Robert E. Howard fandom has lost two tireless supporters of late. And I’ve lost two friends.
First, Steve Tompkins died March 23rd, although I didn’t find out about it until Friday, April 3rd. Steve was in REHupa with me, the Robert E. Howard foundation. We found out from his brother that he had been admitted into the hospital after a bout with food poisoning, but then had a heart attack, which is what killed him. He had been rallying from the food poisoning when the heart attack occurred. Steve lived in New York City where he worked for The Bank of New York. His parents and three brothers are still living and I know they must miss him terribly.
I only met Steve once in person, in Cross Plains, Texas for Howard Days, but we corresponded many times over the years. Steve was the most erudite person I’ve ever known, with a prodigious memory for literary works and a wonderfully witty style of writing about literature. He single-handedly raised the level of Howard scholarship with his many essays for REHupa, as well as his blog posts and his beautifully researched introductions and/or essays for a number of recent Howard books. He will be missed by many, and I’m one of them.
Then, on Saturday, April 4, I found out that Joan McCowen had died after a year long battle with cancer. Joan was a member of Project Pride, the local Cross Plains group that bought and restored the Robert E. Howard house and turned it into a museum. She always supported Howard's Legacy, and the Howard fans who trooped through Cross Plains every year. Joan was a strong presence every time I went to Cross Plains for Howard days. She was a personable and energetic woman, although in the last year or so she had really been hit hard by her illness. She too will be missed, and everywhere I look in Cross Plains this year there will be a blank spot hiding part of the world.