a team effort.” He was humble and always acknowledged those around him.

Robert was an engineer.

He spent the last 15 years at Lunar. You know how almost everyone grouses about their job at some point or another? I never heard him say a bad thing about it. It seemed to fit like a glove. His colleagues there told us this week that Robert could listen well and was nice, but he was also extremely rational and could think things through and bring analytic skills to play. Through Apple, Lunar and teaching at Stanford he played a key role in mentoring many young engineers.

Robert was funny!

Robert with the cigarette-smoking baby.

In a family full of people who fancy themselves as funny and a Silicon Valley full of clever people, Robert stood out. It was what you noticed first about Robert.  He had a wicked sense of humor. He was faster than the rest of us. He could hit a joke before you realized you had an opportunity.  A night out with Robert was going to be a night of humor and insightful irreverence.

Final Thoughts

I have been thinking about us coming here today. We want to know that their lives had meaning — that they will live on. Robert lived a life with few regrets. He concentrated on the important things: family, friends, creating, teaching, and learning. I can promise you  that Robert lives on in our memories; in the work lives of everyone he mentored and worked with; in the terrific products he was part of bringing to market; in the inspiration he provided to be a good husband and father; and in the humor that still rings in our ears.

I love you and will miss you, Robert.

John and Robert on a camping trip. The photo was taken automatically, using a timer Robert brought.

Memories of Veronica on her Birthday

Robert with Baby Nica

From an observation at 8 months:

Nica watches her sister and a friend and turns toward them. She rubs her hand on a lambskin and starts to whimper. Ana-Maria calls her name and Nica calms down. Then Nica makes more frustrated cries and starts to frown. She picks up a toy and stops crying. Then she cries again. Nica watches as Ana-Maria calms her sister.  Nica continues to make whimpering noises, flexing and curling her feet and stretching out her hands.  Ana-Maria picks up Nica and holds her on her hip.  Ana-Maria walks to the kitchen with Nica on her hip.  A starts making a snack for the big girls, still holding Nica on her hip. Ana-Maria gets some rice crackers out and asks the big girls if they want crackers. Nica reaches out for the plastic bag the crackers are in and starts rubbing it back and forth between her fingers. Nica begins making sounds with the plastic bag by opening and closing her fist.

Robert and Nica

On the Tire SwingFrom Heidi T:

The tire swing was a magnet to most of the children in the class. They all loved having a swing on it, spinning round and round. Nica preferred not to spin, and so Ana Maria made sure that she was close by, to safeguard Nica from some of the more adventurous kids who would jump on, climb the chains, and start twisting. Here is one of my favorite photos of the two of them on the tire swing: Ana Maria’s smile is blazing like the sun, as usual, and Nica is gracing us with her sweet, demure grin.

Circle Time

Circle Time

Another moment illustrating the close bond that Ana Maria and Nica shared. This photo is another one of my favorites: it simply captures a moment that all of us have experienced a countless number of times: lounging with our child on a rug. Seemingly unremarkable, really. Yet, there are so many tiny details that make this photo spring to life for me: Nica always played with Ana Maria’s nametag. Always. When they sat on the rug, Nica would naturally gravitate to this position: snuggled between Ana Maria’s knees, almost like she was re-living the comfort of being born. And always, Ana Maria’s gentle, protective, capable hands were there, guiding Nica, and holding her close.

From Veronica’s Friends

I admire Nica because she was always caring and she would always comfort people if they were troubled.

Nica Fashion

Veronica's Fashions

From T

Something I really loved about Nica was she would always tell jokes and she was always fashionable. She wore those boots and hats.

I remember when Nica came over last and we made plans and drawings to build a replica of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. We were gonna use scraps of wood from her dad’s shed.

Nica and I always went to and from soccer sometimes carpooling together.  She was one of my best friends.

From M

Sam and Nica would want to always play Apples to Apples and Twister when I babysat them.  They always beat me. I had fun with them.

