On March 11, 2008 we received news that our good friend, Howard Gobioff, had died earlier in the day:

It is with great sadness that I write to you today. I don’t know how some of you know Howard, but your email address was in his phone. Howard passed away this afternoon at approximately 1pm after a battle with lymphoma. He was originally diagnosed in 2003 with a non-aggressive type of lymphoma and chose not to tell anyone including his family. On 1/31/2008 he was admitted to Memorial Sloan-Kettering hospital with pneumonia and found that the cancer had transformed into something more aggressive. He asked me to come up on 2/8/2008. Two days later he was admitted to the ICU and I informed the rest of his family. For the last 31 days Howard put up quite a fight but eventually acquired an infection that his body was no longer able to fight.

He will be buried in Hollywood, Florida this Friday ( 3/14/2008 ) at

Beth David Memorial Gardens
3201 NW 72nd Ave
Hollywood, FL 33024

The service will be at 2pm in the chapel.

For those of you unable to attend I will be putting together something in NY sometime in the near future and will keep you informed.

Please do not send flowers. If you’d like to do something, please donate to one of the charities Howard chose to leave money to:

Lymphoma and Lukemia Society
ACLU Foundation
Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Thank you,

Neil Gobioff

The news was, and still is, absolutely shocking. He will be greatly missed as we are left behind to puzzle out the reasons that such a life could be so tragically cut short.

We would like to present this site in his honor so that those who were unable to say good bye can share their memories of this unique and irrepressible individual and express their condolences to his family and friends. Please take a moment to leave behind a comment about the man we knew and loved.

29 thoughts on “

  1. Howard and I spent over 5 years working in the same research group at CMU and have been close friends ever since. The great thing about writing a research paper with 6 or 8 authors is that in the last few days before the paper is due, writing can go on in shifts 24 hours per day and people still get to sleep. We did that more than once.

  2. I had the pleasure of working with Howard early on at Google. He was excepionally kind and always helped out when needed.

    Although I haven’t talked to Howard in many years, his kindness and brilliance are things I will never forget.

    Like many, I was shocked and extremely saddened to hear of his passing.

    I will keep Howard and his family in my thoughts and prayers.

    God Bless you Howard.

  3. I only met Howard once at a restaurant in L.E.S with my sister in December 2007. After the dinner we went to Angel Shares for the cocktails and had an interesting conversation with a glass of Negroni.

    For some strange reason, I thought of him often(although, I met him only once) and he left a kind impression on me, and I am deeply sadden by him passing away.

    Just like I remembered that night, I cheered with my hudband for Howard’s safe and wonderful trip to heaven on Wednesday.

    Good bye, Howard! We will be missing you!

  4. I met Howard on a Tokyo dance floor sometime in 2005. My girlfriend and I immediately found him to be one of the most colorful individuals we had ever met. While obviously very intelligent, Howard was one of the very few who feel comfortable living life on their own terms, yet he did so in a very altruistic manner. Though never looking to be the center of attention, Howard added the spice to social occasions here in Tokyo. Whether it was dining, philosophizing, dancing or just hanging out, Howard did it all with rare verve and flair.
    But most of all he was a real friend.
    Many here in Tokyo will miss him.

  5. i can’t believe i’m reading about Howard in the past tense. he was a remarkably bright person, and truly an individual. he definitely made the world a more interesting place.

  6. Howard spent many evenings and nights on dance floors in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Tokyo, New York and probably many other cities as well. I remember that in Pittsburgh, no one else at CMU could keep up with him. He would invite us and from time to time some of us had the energy to go along – to Metropol or Laga or the Upstage (there was a particular night appropriate for each one, we were chastised if we couldn’t keep track) – but Howard’s dedication to his social life and to “his crowd” at each of these places was in many ways on par with his dedication to his research.

  7. During one of his very first media interviews in Google Japan, he told the reporter that he wants to hire engineers who can change the world with him. It moved me a lot and now I believe engineer is the coolest job to have.

    He has been my great advisor and supporter for years. The last IM we had on my birthday, which happened to be few days before he went to the hospital, was about my future, too. It is impossible for me to accept he is not there anymore. I really would like to tell him how much he mean to me and how much I appreciate for being such a great friend. “I had fun with you in Tokyo, SF and NYC. It is such an honor being your friend”.

  8. Neil,

    I heard from my Google network about Howard and words cannot express the emotions that are felt when a life is so suddenly and unfairly interrupted.

