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Lt. Col. Howard Allan Christy: Husband, Father, Marine, Scoutmaster, Writer, Dies at 87
Provo, Utah — Howard Allan Christy (“Al”) died on July 2nd while hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Al is survived by his sister Sally Anne Christy; his 4 children, Caroline, Bruce, Megen, and Carleton; his inlaw children, Tim Otto, Aimee Marsing Christy, Michael Peterson, and Ashlie Irvine Christy; and his 12 grandchildren, Keaton Otto, Dane Otto, Bruce Christy IV, Emma Christy, Mila Christy, Guy Christy, Nicholas Peterson, Mallory Peterson, Carter Peterson, James Peterson, Coleman Christy, and Eva Christy.
In recent years, Al set out to visit as many national parks as he could. This July, he went to Rocky Mountain National Park with his daughter Megen and youngest grandson, James. On the last trail that Al would ever hike, James walked behind his grandpa and saw him lose his balance for an instant. James reached out to brace his fainting “Papa” and rested him to the ground where he peacefully and painlessly slept.
Al was born in Berkeley, California to Bruce and Fran Christy when Bruce was working on the design staff for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. When Al was five, the family moved to Seattle, Washington, where Bruce started work on the Lake Washington Floating Bridge.
Al described his upbringing in Seattle as idyllic. His love for the outdoors stems from annual trips to Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park with his parents and siblings, Bruce Jr., Sally, and Ken. (His sister, Sally, still vacations there every year with her extended family.)
Fran, an accomplished pianist and grade-school music teacher, imparted her love of classical music to Al. After high school, fittingly, he studied music and forestry at the University of Washington, and relished his job working on trail crews in Mount Rainier National Park.
Following his university studies, Al began training with the Navy ROTC, then transferred to the Marine Corps. In 1955, he became a commissioned officer and began training troops as an infantry commander on a U.S. base in Okinawa, Japan.
A posting in 1959 led him to North Carolina where he met Lizabeth Lynne Glassford. Serendipity would take them both from North Carolina to California, where they began dating a year after they met. In 1962, he and Lynne were married in the Marine Corp Base El Toro chapel in Irvine, California.
In 1965, Captain Christy began duty in Vietnam as Combat Intelligence Officer under Major General Lew Walt, who wanted his briefings to contain “ ... everything that happens, including one-shot misses!”
In 1966, he was reassigned as Company (battle) Commander of A Company, First Battalion Ninth Marines. Experiences during that year led him to recommend numerous decorations for his men’s gallantry in combat.
He, himself, earned the Silver Star Medal and the Navy Commendation Medal (with “V” for meritorious service in combat). Although many of his experiences during 1966 were “grim,” as he would say, his developed sense of duty, honor, discipline, leadership, friendship, and kindness would influence the rest of his life’s work.
Over his 20-year military career, Al and Lynne took up Marine Corps assignments and homes in Hawaii, California, and Virginia. Because of the duties that called him away, he was unable to be present at the first 3 births of his children. Besides front line battle duty, he served as Intelligence Analyst for the Secretary of the Navy at the Pentagon and Intelligence Planner at the U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C. He retired as lieutenant colonel in 1975 and the family moved to Provo, Utah, where Al began graduate studies at Brigham Young University.
Al would live the rest of his life in Utah. He earned 2 master’s degrees at BYU—one in American history (1978) and the other in library science (1982). In 1979, the Utah State Historical Society granted him the Dale L. Morgan Award for an essay he wrote while studying.
Upon graduating, he began a second career working at the university as Managing Editor for the university's press, then as Senior Editor of Scholarly Publications, where he helped university researchers and professors from all kinds of disciplines to prepare manuscripts for publication. (Visitors to his office at BYU would have to walk around his mountain bike to take a seat. An avid bicyclist, he pedaled over 20,000 miles in an effort both to keep in shape and to generously share his car with his children.)
Throughout his editing career, he continued to write, publishing several essays and co-authoring many more. In 1996, when he retired from BYU after 18 years, he began to focus on writing about the subjects that fascinated him most: love of neighbor and noble leadership. He published essays on both subjects and everyone in his inner circle (or who happened to be with him on a long car ride or hike) would gain a full understanding of his theses.
