Saturday, March 31, 2007

Another Obit

This time it’s the central Utah Daily Herald.

It’s been appended to the round–up.

Please Read

This blog is now being indexed by Google. References to it are already appearing elsewhere on the Web:
I am flattered.

Heretofore, this blog has been public but unindexed by search engines, meaning that the only way to learn about it was by word–of–mouth (or e-mail). That kept its audience to limited to those with a genuine interest in my father’s health. But now the world can find it, simply by typing in ‘F. Clark Howell’ into Google or Yahoo!, for example. And the world includes spambots and nefarious entities that might use the personal contact information for my parents and me that I originally included in various posts for other than my intended purposes. Consequently, I have stricken all personal contact information from those posts.

My impetuses for indexing the blog were twofold:

  • Realizing that there are many other people who might be interested in learning about what happened to my father. This came about through postings I discovered in other blogs following his death.

  • A number of people have commented that they think other people facing the loss of a loved one may find value in reading about my dad’s disease and death, and my experiences of it. One person even recommeded I formally publish the text. Again, I am flattered. If other people find useful information or solace herein, then this effort will have served a far greater purpose than I ever intended.

If you wish to contact me, please obtain my e-mail address from the ‘View my complete profile’ link at below left, beneath the Blog Archive and under About me.



The Independent

The Independent, a British newspaper, has run a very nice obituary. It was written by the husband of a former student of my dad. I’ve added it to my round–up of media coverage.

Please let me know if you find any others.


Friday, March 30, 2007

Gloria in Extremis

Neither of these two fine people have long to live.

I wrote those words a few months ago, concerning my father and my aunt—my mother’s sister Gloria, to whom my mother is very close.

Prior to my dad, Gloria had been diagnosed with stage IV (metastatic) smoking–induced lung cancer. As we passed the anniversary of her diagnosis, chemotherapy, a pneumonectomy and other life–saving measures seemed to be sucessfully holding the disease at bay. But time and statistics have caught up with Gloria: Apparently, the cancer has returned and spread to her bone, like with my dad. Her prognosis is most likely the same as was my dad’s.

I am so sorry for my aunt, uncle and cousins and everybody else who loves her.

I am worried for my mom.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Memorial Service Accomodations

Are you traveling to Berkeley for the memorial service for my dad in May? If so, click here for a list of hotels.

Hotels close to the memorial location include:
*Restrictions apply. Please review room requirements carefully.

The World

Le Monde picked up and ran my dad’s obituary (en Français). I’ve added it to yesterday’s comprehensive round-up.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


This post last updated 05 April 2007 at 17:53 PDT.


The New York Times
Boston Globe
Washington Post
Los Angeles Times
London Herald
International Herald Tribune
Portland Oregonian
Sacramento Bee
San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Examiner
Long Beach Press Telegram
Wilmington Morning Star
Contra Costa Times
Berkeleyan (U.C. at Berkeley)
Daily Californian (U.C. at Berkeley)
San Jose Mercury News
Monterey Herald (California)
Daily Herald (central Utah)
San Diego Union Tribune
Fresno Bee (link no longer available)

Imedinews (Georgia, The Republic of, in English)
Le Monde (en Français)
The Independent (UK)
Post Chronicle (UK?)

United Press International (UPI)

Web Reporting

Anthropology Daily
Science Daily

Scientific Organizations

L.S.B. Leakey Foundation
National Center for Science Education
Stone Age Institute
Human Evolution Research Center (‘HERC’, at Berkeley)

Blogs and Discussion Groups

Science News
Science Blogs (re: Afarensis)
Greg Laden (evolution proponent)
Bill Maher message boards
Monsters and Critics
Michael Balter
The Book of THoTH
Steentild (Belgium, in English)
Memencio (en Español)
Neanderthalis Blog (en Español)
Tgier07 Blog
Zalambdalestids (scroll down to ‘obit’)

(undecipherable) (rememberance site)
Life in Legacy (news aggregator)
Surfwax (aggregator)

Archived Articles
These are not necessarily current. I found them while trolling through search engine results. Most are for general audiences.

Time Magazine
American Scientist

Monday, March 26, 2007

C’est la vie

Today was a day that I can describe only as ‘surreal’; a word also independently chosen by my mother. Today I took receipt of a small, dark red, brick–like box. It weighs about nine lbs. It is the ashes of my dad, who was cremated a few days ago. It is inconceivable that all he was has been reduced to a little box that I can hold easily on the palm of one hand.

I have placed him on a shelf in his study—the room in which he spent so many hours on weekends and evenings, writing and reading, when not traveling overseas.