    I was one of the first 25 employees at Google and knew that Sergey recruited Howard to come over from their Univ of Md days. I attended American University in DC and I often talked with Howard about the DC area. I handled Public relations and marketing for Google in the early days. Howard was a private guy and had a great laugh. We often ate lunch together and would just hang out at the TGIF. I always enjoyed Howard and we would commiserate on the early days of Google but in the end we both loved it.

    I would be happy to make a donation to the ACLU in his name.

    May warm memories bring your family peace and may time help heal your sadness.

    Warm regards,

    Kimberly B Vogel
    Menlo Park, CA

  9. What I can’t get over, what I’m having trouble believing, is that he’s gone. That someone who was our friend, who was there for some of the major milestones in our lives, has suddenly left us behind. I have so many questions about the circumstances of his secret illness and the reasons he made the decisions he did, all the while knowing even as I rail against this devastating tragedy that he did it this way because he was Howard, and Howard always had his own way of doing things.

    I have an entire list of wishes: I wish I had kept in touch a bit better; I wish I would’ve gone to that last party; I wish I would’ve known how sick he was; I wish I knew why this happened… I really wish that he knew how much we really, truly cared for him, that we would’ve done anything he asked us to do, even, I guess, if it was to leave him his privacy and dignity when the only thing we really wanted was to be by his side.

    He was a true character and from his leather pants, snarky tshirts, and glorious head of hair to his disney collection and looney tunes pocket watch, he was someone that was difficult–if not impossible–to forget. It is easy to say that we will miss him, but it is terribly difficult to describe just how much his loss will affect us.

  10. Though I’ve only known Howard for a very short time, my impression of him is that he was a very wonderful gentleman. He was very confidence and comfortable in his own skin. With him knowing his condition, it would have been nice to have spent more time together, so that i don’t have to say i wish we had a chance for another cup of coffee.

    He is definitely remembered, and will be missed.

  11. My boyfriend and I knew Howard from Tokyo and by pure coincidence, moved to New York at around the same time as he did.

    Howard, I am glad that we had the privilege to spend time with you and will always miss the conversations we shared over dinners and brunches. I have much to learn from the way you lived your life fearlessly (of what others thought), and attacked life (and the dance floors) with much gusto. You will be missed much more than you think.

  12. I met Howard in 1993, when we both arrived at CMU, and last saw him a few months ago, when he had a July 4th party in New York.

    When I was following the early news of Google’s success, I couldn’t think of a person more deserving than Howard to be part of it. I shudder to think that he was not allowed to enjoy that success without the constant knowledge that he was fighting for his life–a burden so great that he did not even want to share it with his friends or family. But perhaps he simply wanted to live live to its fullest as long as he could.

    All of us strive to leave this world a better place than we find it. Howard, in his few years, did so–through his accomplishments, and through his kindness and generosity. Rest in peace, my friend.

  13. It was with great sadness that I learned of Howard’s passing away through an email. As is often the case, it evoked an instant pangs of sadness at a loss that cannot be papered over and feelings of “Now I’ll never be able to …”.

    Howard was one of the first people I met when I interviewed at Google and definitely the most memorable. Intimidating exterior with his purple hair and motorbike clothes. And one of the nicest people I met that day. Grinned, asked about zephyr at CMU, and made me feel suddenly much more at home.

    Howard was a gentleman — in every sense.

    Life is much too short. We are all lessened by his passing.

  14. Howard, I met you at Rivington hotel bar Last April with Nik, her BF and some others. Thank you for telling me your PhD experience and encouraging me to study more. Thank you for being kind to me and being dragged by me to a pizza place at 3ish a.m. and walking me home instead of dancing at a club in Chelsea, which was the plan… Thank you for including me in your great friends’ circle and inviting me for your house parties. The fireworks on July 4th from the windows were gorgeous. Thank you for welcoming my party crasher friends too. They all had a great time. I wish I could make it to your New Year’s Eve party. I wish you could make it to our house party on Jan 19. I wish this sad news wasn’t true…
    After I read the email from Neil, I was getting to know you better. Through messages posted on this website, I am getting to know you better and better… I am certain that you are with us in our hearts. Rest in peace Howard.

  15. When I first started making friends in Pittsburgh, Howard was one of the first people I made the acquaintance of. He was easily one of the most kind people I’ve ever met. He was never too busy to say ‘hello’, never too busy to chat a bit, never too busy to listen for a while. We used to run into each other once in a while at parties and rather frequently at Ceremony.

    The last time I saw him was at his going away party. We didn’t keep in touch, I’m ashamed to admit – I buried myself in my work after I returned to Pittsburgh and we lost track of each other.

