Wed. Jul 8th, 2020

RIP #50 Howie Oakden

4 min read

The Speedway Community has lost an irreplaceable friend…#50 Howie “The Hammer” Oakden has passed after a long battle with cancer. Howie was a good division one rider in the 70’s and 80’s back here, an important part of the group from Rochester and Robinson Cycle Sales that brought speedway back to the East Coast in the mid 70’s. He made a comeback in the late 90’s when I got things going again and rode into the 2000’s with his son, Dave, and even when Dave took a break up until last year, Howie could be seen many nights in the grandstands with his brother, Don, and family, enjoying and supporting his favorite sport! News of Howie having several forms of cancer came last year and while it would have been totally understandable if he were to be bitter and negative about it, that was the amazing thing about him…he battled on and remained upbeat and positive to all of us! He spent the whole season last year supporting and enjoying the races as he watched Dave make a comeback and watched his Grandson, Dan, make him proud, while wearing his old leathers, and winning D-2 at one of the first events last season! The drive to Owego for all of us from Rochester is nearly 3 hours, one way, and race nights are already a grind…on the road, fast food, late night, little sleep and Howie did it while going through chemo treatment and I can only imagine how lousy he was feeling! Howie even was helping in the pits a couple nights! Howie never seemed to complain and always had a smile on his face. He was truly one of the nicest and most well-liked people in the sport! I always tell people how I loaned him a bike for a few weeks one year and got it back in nicer condition than I gave it to him and that is very rare! That was just the way he was! I remember as a little kid at the races, all the guys were good to me but there were a couple who I vividly remember as paying a little more attention to me, or having more interaction with, and Howie was one of them, along with George “Lazorbeam” Lazor,¬† “Rowdy” Rick Stone, who used to let me spray him with a fire extinguisher!, and “Marvelous” Marv Decker, who used to talk to me on the road to the races on the old CB radios! It is strange the things you remember…Howie was the one who told me Dale Earnhardt had been killed. We all knew the outcome for Howie was not good but you just always think or hope there will be a next time or one more time…Howie texted me 3 weeks ago on Sunday, the day of our Spring Classic, to ask me what time the races were? I was swamped as usual, stressing to get ready, and said quickly¬†6pm. He shot me one back saying ok great, see you then! I replied…awesome! I was surprised to hear he was coming because Dave and Dan could not even make it that night and Dave had told me Howie had not been feeling well, but then again knowing Howie’s character and love for speedway, I was not really that surprised! I thought to myself, oh that is so cool Howie is coming down, can’t wait to see him! I went through that whole evening never seeing Howie there and assumed he ended up not feeling up to coming…I got a note from Don the next day saying what a great time they had at the races and how it was really good for Howie!! I was really bummed I never got to speak to him and am even more bummed now that I never saw him there that night but that was the way Howie was…very humble and knowing him, he probably just thought I was too busy and didn’t want to bother me! Don sent me a message yesterday saying there will be no services for Howie at Howie’s request…I am not sure, but am guessing knowing Howie that he just didn’t want people to be sad or make a fuss over him or be bothered! He must have assumed he was an average person, when really, he wasn’t! He was a pretty special guy!! Of all the criminals and low life people in this world you wonder why something like this has to happen to such a good person? Howie’s family has already had their share of tragedy too, his sister lost in an accident years ago, his brother also lost to cancer young, but I guess the answer is the best are needed sooner for more important duty! I will miss my friend Howie, we all will! Even though we won’t be able to speak to him, I will know everytime I look over in the grandstands in the top of turn one, he will be standing there!

Jason

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