At last he is home for good.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Time Passes

He has been dead the better part of two weeks. The news is now old but the pain is still new.

The Wilmington Morning Star (North Carolina) published an obituary for him on Monday. (Must have been a slow news day.)

On my bedside table lies my dad’s 50 year old [antique] Omega Seamaster mechanical calendar wristwatch (view his model and a current model), a gift from my mom. He wore it for much of that time. It was purchased the first year that my dad and mom went to Tanganyika (now part of Tanzania) and has been to more than 100 countries and numerous sites, including Ambrona, Isimila and the Omo. For all of its adventures, it is in remarkably good shape--and it keeps excellent time! But I won’t be wearing it regularly. It is much too precious for that. You may see it if you attend the memorial in May.

Nature and Science magazines are going to publish articles on my dad. The Nature article will be written by my dad’s best friend and lab mate Tim White. His longtime and very dear friend Philip Tobias will write the other.

Damn, this hurts.

Monday, March 19, 2007


L.S.B. Leakey Foundation (scroll down)

The Stone Age Institute (great picture)
— Repeats—

National Center for Science Education (scroll down; great photo)

U.C. Berkeley HERC (new photos and tributes)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Another Times

The LA Times ran an obit for my dad in its Sunday edition.

It’s most a reprint from the AP wire story, but it’s still nice to see.

Anybody down there in La-la land, could you send the page up to my mom? Muchos gracias.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Times, Herald and Times

The New York Times ran its obituary for my dad today. It doesn’t really add much to the Chronicle or Cal pieces but it is well written. There was also an obituary in the The International Herald Tribune and Associated Press extracts in several others.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


The S.F. Chronicle’s obituary for my father is due to run tomorrow. Cal’s Public Information Office sent out a press release late this afternoon. They share a photo I provided. I proofread Cal’s release and was very pleased, both by the release in general and by the very nice quotes of his colleagues and associates. I want to thank Bob Sanders at Cal and Dave Perlman at the Chronicle for their efforts on my dad’s behalf. I was told that Dave, a longtime friend of my dad, spent two days working on the obituary for the Chronicle.

I think the release and the Chronicle’s obit hit too late for the New York Times and any other eastern papers, so don’t expect anything there before Friday.

Memorial Service

My father’s memorial service will be:

Monday, May 7th at 4PM
The Faculty Club
The University of California at Berkeley



My father was justifiably proud of the National Center for Science Education. Before its creation, my family met its founder Eugenie Scott at Christmas breakfast at my sister’s boyfriend’s home. My dad was extremely impressed by Euginie. And we all know of my father’s high standards. I believe later he signed on as founding NCSE Secretary. I know he made some contacts.

Since then, NCSE has become a leader in the war on creationism and you can find Eugenie’s name in the press regularly. That always made my dad very happy.

They have thoughtfully posted an obituary for my dad at

Monday, March 12, 2007

Elsewhere on the Web

Cal’s Human Evolution Research Center (HERC) has set up a memorial Web site for my dad at Please distribute the link.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


My dad’s briefcase sits at the bottom of the front hall stairs, as it has for so many thousands of nights and days over the years. His keys lie next to it, as was typical. I can see them from where I sit in the living room. The omnipresent sound of the oxygen concentrator is missing. The house seems preternaturally peaceful. People are chatting and laughing in the dining room.

It is easy to imagine that he has simply gone to the store, that at any moment he will walk in and start calling for my mom. Or maybe he is overseas, in France, England, China, Georgia, Spain, Turkey, Kenya, Saudi Arabia or any of dozens of other countries to which he has traveled. But he is not coming home. I saw to that this afternoon as I helped the mortuary workers carry away his shriveled cold body.

I hope that the briefcase will remain where it is for a very long time to come. I find it comforting.

In Memoriam...

If you would like to do something in memory of my dad, please consider a donation to the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation. It is an organization to which he has been inextricably linked since its inception, of which he was justifiably very proud, and which embodies and promotes the science and highest scientific principles that defined my father’s life.

Thank you.

Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene 2

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Requiescat in Pace

My dad is dead. It is 124 days since the diagnosis (4 months, 3 days). He died peacefully, in no pain. I was with him, talking to him and holding his hand when he did. I will never be able to come close to expressing how much I will miss him.

There will be no funeral. However, a memorial service is in the works for a few weeks hence. We want it to be sufficiently in the future so that everybody who wants to will be able to attend. Information on the service will be posted here in a few days. You could also call me at 510-###-#### in a week or two. The service will be arranged by the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation in conjunction with Cal. I do not know anything else at this time. My family thanks both institutions in advance for their efforts on my father’s behalf.