    Good luck Out There, Howard. Do more amazing things before we meet again.

  16. When I joined Google in Nov 2000, Howard was my office-mate for the first two months.

    On my very first day on the job, I was given a project: writing a monitoring framework for the crawl system. It had to be written in python and there was only one week’s time left to make it into the upcoming launch. I did not know anything about search infrastructure, let alone crawling system. My manager told me that python was “a friendly programming language.” But the problem was, before joining Google, I only knew one kind of python, and it was neither friendly nor a programming language.

    Stressed out, but promptly I started looking at the code and noting down all the things that needed to be monitored. I did not want to disturb Howard as he seemed serious and involved in work. Instead, I prepared a long list of issues/doubts that needed to be clarified.

    At about 7pm, Howard was preparing to leave. He donned his motorbike attire, picked up his helmet, and on the way out, he casually asked me how I was doing. I said I was fine but a little frightened that I would not make it to the launch.

    Further, I lamented, “I made up a preliminary list of things I need to know about the system and it runs _several_ pages.”

    Sensing my concern, Howard kindly offered, “You made a list? Let me take a look at it.”

    I said, “Sure, I will email it to you so you can take a look at it tomorrow.”

    He turned around, put his helmet on the table and said, “Well, why don’t we go thru it now?.”

    I was a little bit surprised and said, “Aren’t you leaving!? This is rather a long list and it may take a while.”

    Howard said, “No, that’s fine, let’s do it now.”

    For the following two hours, Howard sat with me, went thru
    my list one by one, addressed every entry and allowed me time to take notes. I was just amazed by his helping nature. I quickly came to admire him. The next morning, I was comfortable enough to bother him with all kinds of petty questions like, if he knew any cheap way of transporting my car from NJ to CA. Well, he did. In fact, he had answers to all my questions.

    Later, we parted our ways as we went on to work on different projects. But, about three years later, I got to meet him again in NYC.

    It was Dec 2003, I was visiting Google NYC office for a couple of weeks. Howard and I shared our corporate apartment during that period. Once again he was very kind to help me with navigating around the neighborhood, taking subway, best ways to tour the city, etc.

    It never ceased to amaze me how eager he always was to help others. I am deeply saddened by his loss.

  17. I met Howard while I was at UMCP and we were all part of the group that would hang out in the various labs. He was probably the smartest guy I knew there with a quirky sense of humor. My biggest regret is to not have kept better in touch with him over the years.

    Howard will live on in the legacy of how he’s touched the people’s lives around him. May he rest in peace.

  18. some words about Howard…

    It’s really heartbreaking to think that Howard’s gone. We had been exchanging emails intermittently since college, and met up for lunch every couple of years. His last email to me was in mid-January while exchanging New Years pleasantries. I had been meaning to respond back and it has been recurringly painful to me that I procrastinated and never got around to it.

    Howard was a good guy and I’ll miss him. I first met Howard in intro Comp Sci, and we became friends after rolling our eyes over the ANSI Pascal that the class was being taught in. I do remember that everything seemed to just came naturally and effortlessly for him. However, he was always happy to help-and he could explain complicated concepts in a really straight forward manner to his classmates that just weren’t quite as quick on the uptake as he was.

    One time while meeting up with howard for dinner at the dining hall, he was proudly wearing a tie-dye t-shirt that he and his dorm floor buddies had recently made. It started off a dark blue/purple in our freshman year and quickly faded thru college. He wore it alot, he must have really liked that shirt!

    He always seemed to be in good spirits, I think just hanging out and being around friends was what he really liked the most out of life. Laid back and happy as an undergrad with few worries, wearing his tie-dye and wild hair, that’s how I will keep him in my mind’s eye.

  19. It was fall of 1983 when we met Howard, and I still picture his smile. Our families were both in Winchester, Mass for a year before us moving and Sharon, Bruce, Howie, and Neil returning to the Washington area. It was a difficult transition year for us; the Gobioff family made us feel at home in Winchester and we knew we would have them as close friends when we completed our next move to DC. We have remained lifelong friends, and we will all miss you, Howie. Sharon, Bruce, Neil, and Gianna, please know how much we care.
    Love, Sarel, Philip, Mark, and Matt

  20. I lived with Howard in a group house during graduate school at Carnegie Mellon, and we remained friends after he moved to California. I loved him dearly and he drove me mad, too, in some of our arguments. He took me to concerts of bands I’d never heard of and we danced like crazy. He chose silence and privacy when I dearly wanted him to talk and open up. He was funny and fun to be around, and he was beautiful. I’ve never seen hair like his. I’m so sorry he’s gone. It feels like he was always just out of reach, and now I guess that’s a permanent thing. I’m very glad I knew him.

