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Francis James (Darcy) Howard (1924–2012)

by Mark Howard

Darcy Howard, n.d.

Darcy Howard, n.d.

photo supplied by Mark Howard

Francis James "Darcy" Howard was born at Cooma in 1924 as one of four children.  In the late 1930s, his family settled down at a house in Morton St, Queanbeyan.

In his lifetime, he served Australia overseas, as a soldier in World War II, and later, for thirty years, as a public servant in the Department of Trade, organising trade displays and exhibitions in some thirty-seven countries around the world.

Darcy left school when he was about 13-years-old and went on to have several different jobs in his in his teenage years including working as a messenger at the Queanbeyan post office and a dry-cleaning store. When he turned eighteen, Darcy decided to join the army to do his bit during World War II.

After the war, Darcy returned to civilian life, and employment with the PMG in Queanbeyan. In 1947, he joined the Commonwealth public service. His first position was in the Government Printing Office, in Canberra, followed by work in the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, which became part of the Department of Trade and Industry in 1955.

As his career took off, so did his personal life when, in 1948, he married his fiancée, Patricia "Jean" Coverdale, in St Gregory's Church, Queanbeyan. The newly weds lived first in George St, Queanbeyan, and then in Canberra, before moving to Melbourne in 1961.

In Melbourne, Darcy went to work as a special projects officer, organising trade displays and exhibitions around the world for the Department of Trade. During the 1960s and 1970s, he travelled widely, visiting many foreign cities – from Budapest to Bangkok – arranging exhibitions and trade fairs where Australian manufacturers could promote their goods.

Darcy was involved in a number of firsts. Australia's first trade display in Eastern Europe (1968), the initial exhibition in Moscow (1970), and our first trade shows in Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Mexico. In the 1960's, during the Cold War, Russia and other communist countries behind the Iron Curtain, revived few foreign visitors years, and Darcy sometimes had to put up with being followed around by the KGB, the Russian secret police. Other far-flung cities he visited in the course of work included Zagreb, Bagdad, Seoul and Khartoum.

His experience was recognized over the years, and he was serving as Assistant Secretary, in charge of the Department of Trade's publicity branch, with a staff of eighty people, when he retired at the age of sixty, in 1984.

After leaving the public service, he established his own trade promotion firm. This allowed him to use the skills and contacts he had built up over many years in the field. He continued with the consulting work till he suffered his first stroke in 1997, and only then – at the age of seventy-three – did he finally stop work completely.

In retirement, he liked to grow orchids, listen to classical music and spend time with his grandchildren.

A quiet man, he only spoke when he had to, and even then, he was brief and to the point. But sometimes, his comments could surprise.

Darcy is survived by his wife Jean, children, Mark, Damien and Marianne, and his granddaughters, Carla and Jessie Wilkie.

His name, and that of his brothers Val and Ron, is remembered in Queanbeyan, on a memorial honour roll, located in the grounds of the old Municipal Council Chambers, for those from the town who served Australia in the military during the 20th century.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

Mark Howard, 'Howard, Francis James (Darcy) (1924–2012)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Darcy Howard, n.d.

Darcy Howard, n.d.

photo supplied by Mark Howard