Some athletes make their name starring on playing fields, on the rink, on the hardwood or a tennis court. Some take their love of a sport and expertise and instill their passion for it in others. The late Arthur Howe, who died on April 24, 2012, was one of those people.
Dubbed “The Father of Branford Wrestling” in 1984, Howe, who was a “formidable” heavyweight collegiate wrestler at Paul Smiths College (Paul Smiths, NY), spent his young adult life introducing wrestling to many young men, some of whose lives may have been forever changed by his attention.
After serving in the Navy right out of high school, the Branford native graduated from Paul Smiths in 1951 with a degree in Forestry. He joined the Branford Police Force in 1954, and it was while walking his beat in the Fourth Ward where he noted unruly teenagers fighting among themselves, that he recognized that “these kids needed some controlled way to use their excess energy, and they needed to have their time filled in a safer and more constructive environment under supervision….”
At the time, the only area wrestling programs were at Yale University and the New Haven YMCA, so Howe got permission from the late Recreation Director Joe Trapasso to use the Branford Community House to start the Branford High School wrestling program, improvising wrestling mats by borrowing some of the mats protecting the gym windows.
Howe recruited kids off street corners, sometimes dumping them into his own car, to get enough for a class. A few years later, with a move to better facilities at Sliney School, he beefed up the program to 80 kids by wisely scheduling it after football season and scooping up some of those athletes. Overwhelmed, he appealed to the Y for help, which sent not only a few coaches, but also opened its facilities to them for “the grand sum of 25 cents a night.”
The program was off and running, expanding to judo and boxing in just its fourth year with the addition of fellow officer Albert Washington. After eight years, Howe retired from the program, which he recalled as “some of my most satisfying and memorable days” to juggle both his police work and his Shoreline Tree Service, which remained in business for more than 50 years.
Arthur would have been even more satisfied and proud to know that his nascent program grew into a championship caliber team that won its first state wrestling title, the CIAC Class M Championship, in February of 2022, with four wrestlers placing first in their weight classes.
In 1986, after serving the Branford Police Department for 34 years and working through the ranks to the Detective Division, Howe retired as a lieutenant. He then devoted full time to utilizing that Forestry major and his love of nature, creating trails and programs for the Regional Water Authority recreation program, serving on the Town Green Committee and on the Branford Conservation Commission for 20 years, and inspecting for coastal dock permits.
In addition to crabbing, birding and canoeing, he was dubbed Clam Man by his fishing buddies in the Adirondacks, because he always brought clams there on his annual visits to fish and enjoy his membership with the Saranac Lake (N.Y.) Bobsled Club.
Howe was a Branford Elks member, serving as Exalted Ruler in 1974, a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7666 and American Legion Post 83, and was also a second-generation member of the Stony Creek Fife and Drum Corps and an avid fan of the New York Yankees, Giants and UConn basketball teams. Arthur is survived by his wife Alice.