Posted by Carrie Condran LaBriola on Aug 24, 2020
Past President and Past District Governor Peter Lagarias describes Dr. Howard Denbo as “a Rotarian’s Rotarian.”

Dr. Denbo was a vascular surgeon at St. Francis Memorial Hospital, where he served as chief of surgery from 1982-85. He died May 24 at the age of 90 and was interred at the US Military Cemetery in Dixon, CA. He served with the US Army in Korea, was recalled briefly to active duty during the Cuban Missile Crisis and retired from the US Army Reserves in 1968. He was also a sailor and pilot. For more information, see his obituary.
“We were friends for 52 years,” says former Club member Dr. Angelo Capozzi. “We met at St. Francis Memorial Hospital in 1968. Howie was already a Rotarian, I think he joined the year before, and I joined in 1971. It was a remarkable friendship for 52 years. One thing that held us together was he was born and raised in South Bend, and I attended Notre Dame. We took several trips to South Bend for football. We were also colleagues at St. Francis, then I moved on to Shriners, but he stayed at St. Francis.”

Angelo says he and his wife, Louise, “spent time with him and his wife, Lana, in Tahoe, and we had dinner with them a couple of months before he passed. He was a very humble guy, never said a bad word about anybody, very generous, had a loving heart, loved to have a good time.”

“Howard was an ebullient and dedicated Rotarian,” Peter agrees. “He was joyous whether at meetings at the Sheraton-Palace Hotel or Rotary galas accompanied by his wife, Lana. Although his medical career did not allow him to serve as (Club) President, he was always a stalwart Rotarian.”
Past President Harold Hoogasian remembers Dr. Denbo as “a strong supporter of Rotary service,” recalling especially his leadership of the Club’s annual blood drive.

“The blood bank, that was his baby,” agrees Past President John Hoch. “He rallied all the Rotarians to donate.”

“He ran the Rotary Club blood drive year after year,” says Past President Jim Bradley. “The Blood Bank of the Pacific had a fire in one of its vans, maybe 2004, and Howard Denbo and (then-President) Howard Waits worked together to raise $100,000 to replace the blood mobile, where four or five people could give blood at the same time. The van went around with the Rotary symbol thanking us for doing that. It was a big project for the Club moneywise, but it was important for the community, too. We may have a couple hundred pints to our credit.”

Jim also remembers Dr. Denbo as “basically the Club’s San Francisco doctor whom you could talk to and he would send you to a specialist. He was kind of a quiet guy, but a solid Rotarian.” Peter notes that he also provided exams to children attending the Boys and Girls Clubs Camp Mendocino. 

Past President and Past District Governor Eric Schmautz worked at one time with both of Dr. Denbo’s sons. Todd, the younger, worked at Wells Fargo from 2013-14 and “lives in the neighborhood,” Eric says. The older, Drew, who worked for a different company in Eric’s building, sometimes drove his father to Club meetings. 

“I remember when we went from mailing Grindings to emailing,” Eric says, “Howard wanted to have it faxed to him, along with nine or 10 other members, so we figured out how to turn the email into a fax.”

But what most members recall about Dr. Denbo was his sunny disposition. “He never seemed to be in a bad mood, always upbeat, one of the nicest people you could meet or talk to, one of those nice guys that was nice to have known, one of those unassuming people. He was always so gracious,” John says. “He was one of those sweet people, not out in the limelight except for the blood donations, just attending meetings and supporting Rotary.”