FREELAND — Bruce Howard lost his only son, Ryan, to an automobile accident in March 2006.
And in a show of what he felt his son would have wanted, the father donated a portion of the insurance proceeds — totalling nearly $11,000 — to Nichols Brothers Boat Builders Inc. The money is to be used to fund the Ryan Howard Apprentice Tool Fund.
But the shipyard lost a hard worker as well. Ryan Howard loved his ship fitting job. Matt Nichols, chief executive officer, recalled that Howard’s star had begun to rise and he was positioned to assume a management position in a few short years.
“We are always looking for bright young people with a good attitude and that was what Ryan had; fun guy, smart guy, right attitude,” Nichols said.
“It was a terrible tragedy to us to lose a fine and gifted person to the yard. We were going to groom him for a position in management,” Nichols added. “He always promoted the positive here. He was the ideal Nichols team player.”
Now, the dedicated worker will be remembered by those just starting out at the shipyard, young workers who aren’t financially capable of buying their own tools outright.
“He loved working here. He loved the guys. He was a welder and a fitter, and he was given a lot of jobs on the boats,” Howard’s father said.
“Ryan would, I think, be pleased if we just leave it with the company for folks that come aboard that need financial help getting tools and training. So that is what we decided to do,” Bruce Howard said.
“It is a very positive thing, I think Ryan would have wanted that. We are leaving a kind of legacy for the kid,” his father added.
Nichols looks forward to using the fund to help new employees, or family members, as he calls them, and said that upwards of 100 people may benefit from the tool fund.
“For Bruce and the Howard family to do this really touches us very deeply,” Nichols said. “And it will touch many other people to come down the road. This money could go a long way.”
Nichols said he appreciated Howard’s father for donating the money as well.
“I think it is a wonderful gesture and it is a real tribute to Ryan to have parents and family like he has. To give back and to share is something that goes beyond, a step above, and a real class act,” he said.
Spencer Webster can be reached at 221-5300 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.