Howard Lerner, beloved husband of Rita, loving father and grandfather, passed away peacefully in Stamford early Thursday morning. He was 87. Known for his always unflappable and positive nature, Howard spread joy and humor to all who knew him.
Married to Rita Lerner (nee March) in 1955, he was a devoted husband. The couple was known among family and friends, and ultimately more widely, as an extraordinary pair and a model of love, devotion and commitment. They stood at each other’s side without interruption for their entire 64 years together.
Howard was born in New York City in 1931, to Frank and Molly Lerner. He attended the New York City public schools, including the Bronx High School of Science where he graduated in 1948. Howard was a member of an exceptional class of individuals with illustrious careers and successes, including Nobel Prize winners, which has been celebrated in the New York Times and elsewhere.
Howard attended New York University at its University Heights campus, graduating in 1951, and the NYU School of Dentistry in 1955. Following basic training in Montgomery, Alabama, he served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force from 1955 to 1957, principally at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, where he was the base dentist.
In 1957 he returned to Stamford and obtained a further degree specializing in Orthodontics. After an apprenticeship with an established orthodontist, Howard opened his own practice on Bedford Street in Stamford in 1960. From that office and a subsequent location on Fourth Street, he brightened the smiles of Stamford’s children and adults for 41 years. What few he treated likely ever appreciated – and it was not in Howard’s nature to tout – was his almost obsessive and meticulous attention to the details of his treatments, studying models, case notes and x-rays well into the night to plan and execute orthodontic strategies to give his patients not only straight smiles but biomechanically optimized bites. In addition to their good looks, Howard’s patients enjoyed his sunny personality and they often visited his office years later to see him.
Howard was a member of the New-Conn Orthodontic Study Foundation for 40 years, and also served as its Chairman. Together the group regularly met to discuss their orthodontic cases to better serve their patients. Through New-Conn, Howard organized and led numerous well-attended biennial conferences in which issues and advances in the field were discussed and celebrated. They attracted the top speakers and thought-leaders from around the world, and drew a national attendance.
Howard retired in 2001 and spent many summers in Lenox, Massachusetts, where Rita and he enjoyed classical music at Tanglewood, theater and dance, entertaining grandchildren and other guests, and passing quiet time together. During his life his professional skills with his hands spilled over into cherished hobbies, including creating wood-carved birds, which, even on his very first attempt rivaled the living subject.
Howard is survived by his wife Rita; their three children, Gregg (Joan), Susan (Michael) and Mark (Alyssa); their seven grandchildren: Zachary and Matthew Lerner, Jillian and Benjamin Roffer, and Charlotte, Caroline and Elliott Lerner; his brother, the Honorable Lawrence Lerner of Highland Park, New Jersey; and five nieces and nephews and their families.
The funeral will be held on Friday, March 22, 2019, at 12:30 p.m. at Congregation Agudath Sholom, 301 Strawberry Hill Avenue, Stamford, Connecticut, followed by a burial at Agudath Sholom Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Jewish Family Service of Fairfield County (www.ctjfs.org) or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (www.jdrf.org).
Arrangements are under the direction of Thomas M Gallagher Funeral Home (203)-359-9999. For more information, please visit www.gallagherfuneralhome.com