Beloved by many and known to most as Howie, Howard Roffwarg, devoted husband, father and grandfather, passed away October 17, 2022 after a long and valiant battle with multiple health problems.
Howie’s parents, Sam and Gussie Roffwarg, along with his older sisters and “lieutenant mothers”, Florence and Clarice, joyfully welcomed him into their family in the Bronx, New York on June 9, 1932. From the moment of his birth until he took his last breath, Howie reveled in the love of his family. He shared his love, his exuberant spirit and his irrepressible personality with his family, many friends, countless work and research colleagues around the globe, multiple generations of baseball parents and a host of waitstaff across the country to whom he often gave pointers from his own days as a waiter.
Howie received his bachelors and MD degrees from Columbia University. While at Columbia, he attended a lecture by William Dement, one of the founders of sleep medicine, and then, being Howie, sat on Dr. Dement’s laboratory doorstep until Dr. Dement welcomed him in. Their research partnership led to seminal discoveries about rapid eye movement sleep, inner ear movements during sleep and brain development. Howie was very proud of his research work and teaching, as well his accomplishments in both psychiatry and sleep medicine, including serving as presidents of both the Sleep Research Society and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Reflecting back on his sleep medicine journey, he said that what meant the most to him, though, was being Bill Dement’s friend.
Howie was a professor of psychiatry for many years at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and then for many more at University of Mississippi Medical Center. He met his wife, Joy, in 1992 when they were both working at Terrell State Hospital. She became intrigued when she learned he had been one of the main researchers on “the red goggles study”, one of her favorite studies she learned about in graduate school. It was a fitting start because for the rest of their time together, Howie always viewed her through rose-colored glasses and refused to see her faults.
Howie adored his three children: Anna, Aaron and Sam. He was so proud of Anna and her commitment to social justice and her philanthropic work in both the US and Israel. He looked forward to his conversations with Aaron about world events and politics. It’s a sweet memory in our hearts that Howie’s last phone conversation was to let Aaron know he was having a good morning after many challenging days. Sam taught Howie the joy of being a father of a young child again and that you are never too old to coach first base with great gusto.
Howie was preceded in death by his parents, his sisters and his infant daughter, Carla. In addition to Joy, Anna, Aaron, Aaron’s wife Leslie and Sam, Howie is survived by his cherished grandchildren: Ben, Rebecca, Mel, Andrew, Jacob and Max, as well as his nieces, nephews, and in-laws and his first wife, Barbara Greenfield. The family is grateful for the kind and attentive care Howie received at Wisteria Gardens, particularly from Ms. Shirley, who Howie described as “one of the most wonderful human beings I have ever known.”
Obituary source: https://www.sebrellfuneralhome.com/obituaries/Howard–Philip–Roffwarg-?obId=26159619#/obituaryInfo
Conversations with our Founders: https://sleepresearchsociety.org/about/history/