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Howard Schwartz



Howard Bert Schwartz

(May 6, 1943- Feb. 26, 2014)

Howard passed away in his long-time Oakland apartment while a friend read him mystic poetry , ending a long confrontation with liver cancer , heart disease, and chronic digestive problems.  He was a long-time member of the folk club who frequently attended the Friday night sessions at Faith’s.  He was well known for his ability to play accompaniment in the singing room, regardless of song or key.  He also attended various other folk gathering in the Bay Area, and he played for numerous Sufi dance events.
        Most of the local folkies are unaware of Howard’s many other accomplishments.   Howard was a professor of sociology for many years, beginning with a position at Harvard and moving on to other positions that seemed right to him.  He was uninterested in prestige or a high salary, preferring work that spoke to his sense of authenticity.  He described his specialty area, ethnomethodology, as the study of everyday and common-sense thinking.  Recently a journal in England republished Howard’s scholarly papers because they liked his work and felt it reflected the early foundation of that branch of sociology.  With a friend Howard co-authored a sociology text book, a text notable for the sprinklings of humor Howard insisted upon.  It continues in use and is translated into multiple languages.
        Subsequently he successfully transitioned into computer programming jobs.  Long after he retired from that work, he continued to help friends with his techy skills.
        Howard had many other sides to himself.  His playful side delighted in entertaining people with his stock of magic tricks.  With children he could interact at their level, without pretense and with mutual enjoyment.  In earlier years he was an avid folk dancer and skilled tap dancer — the latter dating back to his days as a child actor.  (He had significant parts in an episode of the TV series, Dragnet, and in the film Marjorie Morningstar.)  For many years he was active in the community of followers of the spiritual leader, Meher Baba, and he traveled to India several times to go to the Meher Baba center.


Other Information on Howard
You can hear a remarkable mini-concert of Howard’s playing and singing here.

Howard created a website where he posted photos, some academic papers and other essays he wrote, and links to him playing guitar and/or singing (very very home made). You can easily access this site! Do so by by going to the site, and entering this username and password:
  Username:        schwartzhoward1@gmail.com
  Password:         enter

        This link has some great snapshots from the 4/13 “Living Farewell.”
        This page has a number of videos from that event (mixed quality) and, further down the list, more of Howard’s playing.



From Marie Rhodes:

I just got a phone call with the news that a dear long-time friend of mine died. Howard Schwartz crossed over at about 4:30pm today [Feb. 26, 2014]. He was being read Sufi poetry at the time of his passing. It seemed he had a light stroke. Twenty minutes before that he said some light rubbing on the chest felt good.


Howard was a long-time Baba Lover. I first met him back in the mid-70s. His great love was music and his cat. In fact all animals and nature he had greatly loved. He was such a gentle soul, and this world was very difficult for him to fit into. He had so much compassion for others and saw it so much lacking in the lives of so many people. So maybe a random act of kindness in his memory would be a gift he would love from the other side.


Happy Trails to you, my dear brother Howard. Those who love are never separate. May you have the peace your heart has so longed for. I feel no sadness at your crossing; it has been such a long time coming. I know our Beloved was there to greet you and welcome you home.


All kind words loving thought for Howard would be helpful to him on the other side. Sing a happy song, I know he would like that. Give some love to an animal and say Howard would just love you. I know he is there watching. Those we love are always around us. He had many friends who loved him. His music and his love was felt in the hearts of many.


From Karen Talbot:

Howie was actually a child actor.  He was the bar mitzvah boy in Marjorie Morningstar. He taught sociology at Harvard. I remember him saying, ‘I wanted to come to be in this incarnation with Meher Baba, so I took anybody I could be given. He felt this explained the physical suffering he endured since an early age.

Marie, you wrote a very fine and fitting email that would have pleased Howard.

In His Love,



From Ann O’Neil:

I knew Howard back in the 70’s, when we were all young and living in Berkeley. I liked him very much and had lost touch with him when I moved to the East Coast in 1976. Howard was one of the people that I always remembered; he had a big reel to reel tape player in the back seat of his car because he enjoyed music so much. And I knew he suffered with Crohn’s disease, though he wouldn’t talk about it very much.
A year ago I tried to see him again when I was visiting out here, but I could tell he was very hesitant. Perhaps he was too ill. But he is one of the people I will never forget.
Love in Baba,
Ann ONeil


From Bob Ahrens:

I knew Howard for a year around 1971, when I was a student at Harvard.  He had just arrived and was teaching a somewhat non-conformist sociology course, which I took.  This was a year or so after demonstrations had shut the university down and there was an unusual receptivity to things unusual.   Howard had a very understated sense of humor which students loved, along with his obvious humility in his role.
In Baba meetings in Cambridge, Howard played the guitar and sang—very softly—and liked to poke holes in any pretension that he perceived arising in a discussion.  He was an excellent guitarist.
My take-home impression of Howard was of an unusual man, given over to Baba, shy yet thrust into the limelight, with a sly, self-deprecating humor.  I haven’t seen him in over 40 years but I haven’t forgotten him either.


More from Marie Rhodes:


Dear Howard,
I just wish you knew how much you are Loved, how much you are cared about. Words just are no way to express it. But my heart in silence does.
You have been pivotal in my life in knowing some one who is truly beautiful. Your heart, your soul, your music your love for others, your love for God, and your compassion all have added to my own life without measure. For me I measure my life by love by how much I can extend it moment by moment. In this moment I give to you that love with all my heart in hopes you can receive it. It is what is eternal. It is GOD in me loving the GOD in You.
You are now gone from this illusion. Thank God that for you there is no more pain. I feel such depth of sadness at your departure and yet the greatest of joy for your freedom from Your years of earthly bondage.
Here is an experience I would like to share. I knew Howard a long time when I had this experience. It may help explain why he was so special to me.
One morning I was getting ready to go for a walk. I had just put on my tennis shoes and bent to tie them. Suddenly I was out of my body back into the very beginning of time. In a place where we were one heart.
Then the heart split into two. I went in one direction and he in another. A helix formed. We fell through it. We then passed through one lifetime after another. We had come through time, through eternity together.
This experience did not even last a full minute. I deeply believe that all who love are not separated ever from each other or from God.
Life is love and LOVE is GOD. Thank you Beloved Baba for sharing this Beautiful, Holy Son of Yours with me.


Care to share?

3 Responses to Howard Schwartz

  • I knew Howie when I was a grad student at Harvard. He was one of the only three people in my life who I thought truly brilliant. It is true that he was kind and gentle and a Baba lover as others have said but what you could miss was the pure delight of listening to him think about sociology. He saw sociology in every interaction and every interaction in sociology. I guess I held it against him that he gave it up because he had so much to contribute but I guess he just could not stand the academic nonsense.

    I had not seen him for several years and my email to him bounced back. It took some refining of my email query to learn of his passing.

    Howie: I am sorry I missed you. Thank you for all that you contributed to my life.

  • I learned of your passing on Facebook. Thank you for friending me even though we did no corresponding, at least we knew we were out there. If you looked at my wall, you would have seen I had gone completely to the dogs, salukis to be specific. You, on the other hand, I see had an ongoing relationship with Peter the Cat.

    I wonder if I could have done something had I known. No, I think it was enough to know we were out there and could be summoned if wanted, albeit not quickly, since I moved to Central CA.

    Thank you, Howard, for being there. For being my friend thru time and distance. I just marked my calendar for your future yarhtzeit. I will remember some of those gifts of spirit you brought in your life.

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