Howard Barrett

Howard Barrett (July 8, 2014)

Howard "Howie" Grant Barrett wasn't your typical technology-oriented Martin Marietta employee.

The former Marine graduated from a watchmaker college and an art school before working as an art director for the defense contractor from 1969 until he retired in 1992. The 84-year-old Orlando resident died of lung cancer June 28.

"In 1969, we were living in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., and my dad was recruited by Martin," said Marc Barrett, one of his four sons. "He was hired to start a design group there."

Barrett and his design team at Martin Marietta, which later became Lockheed Martin, illustrated and otherwise polished proposals so they would look more professional and compelling, his son said. In the days before computer-generated graphics, Barrett ensured that Martin's bid proposals stood out from competitors'.

His vision and design touch helped win new contracts, his son said.

Barrett put his artistic abilities to work outside the office, too. He experimented with drawing cartoons on 35mm film cells. He did watercolors of neighborhood children and family members and painted rich scenes of old train yards, houses and buildings.

"He had a specialty of watercolor landscapes with beautiful skies and smoke coming up to the sky. His paintings had a lot of texture. He also did oils, but his specialty was watercolors," said Marc Barrett, an artist whose work is exhibited at a gallery in New Smyrna Beach.

Born in Edinburgh, Ind., in 1930, Barrett had an art studio at home growing up, but his family had something other than artistic endeavors in mind for him. His parents owned a jewelry store, and they sent him and his brother to the Elgin Watchmakers College, where he learned watch repair so that he could work in the store.

His interest in artwork prevailed, though, and he graduated from what is now the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis. After a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps, Barrett worked as a graphic designer at Magnavox before moving to Orlando for the Martin job.

His wife, Betty Barrett, said the two met more than 60 years ago in high school and that she was impressed with his energy and vast interests, including collecting arrowheads and panning for gold.

At one point, she said, he got the materials and directions to build a 22-foot sailboat. The vessel was well crafted, and he sailed it on the Indian River and on Lake Fairview, she said. He also built radio-controlled airplanes.

"He was interested in everything," she said.

Barrett also is survived by three other sons, Paul Barrett of Orlando, Michael Barrett of Tampa and Doug Barrett of Birmingham, Ala.; and four grandchildren. Robert Bryant Funeral Home, Orlando, is handling arrangements.

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