Howard Lewis Fish Jr. (1940 - 2019)

On the afternoon of June 7th, 2019 Howard Fish passed away gently in his sleep at the age or 78 after a long fight with Myelofibrosis, a rare form of leukemia.

Howard was born to Howard Sr. and Ruby Fish in 1940 in Flint, Michigan. The family, including his two sisters Nancy and Carol, moved to Milwaukee Wisconsin shortly thereafter where he spent his youth. He attended Congress K-8 Primary School and Wauwatosa High School with his friends David St George and Jim Waltz. Following in his father's engineering footsteps, he attended GMI (General Motors Institute) for two years and then changed directions, moved to California, and enrolled in San Jose State University. He earned a BS in Industrial Technology with a minor in Economics In 1965 and earned his MBA 1967. He was married to Yolanda in 1967 so he had to finally leave college and go to work.

He briefly worked in the industrial technology field for Lockheed Martin and Hewlett Packard after initially graduating from San Jose State, but by 1972 made to the move to Real Estate finance work. He became a loan officer and appraiser for Fidelity Savings in San Jose and them went on to managed branch for them in Los Altos, CA before transferring to their new branch in Napa, CA. After Fidelity went out of business, he worked for the State of California Housing and Community affairs to manage the development of the Rental Housing Construction Program. In 1982 he returned to the private sector for six years as a manager for American Savings in the Real Estate Owned department. In 1988 he returned to the State of California for the balance of his finance career working in various Real Estate programs that the State managed through the Housing and Community Development department. With an eye on retiring, and wanting to try something more people oriented and less financial, he transferred to Caltrans in 1997 and worked there the balance of his career as the Office Chief for the Office of Training and Management Support until retiring from the State in 2000.

Now the real work began. Howard was a believer in lifelong learning. He was constantly taking classes and reading. I once asked why he was always taking classes if he didn’t have to, he replied that you should always be learning until the day you die, which he did. He took Spanish classes, Italian Classes, Wine classes, flight classes, guitar and music classes, etc. He even went to a Spanish immersion school in Costa Rica for a month. 

He took every wine class at the Napa Junior college they had until they ran out of classes and he earned a certificate of Viticulture and Wine Technology. He asked a teacher at the college what he should do now, and they said go get a part time job at a winery. A temp agency offered to put him on a bottling line, so he called Robert Mondavi Winery to see if it was legit job or agency. The person on the phone said forget the temp agency, come up here and get to work. Which he did for the next several years both full time and part time. That’s where he met his good friend Jeff Miller, who he partnered with to make his own wines. Jeff and Howard did their best to involve all their friends, family, and neighbors in their wine making endeavors, which led to a lot of cooking by Yolanda and wine tasting by everyone else. They did there last bottling on May 25th of this year.

In addition to the many hobbies noted above Howard and Yolanda became avid travelers thanks to their friend and travel agent Florida Shilling. They made their way to Europe and South America a few times, to Tahiti, Hawaii, and various parts of the U.S. They made frequent trips to Wisconsin and San Diego to see family. Their last big trip together was a return trip to Japan in 2018, guided by Yuzo Koga who Howard first met in Japan in 1963 at Meiji University.

Lastly, his story would be remiss without mentioning the reason he left the GMI (now renamed Kettering University) in Flint Michigan and traveled across the country in the dead of winter to move to San Jose, California. 

When he was a small kid he saw a demonstration of the sport of Judo on TV and later a live demonstration by two Milwaukee police officers. At fifteen years of age, he took up the sport at the Milwaukee YMCA, and it’s been in his life in some form ever since. A mentor at the club told him if he wanted to go where the best practiced, head to San Jose, California and see Yosh Uchida. So he packed up the Corvair, waited for a day or so till the weather heated up to negative 25 degrees and headed for California.

In California he enjoyed great success in the sport of Judo winning numerous Collegiate National and Senior National titles in the Heavyweight and Open Divisions. He was also proud to represent the United States and San Jose State at the 1967 University World Collegiate Championships in Tokyo, Japan (Judo story published separately). Judo is a sport that took him around the country and around the world, but more importantly a sport that introduced him to many lifelong friends. To name a few: the Newquists, the Matteoni, the Kogas, the Knapkes, the Horbalys, the Penningtons, the Mayedas, Norona’s, Dobachi’s, Uchida’s, Oday’s, Maruyamas, Bakers, and many more.

<p">He is survived by his wife, Yolanda, his two children, Bill and Linda, his grandchildren, Shelli, Shannon, Robbie, Kailey and Hannah, his sisters Nancy and Carol, his two nieces Lisa and Joanne, and several cousins, and many great friends.</p">


A service celebrating Howard’s life will be held Tuesday, June 18th, 2019 11:00 am - noon, followed by a reception at the Fishes House

Tulocay Cemetery and Funeral home
411 Coombsville Road
Napa CA, 94559


In lieu of flowers a donation to the San Jose State Judo Program or the San Jose Buddhist Judo Club would be much appreciated.

San Jose State Judo
Payable to: Tower Foundation - Judo
SJS Judo
95 S. Market St. Suite #650
San Jose, CA 95113


Or for the San Jose Buddhist Judo Club:
Payable to: “SJB Kikuchi Scholarship”
Vaughn Imada
2600 Maplewood Ln
Santa Clara CA 95051


On June 1, 2019, Howard Fish was inducted into the USA Judo Hall of Fame. Below is his speech and a message from his peers.