My mother is going to need lots of emotional support for quite awhile. However, if you want to come by the house to visit, anytime soon, please call me first at 510-###-####. Not that we don’t want you to visit, we do! But I don’t want my mother to feel overrun at this emotionally intense time. So please call me.

Press and academic inquiries about my dad should be directed to Bob Sanders of the University of California at Berkeley’s Public Information Office: 510-###-####.

This is not the end of this blog. Not immediately, anyway. As I wrote above, I will be posting memorial service information. I will also be adding links to media and academic coverage about my dad, as I become aware of it.

Thank you for all the heartfelt phone calls and messages to me, my mother, my father and my family as a whole. Thank you for the gifts, food and assistance. Finally, thank you very much for reading my blog.



Only a Matter of Time

His vital processes are slowing, ebbing.


He has been unconscious for most of the past 48 hours. There were a few moments of wakefulness in the middle of the night. His attendants were on duty and, per her request, woke up my sister who was sleeping downstairs. She had a brief and precious exchange with him, and hopefully more closure than I had expected. There have also been a couple of periods when he has opened his eyes. He could not speak but through subtle indications it was apparent that he can hear and appreciate what is being said. I know he is glad Jennifer was able to come to Berkeley.

He wants to go. That is absolutely clear from separate discussions he had with my mom and me on Wednesday and Thursday. He told us he is unable to read, bored and, when we are not around, very lonely. Given that he will die soon, anyway, he suggested he would utilize any available physical means to hasten it. Alas he has none. So he lies in twilight.

I have read that people in such twilight are often cognizant of what is going on around them. They may be able to understand what is being said. So, both for his sake and mine, I am spending much of my time talking to him, recounting many of the adventures we have shared and how grateful I am for those experiences.

With reference to my Summary Assessment post, what I meant to communicate was my incredible shock at my dad’s rapid decline, especially in light of his unexpected improvement just a few weeks back.

My mother is surprised he survived last night. She doesn’t believe he will survive this day.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Summary Assessment

So God Damn Fast!

Jennifer Again

My sister is here. I picked her up at Oakland International this afternoon after she flew down from Portland, Oregon. I am glad she is having an opportunity to say ‘good–bye’ to him. Unfortunately, I do not believe the reciprocal will come to pass, though I know he wanted it.

Four Months and Two Days

He has been sleeping since yesterday. The issue now is whether he will ever again just open his eyes, let alone regain lucid consciousness? My mother and I share this question. The hospice nurse’s assessment is that his condition is simply “very grave.”

Thursday, March 8, 2007


My sister flies in from Portland tomorrow. She lands in Oakland at 12:40PM. I will pick her up and whisk her to my parents’s home, trying my best to prepare her enroute. My father is awaiting her arrival. He has asked about her numerous times. I know her presence will be a great relief to him. I get the sense that he is holding on for her.

He is Close

A while back, a friend’s aunt graciously joined me for lunch and recounted her experiences with her terminal father, who was also felled by lung cancer. At the time I was unnerved, even almost horrified by her descriptions. My dad was still able to get up and walk around a bit. He was lucid and engaging. I felt relieved that I would have some time—months, I thought—to prepare and steel myself. And to say ‘good bye’. Our lunch was three weeks ago from today.

The hospice organization since has given my family a booklet detailing ‘end–of–life’ symptoms. It corroborates my discussion and lists additional symptoms. And it’s all happening. Now. Just the way my friend’s aunt said it would. All of it. Including the symptoms in the book.

I won’t enumerate them but you can read about the symptoms here and/or here. Everything is shutting down. Everything is failing. By my comprehension, death is just days or perhaps even hours away.

If You Want to Contact Either of my Parents....

Please e-mail or call me at [removed] or [removed].

Please do not contact my mom. I am coordinating all visits, phone calls and messages. My mom has enough to deal with as it is.

Many thanks,



He asked for me early this morning and one of the two Fijian women called me on my cell phone. I was up at my folks’ house in minutes. He asks for me a lot these days. Through broken statements I’ve come to appreciate that he wants a family member with him all the time. He doesn’t want to die alone. But, at the same time, he is trying to shield my mother from the worst and most ugly aspects of his illness. Love is expressed in many different ways.


