Howard E. Koontz III sat next to Dr. Arnold “Skip” Amass every Wednesday for 45 years at the Westminster Rotary Club.
Koontz, a third-generation Rotarian, died Aug. 17. “He was a true philanthropist,” said Amass.
“Someone who does things for people, the community and so forth on their own, from the bottom of their heart,” Amass told the Times, “not expecting any recognition, not expecting any monetary reward or acclaim of any kind whatsoever.
“That’s what Howard did.”
And now his legacy of giving back will be inscribed in Carroll County history. Koontz was named Legacy Philanthropist of the Year by the Carroll Community Foundation.
Nominated by his widow, Nancy Koontz, and Jim Lightner, secretary of the Westminster Rotary, the late do-gooder will be recognized for his altruistic life achievements at an event in his honor Oct. 17.
The 13th annual Philanthropist of the Year event will also recognize winners from four other categories — nonprofit (Lynn Wheeler/Carroll County Public Library), individual (Harold Robertson), youth (Jordan Costley) and business (Integral Components) — that went above and beyond in exemplifying the giving spirit of Carroll.
And that’s just the spirit Koontz helped establish.
The Westminster Rotary was in Koontz’s blood. His grandfather was a charter member and the second club president. His father, Howard E. Koontz II was also a member, serving as president in 1947-48, according to Lightner, who called him a “lifeblood of our Rotary for a very long time.”
Koontz joined in 1970, Lightner told the Times. “I would even say, if anything, that Howard III was even more involved than the previous two.”
Koontz’s father and grandfather were leaders in title and in practice. Koontz embodied leadership with his actions. He wasn’t one for attention, and he declined to be president of the club on multiple occasions, Lightner explained. “He was a leader because he was good role model for our younger Rotarians, who always saw Howard there and being a part of it.”
Lightner called Koontz a “consummate Rotarian.”
Asked what it means, he responded, “When I say that, I mean Howard. Being there when you’re needed. We try to say a good Rotarian tries never to say no and to my knowledge Howard never said no. … ‘Service Above Self,’ that’s our motto and he certainly lived it.”
He was always there — he didn’t pick and choose his Rotary projects. in fact it’d be rare for him not to participate in one, Amass said. “He worked on so many Rotary projects you couldn’t hardly believe there was one he didn’t work.”
Amass listed some: He embraced and organized the Adopt a Highway initiative, leading volunteers to collect trash from Md. 140 Saturday mornings once a month and to breakfast at Baugher’s after; years ago he manned the Rotary’s food stand at the Farm Museum for Fall Harvest Days, applying his food-industry expertise; traveled “thousands and thousands of miles” with a club’s model train stowed in his white paneled truck.
He was dependable, humble and hard working, Lightner explained. “If we were planting trees, he was digging holes.”
And while he wasn’t picky about which projects he participated in, he did have a knack for some.
Koontz was a capable handyman, and applied those skills every year during the Christmas in April initiative, Amass explained. “He would work on building ramps for people and building porches and repairing their bathrooms, all at no cost to them.”
He added: “There are a lot of senior citizens who have Howard to thank for putting ramps, porches and steps … to make their homes presentable again.”
Amass, Lightner and the late altruist’s widow, Nancy, all emphasized his humility and his disdain for attention.
“Howard was always a very unassuming man, very modest, and didn’t want to bring any limelight to himself,” Lightner said. “He liked being in the background.”
And whether he would’ve liked it or not, even if he’d have been embarrassed to accept the award in person, Koontz’s legacy will be at the forefront, in the limelight at the ceremony on Oct. 17.
Nancy Koontz said she plans to attend accompanied by family. She’ll say thank you, but won’t speak, she said. It will be emotional. His loss is still fresh and she’s of few words.
“I’m proud of him,” she said. “What more can I say? He was a good man.”
Koontz is already missed at the club he dedicated so much of his life to. It’s not just his gravelly voice, Amass said, but his unwavering presence and support.
Just last week the Rotary club carried out its yearly tradition of distributing dictionaries to every third-grader in the county, Amass said.
“Everybody was talking about the fact that we didn’t have Howard and his van and his cart that would carry the dictionaries around,” Amass said. “He deserves Philanthropist of the Year as much as anybody ever did.”