Aulds, teammates for 68 years

Aulds, teammates for 68 yearsBy Bruce Auld

News Review Correspondent

Dad could see the big picture and was adept at connecting the dots. Mom could see the details, necessary to complete their many endeavors. Together, these octogenarians got the job done. And with each new project, Mom would say, “I’ll sure be glad when this event is over!”

In May 1997 the board of the IWV 2000 economic-development corporation unanimously voted to recognize Howard and Barbara Auld with a plaque “Celebrating 50 Years of Positive Community Involvement” and unofficially naming Howard and Barbara as “Mr. and Mrs. Ridgecrest.” “China Lake is critical in supporting the warfighter in defending the free world. Ridgecrest and the Indian Wells Valley are critical in supporting the mission of China Lake. We are one community.” (Howard and Barbara Auld)

Howard, a Boston native, came to the China Lake Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS), from training at the Naval Training School in Ames, Iowa as an Electrician Mate 2. His assignment was to spur climb utility poles to power Area R, later head of the public works planning and estimating branch. In June of 1946, he took off his uniform and returned to the same desk in civilian attire. A self-educated engineer, Howard would receive the Technical Director’s Award in 1977 for his contributions to the success of ISSSMD PEGASUS, a vertical launch missile.

Barbara was born in Los Angeles, California on July 15, 1924, and passed away on April 5, 2022. Barbara early on was a great fan of movies and theater, especially musical theater. Barbara graduated first in her class (1942) from the newly constructed El Monte High School, winning the science medal and a scholarship to UC Berkeley.

On spring break from studies, she traveled to China Lake in April 1945 with her older sister Gertrude and brother-in-law John Vanderbeck, a pharmacist turned China Lake statistician. She took a clerk-typist job in the public works department and met Howard Auld. They were married on August 29, 1945, in Independence, California.

Likewise, self - educated, Barbara would continually advance her career. “She was the copy editor for the Publications Division of the Technical Information Department. So cherished was her work that Charles Van Hagen, the department head, never put out an important letter or memo without having her work it over first. As for the rest of us, she would put an explanatory yellow tag beside each correction she made, then we would sit down with her while she went over the tags one by one. We had a great competition to see if any of us could ever get a tagless manuscript past her. None of us ever could. “(Liz Babcock, surviving colleague and best friend)

China Lake pioneers, their early years on station were filled the activities of their three children, China Lake Community Council and the All Faith Chapel, where Howard was head usher and Sunday School Superintendent. Barbara was the choir’s soprano soloist. Barbara performed at China Lake weddings and funerals for decades.

After twenty-seven years living on station, most of which in an 850 square foot old duplex on Dibb Road, the Aulds moved in November 1971 to their spacious 2400 square foot Deeter home. In 1976 Howard was appointed to the City of Ridgecrest Planning Commission, serving twelve years, much of which as chairman. In 1990 Howard was elected to the City Council, serving four years as Vice Mayor. On May 5, 2004, the City Council proclaimed Howard as “Honorary Mayor.”

Following her retirement in 1982, Barbara immediately began volunteering in the local schools and pursuing her theater interests, both on and off stage. Howard was present at every rehearsal and performance. Likewise, Barbara attended every City Council meeting. It was not unusual for the two of them to drive Interstate 5 to Santa Nella following a Ridgecrest meeting, with an early morning out to meetings in Sacramento. They travelled frequently great distances not for vacations, but to advocate for interests of the Indian Wells Valley, the US Navy and Southwest Military Complex. They never filed an expense claim.

The mid 1990s became Howard and Barbara’s “era of advocacy and honoring.” A couple with a united voice, their days were filled providing leadership and mentoring to a wide range of governmental and nonprofit organizations, too many to mention. They felt compelled to honor those serving the nation and local first responders. Howard and Barbara were members of the Optimist Club and a driving force in creating the annual Respect for Law Awards. They supported the Navy League’s Blue Jacket Awards, coordinated multiple Armed Forces Day celebrations and selflessly funded at least two veteran appreciation luncheons.

At the 2010-Armed Forces Day event, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Juan Garcia (BHS 1984), presented Howard and Barbara the Navy Recognition for Outstanding Citizen’s Award.

When Howard passed in 2013, within minutes of arriving home from Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, Mom’s phone rang. When asked who was calling, “Admiral Matt Winter (former CO of NAWCWD) calling from the Pentagon,” was the response. California State Senator Jean Fuller adjourned the California State Senate in honor of Howard and Barbara.

“Goodbye Mr. Mayor. If there was anyone or any couple (you can’t mention Howard Auld without including Barbara) that more embodied community pride and spirit, I haven’t met them. I have never seen such a selfless example of someone who never had a concern for recognition or thanks. Howard always wanted to be part of the solution, no matter what the problem or how difficult the obstacle impeding success.

The only complaint he ever had was why can’t we do more and why don’t more people recognize the unique quality of our community and the value of preserving or enhancing it at every opportunity.” (Chip Holloway)

No, Howard did not invent the internet. But, “One notable success for Howard came when he fathered RidgeNet, the first internet provider in Ridgecrest.” (Liz Babcock)

Laura Austin Photo: Howard and Barbara Auld

Story First Published: 2022-04-15