I know there are quite a number of people reading this blog. I invite and encourage you to share some of your favorite memories of my dad. They could be work or personal. Please drop me an e-mail at [removed] and I will post them as I receive them. Also, please spread the word on my father. People need to know. It was just yesterday that I was finally able to get in touch with one of my dad’s best friends, longtime colleague and former graduate student.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A Hell of a Day

My dad is sleeping and snoring now. Doped on a strong dose of morphine. My mother is in bed, in my sister’s room. I am sitting by my dad’s hospital bed. I am exhausted.

Today was, without question, one of the longest and toughest of my life—and, I am sure, my mother’s as well. But it was far from the worst for either of us. That one is impending.

It was a day where I began discussing arrangments for managing the inevitable academic media circus that will occur in the wake of my father’s death. I was relieved to find out that the University of California has a protocol for fielding such professional inquiries. All I will have to do is refer any such calls that come to my parents’ home.

It was a day where I broached the subject of a memorial service. Here, too, I was told that third parties will intervene. Cal, in collaboration with the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation, will organize a memorial.

It was a day where I had a close friend of my father sob in my arms, saw several more of his friends on the verge of tears, and heard from my mom of yet another friend crying—a gentleman whom I have always felt to be very strong. I am very glad that my father is so loved by so many.


All chemotherapuetic treatments have been stopped, as have been many other medications. Weeping sores have opened on his forearms; I am not sure of the genetive factors. The constant purr of the oxygen concentrator can be heard throughout much of the house. He is on morphine.

He spends his day in his hospital bed, exhausted, frequently dozing. He cannot get up, or even turn over by himself. Thankfullly, he has assistance. He is almost bald, a side effect of the chemotherapy, and vastly shrunken from his former girth, having eaten so little for so long. His atrophied legs, as he described them recently to a friend, resemble those of a concentration camp inmate. The change over the past few days, as described this morning by a visiting former student, has been “exponentially” for the worse.

His breathing is labored. A side effect, I believe, of the mass in his superior vena cava. After learning about it, it struck me that the mass is not only forcing fluid (plasma) from within the vessel through the vascular walls, to pool in his forearms. The mass is also greatly impeding overall circulation and, especially, pulmonary function: less blood through the lungs means less oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) exchange. Hence his chronic shortness of breath and need for the concentrator.

It is four months to the day that I first learned of his illness. I am suffering from a kind of cognitive dissonance: It seems both much longer and much shorter than that.

It is, simply, the end. My mother, a former Registered Nurse with experience in an oncology ward, does not expect him to survive through to Monday. None of us, I, my mother and sister and other relatives, nor his many friends are ready for this. But it is out of our control. We feel so helpless and fragile ourselves.

He will not finish his audio history. There was never the opportunity for me to record any of the remarkable stories of his youth that I remember him telling me at bedtime in my own childhood. I blame myself: Too much focus on work and not enough attention on what really mattered. I presumed I would have longer. I have cried for the lost opportunities. It is a lesson most painfully learned.

My mother and I, and his attendants and visiting friends, are all doing what we can to keep him comfortable. I gently rub his head and arms, which he likes, lubricate the interior of his desiccated mouth using a small moistened sponge on a long stick, fluff up his pillows and adjust his covers. The tasks are small but the disease is large and renders moot any attempts at greater efforts.*

I sit across from his bed, watching him. He is sleeping, snorning softly. Ocassionally over the past few days he will seem to stop breathing for a moment and his body will slump. Each time I tense: Is it his last? Up until now, that has always been followed by a wriggle or a shift, as he unconsciously tries to get comfortable in his bed. But it won’t be long. Tears are pooling behind a dam of temporary self–control.

It is a vigil.

*Such as surgery or radiation.

Monday, March 5, 2007

“On Borrowed Time”

I was almost certainly correct in my ‘chemical’ assessment last Friday. Well, more broadly, malnutrition (usually less than 200 calories a day, by my estimate; most people eat well over 1,000), insufficient hydration (sometimes less than eight ounces of fluid in a day) and certainly insufficient electrolytes significantly impaired my dad’s health. A three–day course of Pedialyte, which provides sodium and potassium, the two most essential bodily electrolytes, and glucose, the simple sugar on which cellular respiration depends (‘respiration ’ in this context refers to the intracellular oxidation of pyruvic acid, which is formed from splitting glucose molecules), has resulted in a noticable improvement in his alertness and coherency. No longer is he spending his days in a near stupor, eyes heavily lidded. But his overall health continues to markedly decline.