  21. Hi, my name is Ellen, I am the middle cousin, 1 Year appart from both Howie and Neil. We were always together as we were younger and I always looked up to and still do to both Neil and the achievments of Howies. They as brothers and as my cousin, have taught me some valuable lessons in life and have always been my mentors. Howie, when he was still here loved my children as though they were his. I was so excited that my kids loved Howie and always excited when he was coming over for the holidays. They loved to just sit with him and spend time talking to him and hearing all about his world ventures. Neil is the best brother anyone could ask for, when needed he was there through all of the turmoil and took control over the things that where left undone. I look up to my cousin Neil as my mentor and still do feel strongly, Howie is there to help watch over me and my family. It’s tragic and sad that someone of his age had to leave us so soon, he had so much to share with everyone. We love you Howie and your not one minute passed over without a thought. I love You, me,ellen

  22. I went to High School with Howie. I really didn’t know him very well, but everything I knew of him was positive. When I heard that he worked for Google, I thought that was great…he’s exactly the kind of person I would want to work at Google to represent “don’t be evil.”

  23. I just heard about Howard and was taken by surprise by his passing. I went to high school with Howie like Darren. I just remember a person who was passionate about what he enjoyed, acted a little goofy at times (wasn’t everyone in high school), was a bit of a character, was very smart especially in computer science and did his best being a good friend to everyone. He was always himself – no pretense or facade ever.

    Something that few people probably know or remember was that his mother worked at the high school. So, we saw the loving relationship between himself and his mom. That’s a difficult thing to handle in high school. Howie did well.

    Howie, you’ll be missed. I can’t believe I won’t be able to hear your distinct guffaw when I used to say silly stuff.
    Rest in Peace…

  24. Hey, Howard!
    I still can not believe that you are not here in the earth anymore. Yeah, I was attended at your memorial service on Saturday, March 29, 2009 in NYC. Many people were there and I introduced them how I met you through Mixi.

    I have not written anything here(BBS) till today, because it was tough for me to understand why you needed to leave here. Well, I have been thinking many things since you passed away.(ie. life, carrer, health, family, happiness…)
    Anyway, I have learned many things from you/your life. Arigato!

    By the way, today is a New Year’s Eve of 2008.
    Last year’s New Year’s Eve, we had a great party at your apartment.
    You were the great party host and you made your favorite music/movie clips for the party.
    Nice people, Champagne and nice talks.
    We had a great nite and we got started a new year of 2008 at your apartment!
    It was the great beginning of 2008. Yeah, it was…

    Ok, the year 2008 is almost done.
    Do not worry we never ever forget you!
    You are here in our heart.
    We will have happy new year 2009 together, ok?


    ps)Hey, I miss your text messages, btw.
    ps2) I finally got a full-time job in NYC this February and I enjoy living in NYC like you did.

  25. I can’t believe that it has been an entire year. For most of us it has been even longer since we saw or talked to or text messaged with Howard.

    I know that I have tried to use the opportunity over the past year to reconnect and talk to, or email, or facebook with friends that I have not stayed in touch with enough.

    Often the hectic life and day-to-day concerns of modern living limits our ability to stay in touch as much as we might like, but the efforts fall into the important-not-urgent category that must be attended to.

    I wanted to take this opportunity to thank again all those who posted their thoughts here for friends and family and perhaps the occasional passer-by to read. Also thanks to those who sent messages and shared stories in other forms electronic and in person. I am sure that I can speak for Howard’s family in expressing heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time.

    Heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time to spend with Howie when he was with us, and heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time to share a small part of those experiences now that he is gone.

    Best wishes to all who read this, and best of luck staying connected to each other.

    We will continue to keep this site active as long as the hit stats keep increasing.

    Best wishes, Erik

  26. I did not have the honor of personally knowing you, Howard, but learned of your exceptional life and story through the amazing work that your brother and sister-in-law have been carrying out in your legacy through The Gobioff Foundation. Howard, you truly made your mark while you were here on this earth and are continuing to do so to make the world a better place. I wish I could have hit the dance floor with you as it is evident it would have been nothing short of memorable, though I am so glad to know and hope that you do too that the ripple effect your contributions carry on in so many ways.

    St Petersburg, FL

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