HQD: a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather

Ambassador Howard Dee and wife Betty (middle) and children (from left) Angie, Michele, Marybeth and Richard.

I recall attending a convention on philanthropy with my mom and dad in Singapore. He was speaking to one of the organizers and mentioned he disliked the title of philanthropist. He felt the word has an undertone of a hierarchy between rich donors and those in need. He preferred to see himself as a social worker. We are all equal in God’s eyes. We are all one. It is not a privilege but justice and our duty to God and humanity to help one another. In my father’s words, “Justice is the highest form of love. There is no greater love than this, to act justly and if need be, to lay down your life for your friends.” —Marybeth Dee, daughter

As the Christmas season gets closer, it reminds me of one of the earliest lessons that Dad and Mom taught us from a very young age. I remember that as a little girl, like many young children, I waited for Christmas morning with great excitement and anticipation. Because my parents had many big-hearted friends, we the children were the lucky beneficiaries of their friends’ generosity. As we delighted over the many sparkly, noisy, fluffy, colorful, electronic and cuddly toys that we opened up on Christmas morning, we were gently reminded by our parents that we were only allowed to choose two gifts each to keep because every Dec. 26, we would all go to the orphanage with a carload of gifts to share with the children there. By encouraging us to go and share the overabundance of toys with less fortunate children, we were able to see the smiles of delight on their faces and experience the joy of giving. As we grew older, we witnessed how Dad devoted his life’s work to helping those in need. He encourages us, his children, his grandchildren, and all of those of us who have gifts to share, to help in this mission. It is only now, as I reminisce about those childhood Christmas mornings, that I realize that the real gift that Dad and Mom were giving us was to experience the children’s smiles of delight and the joy of giving – a gift that will last a lifetime.—Michele Dee Comair, daughter

Fifty-three years ago, after surgery in Boston to correct severe cataracts in both eyes, Dad could hardly see. As a young girl of 7 then, I would lead him by hand daily so he could make his way around. He nicknamed me “my Seeing Eye dog”– I loved my new name and took my job seriously. My dad actually depended on me to lead him! Thankfully, it is entirely the other way around in reality: Dad has always been and will always be my Seeing Eye dog. The humble witness of his life – his deep faith and trust in God, his love for family, country and fellowmen, especially the poor, his work for justice and peace, his wisdom, courage, generosity and perseverance in the causes he believes in (working six days a week at almost 90 years of age) – all of this and more have been a guiding light and source of inspiration for me and, I’m sure, for many others. Lead on, Dad, lead on. — Angie Dee, daughter

Ambassador Howard Dee and wife Betty (second from right) and children (from left) Michele and Marybeth.

Howard Dee, my lolo, is not only an astounding philanthropist, business person, and man of faith but is a true family man – a father, grandfather and great-grandfather. With countless accomplishments and accolades, enough for many lifetimes, he has always worked the most hard to raise our amazing family. Our family is scattered throughout the globe, yet we are always bonded by love and a sense of togetherness. Whenever we unite, even though it is not often enough, it feels as if time has never passed. We may grow older, work new jobs, go through all kinds of roller coasters, but our bond never changes. Lolo, thank you for what all you and Lola have done for us. Thank you for the trail you have blazed for all of us so we can all make our own while always knowing there is a way home. Sending love from Seattle! — Alex Comair, grandson

From left: JP and Christian Anthony, Teresa and Ace Anthony (baby), Joseph Anthony, Betty, Howard, Christopher and Alex Comair, Mia Anthony, Kiko Dee. The Anthonys are Angie’s children, Teresa is daughter-in-law (married to Sean, not in photo), Ace is her apo and the first great grandchild of Howard and Betty. He is now 3 years old. The Comairs are Michele’s sons and Kiko is Richard and Viel’s son.

In early elementary school, we were taught to find a role model in each of the fields of education, business, charity, and faith. We were taught to explore and research a different person that represented each field in an exemplary way. This was supposed to be a long and tiresome task. However, for the grandchildren of Howard Dee it was easy. We already knew of one person who represented each field in an exemplary fashion: our own lolo. Lolo always stressed the importance of education, and although he left his MBA early, he did it because it was the right business decision at the time. After a successful endeavor as an entrepreneur, Lolo devoted his life to charity and faith; building a charity focused on improving the lives of the local indigenous Filipinos. It is truly an honor to see him recognized in this regard. —Christian Anthony, eldest grandson