From M and T

We remember when Sam and Nica came over to our house after soccer.  We built this enormous fort out of blankets and chairs and pillows and couch cushions.

It had a cool entryway and a separate exit.  It was always so fun playing with Sam and Nica.  They helped us create places.

From A:

Something I really loved about Nica was . . . She is always nice

I admired Nica because. . .   She’s always very neat

I remember one time when Nica . . . invited me to her house with other book club kids and to watch “Matilda.” We had lots of fun

From E and M

Something I really loved about Nica was that she was a great friend.

I admired Nica because she was very talented and smart.  She helped in math sometimes.

I remember one time when Nica let me play Sorry with Maggie and her.  It was a good game.

Something I really loved about Nica was her sense of humor.

I admired Nica because she was very kind to people and loved everything that people did.

I remember one time when Nica wanted to spend most of the time with me and gave me her hat.

From A

I admire Veronica because of what a great friend she was. She was nice to me, and all of her friends. She always was smiling, and laughing. She was funny, nice and loyal. She never insulted me once since I met her. She really understood me. She was my sister. Veronica is an amazing person.

From O

I admired Nica because she was a really good friend, always kind and really flexible. She was always inclusive, never minded if someone wanted to join in to the activity she was doing. I really liked her style and sense of fashion.

From L

What I admired about Nica was that she was always so bright and happy.  I never saw her being sad or gloomy.  She was willing to teach me, tell me things, or to just simply play with me.  She was kind, happy and helpful with her friends.  When I played soccer with her, she was always passing a ball to a teammate, or trying to kick the ball through a gap in our opponents’ defense.  My memory of Nica is of an optimistic, loving girl who was always there for her friends.

From M

I still remember when we used to have lots of playdates in kindergarten and 1st grade, and we sat besides each other sharing a desk in 3rd grade just 2 months ago. I had great time playing with you, whether it was playing Build-a-Bear dress-up, or playing with water in your backyard. The toy horse you gave me is still on my desk, but I can’t play it with you any more. You were such a good friend and you were always nice to everyone. I miss you Nica.

With Stuffed Animals

From M

I remember one time when Nica had a Teddy Bear Fashion Show at her house. We made jewelry and outfits for our stuffed animals. Nica was really good at making jewelry and was very creative. That afternoon was a lot of fun.


I really loved how Nica dressed. She had these really great boots. And she wore skirts a lot when she would play soccer, which I thought was cool.

From G

Something I really loved about Nica was how friendly she was with everyone.

Nica Painting

From M

I admired how good at drawing Nica was.  Something I really loved about Nica was that she was so thoughtful. I remember one time we were playing at my house, and she wanted to save her blueberry muffin for her sister.

From S

Something I really loved about Nica was she was very kind and she was a great friend. When I was in 1st grade, I was very sad one day and she cheered me up.

I remember one time when Nica … I remember that on the last day of school Nica was selling ducktapes which can be used to decorate wallets.  I think all the money she made she would donate to the poor.

From C and J:

I remember one time in Kindergarten when me, Nica and some of our friends took a poster board and drew a house for my stuffed cat Calico.

I remember one time when Sam, Nica, my brother and I went driving around our neighborhood in their pink Barbie car. Then, Nica and I drove the car and Sam held onto the back of the car on roller skates.

I remember when Nica and Sam had a bunch of friends over in their backyard. Nica’s friends put on giant boxing gloves and we attacked Sam’s friends.  They fought back by throwing balls at us from the treehouse.

I remember when our bunny chewed through my Nintendo DS wires and Ana-Maria taught me how to splice the wires so they would work again.

From L

1.Something I really loved about Nica was…that she always was kind and considerate and caring. And she always stood up for me as a friend.

2. I admired Nica because…she would let others go before her in four square, she was good in soccer, and she always had a smile on her face.

3. I remember one time when Nica…scored the winning goal for our AYSO soccer team and made it so that coach got us all free cheeseburgers.