Cayucos loses its most indispensable citizen

September 12, 2022

Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted biweekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin. 

Franklin’s memoir, “Life On The Mississippi, 1969,” is currently on Amazon.


Cayucos lost Howard the other day. Everybody who’s been around here awhile, and especially those who’ve grown up here, knew Howard. He was not a man of means or flash. But his profile was high because it seemed if you entered the Cayucos Deli and Sausage Company, Howard was back there working. The man who opened the Beach Bum wine and beer bar a couple doors down, told me Howard opened his place before he showed up in the morning.

Howard was a helper-outer. Whether it was work, health, or unassuming counsel.

Of late he was moving around on a prized e-bike, a real splurge. You see, he had a bad heart, and pedaling on flat ground helped his circulation, and if a hill came about he turned on the electricity. This was his concession to having been through open heart bypasses and several corrective heart procedures and walking around for twenty years knowing he was pretty much living on borrowed time and was a ticking time bomb.

He never felt sorry for himself. He was a veteran and a paramedic who was fire chief in Cayucos, and once when I went for a blood test at Sierra Vista hospital, there was Howard, jovial as always, drawing my blood.

He was a longtime charter member of the good old boys club but also part of almost every establishment and person in Cayucos. You might have called him “Mr. Cayucos.”

Lately, the last year or so, he had become part of the seawall gang of geezers, where his stories were always entertaining and humorous, because Howard had been around and seen it all.

But there was something about Howard that allowed so many people to depend on him and yes, love him. If you observed him closely, he was a round, softly built man, but a person’s face in their 60s pretty much tells you who they are. And Howard’s face said it all. There was no harshness there, only softness coupled with resolve and conviction, and the eyes were sensitive and kind, eyes that expressed decency and compassion and a sentimentality he would never advertise.

Howard was the big old soft sofa that had been around seemingly forever and you just couldn’t throw it away, because you could sink into it and feel as comfortable as you wished. This was a sofa you preferred over something new and swank and possibly priced into the thousands and needing to be pampered and protected. Howard was the sofa you always returned to when you needed a kind of emotional healing.

Howard was the one living on borrowed time, he was the ticking time bomb, yet it was never about him, and always about you.

Two weeks before his final heart attack, he’d had another procedure. He was off work and hanging out on the seawall and at Cayucos Coffee and saying he felt better every day. He kept a sack of prime dog biscuits for the circuit of local dogs awaiting him. He couldn’t wait to get back to work. He seemed a happy man. I guess that’s the way it is when everybody else comes first and you’re always there to help, wanting nothing for it.

That’s why everybody in Cayucos who knew Howard is shell-shocked. We all learned of his passing pretty quickly. It was on everybody’s mind. It put a dark cloud over our days. Nothing much else in the big world mattered to us. But in this little slice of small town America, it hurt deeply, and we will miss his easygoing company and generosity. And that he was always there for you.

Farewell, old friend.

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How did I not know Howard had passed? I just read this…I worked with Howard decades ago at General Hospital, he was hysterically funny and made the work enjoyable just to be around him. So sorry for his wife and children. He will be missed.

Mr. Cayucos! He always had a smile:) Changing times are always difficult. Condolences to those who knew him. Very sad for his loss.

What a nice tribute to your friend.

Dell, this was a good article about Howard

Dell this is the best piece you have ever written. This is small town. This is Cayucos.

Damn it Howard why you?

Ditto that!

Nice words Dell