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The instructor who ‘brightened everybody’s day’: Howard John Maskell, 1946 – 2022

Within the late Nineteen Seventies Howard Maskell walked alongside Tararu seashore in Thames with fellow instructor Gary Baillie. The pair got here throughout an unlimited variety of starfish that had been washed ashore in a current storm. Howard paused to choose one starfish up, throwing it again into the tide. He then repeated the motion, patiently working his method alongside the road of stranded creatures, returning every to the water.

Discovering the gesture subsequent to futile, Gary turned to his buddy and mentioned, “there are millions of them; you can not hope to make a distinction”. Pretending to not hear, Howard bent down and picked up one other starfish, persevering with his one-man rescue mission. He appeared up at Gary, grinned and replied, “effectively, I made a distinction to that one”.

In forty years of instructing, Howard Maskell made a distinction to 5000 lives. His abilities as an educator, a sports activities coach and a colleague have been grounded in kindness and empathy. He commanded his classroom, incomes the respect and affection of his college students with a peaceful, conscientious method, sustaining a rapport via his fast and wry sense of humour. His passing noticed an outpouring of grief on social media, with feedback numbering effectively into three figures, celebrating the person affectionately dubbed “Poppa Smurf”. “A real gentleman and distinctive instructor,” mentioned one former pupil; “my favorite instructor…such an inspiration to me and the rationale I majored in geography at college,” wrote one other; “he was a splendidly type man who was additionally numerous enjoyable and brightened everybody’s day,” mentioned a 3rd.

There was an outpouring of grief after news of Howard Maskell’s death was shared on social media, with comments celebrating the man affectionately called “Poppa Smurf”.


There was an outpouring of grief after information of Howard Maskell’s demise was shared on social media, with feedback celebrating the person affectionately referred to as “Poppa Smurf”.

Howard John Maskell was born 23 December 1946 in Auckland, the third youngster of Arthur Maskell and Eileen Maskell (nee Langton). He was of English and Danish ancestry and named after Eileen’s brother Howard, who had died while on energetic service throughout World Struggle II. Arthur labored for Sutherland Tannery and shortly after Howard was born the household shifted right into a three-bedroom state home in Onehunga. Howard would stay there till he obtained married, sharing a room with youthful brother Paul.

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As a youngster, Howard Maskell was rejected by a local rugby club because of his height, so he turned to football.


As a teen, Howard Maskell was rejected by an area rugby membership due to his peak, so he turned to soccer.

The Maskells didn’t personal a automobile. Visits to grandparents have been made by way of tram or practice.

Howard attended Onehunga Main College and from 1960 via 1964, Onehunga Excessive College. As a younger man he was keen on singing the hits of the day, the acoustics of the household residence bathroom exhibiting off his boy soprano voice to benefit.

Eager on sport, Howard was rejected by an area rugby membership on account of his peak and thereafter embraced the gorgeous recreation, taking part in soccer for each faculty and the Onehunga-Mangere Membership. Aged 15 he tripped throughout a match and performed on till half-time, regardless of having damaged his arm. He additionally performed tennis and was famend for his operating velocity. With a aggressive spirit, he excelled at card and board video games, instructing youthful sibling Paul as he would later instruct his personal youngsters and grandchildren.

Howard Maskell and wife Ann lived in London for two years in the 70s and travelled around Europe when they could.


Howard Maskell and spouse Ann lived in London for 2 years within the 70s and travelled round Europe once they might.

After finishing a Bachelor of Arts at Auckland College, within the late Sixties Howard enrolled at Auckland Academics’ Coaching Faculty. At a university occasion one evening he met Ann Murray and the attraction was close to on the spot. Their first date, a night at Western Springs Speedway, ended memorably, with Ann shoving Howard’s unresponsive automobile, he behind the wheel, in an tried push begin. Howard would later suggest within the Civil Defence Bunker at Mt. Eden. He and Ann have been married in 1970.

After two years saving, Howard and Ann departed for England on New 12 months’s Eve 1971, aboard the Australis. Dwelling in London for 2 years, travelling round Europe as often as funds would permit, Howard was initially employed as a aid instructor. On his first day, a bomb scare noticed the college evacuated. On one other event he was approached by a pupil and instructed “Mister, you’re taking our class at present as a result of I didn’t just like the final instructor so I obtained my brother to return in and beat him up and he’s in hospital”.

A extra everlasting – and safer – place was secured with the Hendon Police Cadet Faculty, instructing the geography of London. Other than the irony of a colonial instructing the locals on their very own metropolis, Howard’s vertically challenged body appeared at occasions comedian subsequent to the towering dimensions of the aspiring bobbies.