He has grown so weak that he can barely raise an arm. He is being tended to ’round–the–clock by the two Fijian women, now joined in shift rotation by the husband of one. They are taking great care of him and he appreciates them all. They are aided by a motorized hospital bed. By simply pressing buttons, he can be raised from a prone position or his legs and feet comfortably elevated. The bed has replaced the one in which my parents slept for decades, first in Illinois and then in Berkeley. My mother is sleeping down the hall in my sister’s room. My parents will never again sleep together. But at least my dad is much more comfortable and can be easily elevated rather than having to be physically [wo]man-handled and propped up with a bunch of pillows.

His activity has been harshly limited. He is unable to hold a book, unable to read, for which I feel very sorrowful. Reading has always been his greatest passion. The jammed bookshelves in his home and office are evidence of this love. He is relegated to simply watching television, looking out his bedroom window (granted, it has a broad, lovely view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, in which beautiful sunsets are often visible) and chatting with whomever is available. It is a constrained and frequently tedious existence for someone who has lived such a life of the mind.

Last week, abruptly and with no warning, nor discussion of reasons and consequences with either of my parents, Dr. Canin, my dad’s oncologist at Walnut Creek Kaiser abruptly ceded responsibility for my dad’s care and turned it over to hospice care. That wasn’t by any means a bad thing. The nurse now supervising my dad’s care is a wonderful, pragmatic, forthright but very caring woman my parents and I all like and respect very much. Also, hospice supplied the aforementioned hospital bed and other equipment. But hospice is the last step, the point of no return. This was underscored as I sat by my dad’s bedside and listened to discussions of DNR directives (click on the link). All three of us were unprepared to learn that my father was beyond further treatment.

Further discussions with the hospice nurse have revealed that my father has far more serious problems than any of us knew. Such as a mass in his superior vena cava that, the nurse suggested, was forcing fluid out of the vessel which was then leaking into my dad’s arm causing the long—we thought—undiagnosable swelling. Okay, it’s not a definitive diagnosis but it is a reasonable one, which begs the question as to why Dr. Canin never even hypothesized it, let alone told us about the mass?

Now I know. Even though he is more alert, more coherent, more conversant, he is not going to leave that bed again. As my mother said this morning, as she and I walked together, he is living “on borrowed time.”

Friday, March 2, 2007


The last few days have seen a flurry of changes—none of them for the better. First was the long languishing oxygen finally being put to its intended use. It was rapidly replaced with an oxygen concetrator to guarantee my dad a constant flow of oxygen. Two nights ago, I saw him use his his walker for the first time. Yesterday was a watershed: A wheelchair arrived along with a motorized hospital bed to replace the flat queen bed that has been in his bedroom for 37 years. He will sleep alone; my mother moved into my sister’s old bedroom down the hall three weeks ago when co-sleeping became too difficult. The bed is motorized, eliminating the physical efforts of two or more people that have been recently required to ift my father from a prone to a semi-sitting position such that he can watch television or talk to visitors.

He continues to slide downhill, growing skinnier and weaker each day. Much of this decline I attribute not to the cancer but to his a simple lack of adequate nutrition, hydration and salt. Remember that just a few weeks ago there was unexpected and significant regression of his primary tumor.

He complains that he feels nauseous and cannot keep down food or liquids. I think he is starving and thirsting to death as much as or more than the cancer is killing him. My mother and I were in Dr. Canin’s office when he admonished my dad that it was very important that he eat—and that was at the very beginning of this whole experience.

Where does the salt come in? Well, high sodium levels (sodium being one of the two consituent elements in table salt; the other being chlorine; hence its chemical formula of NaCl) are contributory to hypertension and many other problems. But low sodium levels, such as occurs when someone ingests too little salt can be equally or even more problematic. Sodium is an electrolyte: a chemical that helps conduct or hold an electric charge. Electrolytes are commonly found in batteries. And in you. They are essential for proper operation of your nervous system; the propagation of electric impulses along your nerves and within your brain. You are an electrochmemical machine.

Hyponatremia, polyglot Greek and Latin for ‘low sodium’ is a condition where there is insufficient sodium in your blood stream, and consequently throughout your body. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headache and malaise [weakness and lethargy]. (At its worst, hyponatremia will kill you.) Sound familiar? Those are my dad’s principal symptoms. In fact, I think my dad is hypo-electrolytic: probably not the exact diagnosis but close enough. He is lacking adequate electrolytic salts (including other than sodium chloride) and essential metals, and indeed other essential minerals for his body to function well.

Why can’t he keep down liquids? Because they will further dilute the increasingly miniscule amounts of sodium necessary to keep his nervous system operating so his body rejects it. I’m off to the store to buy Pedialite, (yes, it’s for children, but a physician prescribed it for me a couple of years back when I had a several gastrointestinal bug) Gatorade or a similar beverage!