Howard Bock: A Man Who Changed My Life

An old high school friend sent me a link to a story in my hometown Cape Girardeau, MO, newspaper.

Howard Bock was dead at 87

Howard Bock, Cape Girardeau eductatorHoward Gilbert Bock, 87, lifelong resident of Cape Girardeau, died Monday, May 11, 2009.

It was a longish obituary by most standards because he had a much more active life than I ever knew.

The quiet-spoken man had been an engineer gunner on B-26s in World War II. You would never know from talking with him that he had he been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, five air medals, American Defense Medal and campaign ribbons (Battle of Europe, Battle of the Rhineland and Battle of Ardennes-The Bulge).

He had been a teacher, coach and administrator for 32 years.

His wife was my Cub Scout den mother

The Bocks lived on my newspaper route (on the left side of the road on a downhill stretch; they didn’t have any special requests, so I could fling and wing without slowing down). Jo Ann Bock, his wife, was my Cub Scout den mother.

I fell in love with photography

When I was 12 years old, our family took a vacation / business trip to Florida. (Dad was looking for construction equipment to buy.) He gave me a Kodak Tourist II folding camera and I fell in love with photography.

Debate, law and politics looked in my future

When I was a high school freshman, I discovered the debate club. My partner and I were undefeated for the year and I thought law and politics were in my future. (One of these days I’ll write about how I discovered that I wasn’t a good politician.)

Mr. Bock changed my life

Mr. Bock approached me one day and said that he had heard that I was interested in photography and wondered if I might like to join the newspaper and yearbook photo staffs.

I don’t know that I gave it much thought, but I joined the staff and learned how to process film and make prints in a tiny darkroom on the second floor down near the science classrooms. There wasn’t enough room to swing a cat, but we photographers had a key to the darkroom and it was our special place to hang out between classes.

Cape CHS Girardot Photo StaffIt wasn’t long before I was freelancing for the local papers and discovering that being a photographer doing exciting things was more fun than the prospect of doing dull lawyer research.

Thank you, Mr. Bock. My thoughts are with your family.

3 Replies to “Howard Bock: A Man Who Changed My Life”

  1. Way cool.

    My teacher was Mr. Brasington. He taught physics and physical education. The darkroom was in the back of his shop.

    I don’t remember how I got there, but one day I got the key. We did 11 X 16’s by tilting the Bogen to project on the wall and I got my first kiss in that darkroom.

    As one would suspect, she was a blonde.

    We did 35 and 4X5 negs. We also got the key to the observatory. 16 inch Cassegrain.

    The guys from Irmo thought it was a silo and threw rocks at it to hear them bang off the shielding.

    There was one guy in my class who won a science project award for mapping the radio signatures of Jupiter. He turned out to be a Bible pounder. Go figure.

  2. My best buddy in high school was a science whiz who is a high energy nuclear physicist. He has spent his whole career looking for subatomic particles that may or may not exist. (All on my tax dollars.)

    He built a laser back in the days before lasers were common things. I’m surprised he didn’t blow out the wall of his basement the first time he fired it up. This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill laser pointers like we have these days.

    He had a profound influence on me.

    1. He and I were cruising around when we spotted a new cashier at the Rialto Theater. We flipped a coin to see who would make the first run at her. I won the flip and the girl. We’ll be married 40 years next month.

    2. He convinced me that I should transfer out of SE MO State College and follow him to Ohio University “while you still can.” If it hadn’t been for his nudge, there’s no doubt that I would still be there.

  3. Ken,
    What a moving tribute to my husband…thank you for
    sharing your memory of Howard as your inspiration for
    discovering the road to photography. We have all benefited from your expertise, talents, and devotion to
    your work. What is truly wonderful is that you are still bringing us joy with your photographs and memories
    of our hometown. Jo Ann

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