Adventures have been had in Scotland, Scandinavia and Spain. A 3-month stint on the continent was sustained via a eating regimen of canned items and tent dwelling. Ann and Howard narrowly escaped being arrested in then Communist Yugoslavia when picnicking too near a navy web site and have been chased by Bulgarian police after taking {a photograph} of an impoverished suburb.

Howard Maskell and wife Ann had two children: Travis and Danielle.


Howard Maskell and spouse Ann had two youngsters: Travis and Danielle.

Returning to New Zealand, each Howard and Ann took instructing jobs at Thames Excessive College in 1974. Their relative youth and inexperience have been thought virtues by principal Terry Loney and in step with different appointments. The workers grew collectively of their occupation, socialising after hours, babysitting one another’s youngsters and pitching in at home working bees.

One modern from this time remembers Howard as a “a tremendous, reliable, in a position, convivial and sociable man who was extremely revered by college students, colleagues and the group”. Other than his instructing prowess, he was enthusiastic in sports activities, each in instruction and direct competitors, his flip of velocity invaluable in observe relays, cricket and particularly his beloved soccer. His trademark humour typically expressed itself in sensible jokes; his love of board video games within the invention of one among his personal. “Beneath [Howard’s]…earnest exterior”, mentioned one other instructing buddy, “bubbled a enjoyable streak itching to get out”.

Travis, Ann and Howard’s son, was born in 1980. Danielle, their daughter, was born in 1983.

Special school camps and trips, especially to Tongariro, were a Howard Maskell speciality, due to a particular love of geography.


Particular faculty camps and journeys, particularly to Tongariro, have been a Howard Maskell speciality, because of a specific love of geography.

In 1983, Howard was appointed head of social research, geography and historical past at Hauraki Plains Faculty, the place he was to show for the next 31 years. A referee’s report described him as “energetic and environment friendly, with a transparent sense of function and loyalty” and that “in all that he undertakes the wants of the pupils and the morale of the workers he works with are paramount”. So it proved to be in his new appointment. As a curriculum chief Howard was proactive and delicate to altering occasions and expertise, instrumental in introducing computer systems and audio visible instructing into the school. In 1996 he gained the Woolf Fisher Award, enabling him to journey to review using info expertise in Australian colleges.

Howard’s explicit love of geography discovered expression in particular camps and out of doors experiences, particularly journeys to Tongariro. He was additionally the mainstay of soccer at Hauraki Plains Faculty, teaching for over twenty years and persevering with to play the sport himself into his 40s.

Central to Howard’s success as an educator was his capability to encourage by instance, one grounded in a real enjoyment in working with younger folks. A peaceful, assured manner, at all times leavened with humour, noticed him appreciated as a real gentleman by the harshest critics of all: his pupils. Within the opinion of buddy Gary Baillie, Howard’s profession exemplified a sensible outdated maxim: “college students might not at all times bear in mind precisely what you taught them however they’ll always remember the way you made them really feel”. Howard made his college students really feel revered and impressed.

A wise old maxim exemplified Howard Maskell’s career, says a teacher friend: "students may not always remember exactly what you taught them but they will never forget how you made them feel".


A sensible outdated maxim exemplified Howard Maskell’s profession, says a instructor buddy: “college students might not at all times bear in mind precisely what you taught them however they’ll always remember the way you made them really feel”.

Howard transitioned from full-time instructing to part-time work in 2005 and retired in 2013.

After 40 years dwelling in Thames, Howard and Ann retired to Mangawhai, the place son-in-law Barry constructed them a house. Retirement enabled additional journey to be loved. Through the years Howard and Ann ventured all around the globe, together with Africa, South East Asia, China, Australia, Canada and the USA, with prolonged holidays in California and a music journey via Memphis, Nashville, Mississippi and New Orleans.

Howard was an impressive father, supportive but non-judgemental, who bonded with each youngsters and grandchildren over sport and video games, particularly poker.

After a quick battle with most cancers, Howard John Maskell died on 19 September 2022, at residence, surrounded by household. He’s survived by Ann, his spouse of 52 years, youngsters Travis and Danielle, son-in-law Barry and 7 grandchildren.

Howard Maskell coached football at Hauraki Plains College for more than two decades and played into his 40s. Pictured is a Thames Association Football Club team in 1978.


Howard Maskell coached soccer at Hauraki Plains Faculty for greater than twenty years and performed into his 40s. Pictured is a Thames Affiliation Soccer Membership crew in 1978.

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