Another one of Al’s “careers” was that of Scout master. As part of his volunteer service in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he led Troop 744 in the Edgemont 14th Ward for 9 years, and was committee member and Varsity Scout coach for 3 more. His military discipline and love for the outdoors helped him mentor 93 young men to earn the award of Eagle Scout. One scout’s father recently recounted, “He led the boys as if they were Marines. The order and the discipline! Oh, what a site to see!” Some of hallmarks that were unique to Al’s troop included a midsize Bluebird school bus for transporting the troop; a climbable 15-foot tower with lookout deck that the scouts lashed together at scout camp every year; a presentation featuring a zip-lined fireball to start bonfires in packed scout camp amphitheaters; and a custom-designed annual scout camp held annually at Island Lake in the Uinta National Forest.
Other notable callings he held in the Church include branch president in the Provo, Utah Missionary Training Center; counselor and clerk to ward bishoprics; and, for the last 2 years, assistant executive secretary for the Provo young single adult 4th Stake presidency.
He has also been of service to his comrades in the First Battalion Ninth Marines, planning events where they could gather. He traveled to many funerals and get-togethers to share stories, deliver heartfelt speeches, listen, and be a supportive friend. For some of the funerals, he planned and printed the programs—a task he was honored to fulfill. Family members and friends often heard about the reminiscences and “SOS” breakfasts that he shared with these men in recent years. He dearly loved his 1/9 brothers.
In the later stage of their marriage, Al and Lynne were dedicated to seeing as much of the world as they could. They visited family, enjoyed cruises, and were able to fly almost anywhere worldwide on “Space A” flights because of Al’s military service. This meant that they could appear at any U.S. military runway in the world, stand by, and fly for free in all kinds of military aircraft, including near-empty C-17 cargo jets without seats. They would walk up the rear loading ramp of a jet, lay their thick foam pads and sleeping bags on the open floor, put their earplugs in place, and wake up in ... wherever. At home, Al displayed a framed map of the world with pins showing all the places he’d been. His military duties made his travel record impressive; “Space A” made it “world-class.”
Al’s passions were clear to those who knew him. His friends, children, and grandchildren were endeared by his proclivities and routines. He ate the same meal for breakfast (yogurt, walnuts, and canned pineapple chunks) every day for almost 10 years. (Then he altered things for the next few years by adding dried apricots.) Since his wife passed away, he switched to a high protein smoothie every morning to preserve muscle. All foods paired well with mayonnaise; and no dish could possibly come from the kitchen already having enough salt. If Papa found running shoes he liked, he’d go back to the store and buy every pair in his size; and if he found grapefruit-flavor diet Shasta soda on sale, he’d buy every bottle in the store. He said the word “bamboozled.” Excellent leadership attributes could be drawn from the “powerhouse” films “Master and Commander” and “Gettysburg,” each deserving of repeated viewings. Which is better, Tchaikovsky’s 5th or 6th symphony? It’s a toss-up.
“Could I have my apple pie á la mode?”
“I never joke. I always tell the truth.”
“So’s your old man!”
“Let me say just one more thing, and then I’ll shut up about this.”
In recent years, Al maintained an astounding daily 3-hour exercise routine. It included stretching and weight-lifting to keep his back strong. Before that, when his back could handle the strain, he ran daily, several miles, 6 days a week. (Another career: the completion of 11 marathons.)
Biking and marathon training led him to the mountains. He designed personalized training excursions through serene off-trail mountain passes and scenic national park roads. One time he paused before a Thoreau quote that was posted at a lookout point at a national park: I have come forth to this hill ... to see the forms and the mountains in the horizon—to behold and commune with something grander than man. He stood quietly for a moment and then said, “Yes. That’s how I feel.”
Years before he died, he told his children, “When it’s my turn to go, I think I’d like to go on a hike and just not come back.”
Join us to celebrate Al’s life at a reception from 9:00 a.m. until 10:45 a.m Saturday, July 11 at Nelson Family Mortuary, followed by a service at 11:00 a.m. (4780 N. University Avenue in Provo). We will use a trickle in-and-out system to manage Covid regulations for the viewing. The service is limited to 100 and requires an RSVP on NelsonMortuary.com. All others may view the live service at 11:00 on NelsonMortuary.com. Interment will take place at Eastlawn Memorial Cemetery, 4800 N 650 E in Provo, with a Marine Corps Honor ceremony. All are invited to attend this, but social distancing measures are requested.