Howell W. Mette died suddenly of cardiac arrest on April 21, 2020 at the age of 61 years.
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Howell was born September 12, 1958 to Howell C. and Elizabeth Vosburgh Mette of Camp Hill, PA. He graduated from Mercersburg Academy in 1976 and received a Bachelor of Sciences degree in engineering from Columbia University in 1980.
Howell worked as a broadcast engineer at CBS for more than 33 years, and his intuitive grasp of science and technology made him a valued member and eventual leader of his teams. As Director of Engineering he designed the broadcast facilities for the 1992 Olympic Games in Albertville, France and the 1994 Games in Lillehammer, Norway. In January 1994, following the Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles, Howell designed and built an earthquake-proof uplink/downlink at the CBS Mt. Wilson facility, along with a mobile bi-directional microwave system that could be used to control the uplink. In the summer of 1994, Howell was Director of News Operations for the on-site CBS coverage of former President Jimmy Carter’s mission to Haiti to avert a US invasion after the military coup that overthrew elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Howell led the entire technical team, coordinating satellite transmission, anchor locations, electronic news gathering (ENG) camera crews, that is, everything that would be required to get the news story out nationally.
He recalled that when crossing the border from the Dominican Republic in a convoy of trucks laden with equipment, the guards used candles to read their papers because they had no batteries for their flashlights. When scouting a rooftop in Port-au-Prince for satellite facility locations, a US Marine officer approached him and asked him to leave, because his men had orders to shoot anyone on that roof.
Howell also had a significant role in the CBS News’ 1996 political coverage including caucuses, primaries, Democratic and Republican political conventions, election night and the inauguration of President Bill Clinton.
In his early years at CBS, Howell worked closely with HDTV pioneer Joe Flaherty. With others, Howell prepared Flaherty’s demonstration to Congress and accompanied his team to argue the importance of securing bandwidth and adopting digital high definition broadcasting standards nationwide. The standards were eventually adopted by the FCC.
In 1999, Howell became Vice President of Engineering for all of CBS and in September of that year, CBS became the first network to broadcast in high definition. Over Howell’s tenure he led the retrofitting of the entire Broadcast Center to handle HD technology, and the upgrade or rebuilding of every CBS control room, including those for CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and NFL Today at the Broadcast Center, and the CBS News Bureau in Washington DC. Howell was particularly proud of overseeing the design and conversion to HD of the broadcast facilities at the Ed Sullivan Theater for the Late Show with David Letterman, and the rebuilding of same for the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
He was a member and Editorial Director of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.
Howell was a gentle man, handsome, witty and charming. He could find the humor in almost any situation. His colleagues remember him as a good person, a good friend, and a good boss. He loved New York City and was devoted to his west side neighborhood from which he walked to the CBS Broadcast Center on West 57th Street every working day for 33 years.
He is survived and mourned by his long-time girlfriend Pam Cioffi, his siblings Mary Lucinda of Atlanta, Nancy Elizabeth of Los Angeles, Daniel Joseph of Lords Valley, brothers-in-law Ernie Baker and Barnet Kellman, and five nieces and nephews, Kate, Eliza and Michael Kellman, and Halle and Danny Mette, and by his many friends and colleagues at CBS.
A memorial service for Mr. Mette will be held at a place and time to be determined when circumstances permit. The family asks that those who wish to attend send their contact information to Dan Mette at firstname.lastname@example.org. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Howell W. Mette’s name to Camp Hill Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania, or to National Public Radio.