Carnahan was born March 25, 1920, near Parsons to Lee and Olive (Houghton) Carnahan. The first in his family to attend college, he graduated with a B.S. at Kansas State University, and later with an M.S. and Ph.D. in agronomy and plant genetics, University of Minnesota. Howard’s graduate schooling was interrupted by three years in the U.S. Naval Reserve, serving as lieutenant and receiving the Nimits Commendation Medal for service “Above and Beyond the Call of Duty in the South Pacific.”
Howard’s first marriage was to Shirley Wallace from 1945 to 1972. He then married Jeri Swaffar in 1973. She preceded him in death in 1997.
His career as a scientist began as assistant professor at Penn State University as research agronomist. He later transferred to Reno, Nev., to become director of research for USDA alfalfa. In 1969, he relocated to Butte County to become director of plant breeding at the California Cooperative Rice Research Foundation Inc. until his retirement in 1988.
Over his career, he also received numerous notable science and agronomy awards, including the prestigious Award of Honor For Distinguished Contributions to the Advancement of Human Welfare and Enhancement of California Agriculture from the American Society of Agronomy. His greatest desire was to improve varieties of rice that could effectively feed the most needy of those throughout the world. In 1983, he was recognized by Labette Community College and the LCC Alumni Association by being presented the Cardinal Citation Award.
Howard was an active member of the Chico Elks Lodge, where he served as trustee and was on the charity fundraising committee. He was best known as “Coach” to scores of Little League Baseball players who he managed over many years. In his spare time, he enjoyed being with his family, watching sports, fishing and hunting and playing cards. He left as his legacy an ethic of hard work, honesty and integrity, and above all, having a good sense of humor.
Survivors include two sons, Lew Carnahan of Reno, Nev., and Tim Carnahan of West Sacramento, Calif.; a stepdaughter, Kathy Graddy of San Francisco; eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren throughout California and Nevada; two brothers, Lee Carnahan and his wife, Ramona, and Glen Carnahan and his wife, Velma, all of Altamont; a sister-in-law, Juanita Carnahan of Altamont; and numerous nieces and nephews.
A celebration of Dr. Carnahan’s life will be at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, April 10, at the Chico Elks Lodge, 1705 Manzinita Ave., Chico, Calif.
Memorials are suggested to the donor’s choice and may be left at or mailed to Forbes-Hoffman Funeral Home, P.O. Box 374, Parsons, 67357.
Online condolences may be left at www.forbeshoffman.com.