I first met Howard in 1994, in the RGAMES forum on Compuserve. He was an existing player in an online game I was joining.
Most of the players on RPGAMES were good, but Howard's inventiveness, mental agility, irascible doggedness and thrilling writing stood out. It was much later that I discovered what disadvantages he overcame in the process - and was staggered. By the time I 'met' him, his progressive degenerative motor disease had already rendered him blind, badly deaf and wheel-chair bound. He told me once that he dimly remembered seeing a penguin dive in New York Zoo.
Despite that, armed with a Braille screen-reader, he connected to people all over the world. He was a constant correspondent, emails from him on all sorts of subjects would pop up at any time of day you could think of. He had a keen interest in ethical and moral subjects, and would debate with sharp skill with anyone who fancied the challenge. Fascinated by science and technology, he would discuss progress in this or that field with endless enthusiasm. Incredibly, he studied for and achieved his doctorate during the time I knew him.
He identifed with the comic character Howard the Duck, for obvious reasons, and regularly would start little ad-lib email stories with himself as a cigar chewing fowl and me as a dog (after my CompuServe handle of The War Dog)
For me, though, Howard's defining feature was his love of stories. His favourite field was that of SciFi and he loved to create stories and characters, write situations, collaborate with people and create narrative. He introduced me to several authors who were well worth reading, and we even started to put together a story together; it's a regret I have that we never finished it.
For such a man the field of role-playing games was an absolute natural fit. Envisaging characters purely on the table-top of his own imagination, his playing and DMing crackled with life and wit. For the brief bubble of pleasure that was CompuServe's RPGAMES (before bloody AOL demolished the lot), we played in each others' games with much enjoyment.
Howard's health was never fabulous, and he'd have setbacks from time to time. His parents broke up and he was bounced from place to place around the US, despite which he threw himself into learning wherever he could. He also had regular problems with some of his carers who were less than ideal; he had money and his laptop stolen at one point, and the less said about people who can do that the better.
During 2008 his health began to decline, and eventually an email arrived from his family saying he'd gone into hospital with pneumonia. Confronted with the prospect of being stuck in hospital permanently, Howard made the decision to request he was not resuscitated, and passed away late 2008.
Whenever I'm feeling discouraged or disgruntled at my lot, I think back to Howard, and the courage, humour and dignity he showed in the face of such disadvantages to achieve so much, and am heartened.