County native Roy Howard dead at 78
Story by Dan Hust
BETHEL February 1, 2013 The owner of Max Yasgur’s former homestead and a famous Sullivan County native in his own right, Bethel resident Roy Howard passed away on Tuesday.
He waged his battle with cancer as he did every challenge with tenacity and a no-nonsense attitude culled from the hardscrabble county he called home.
Born in Brooklyn 78 years ago, Howard grew up in the bungalow colony and resort era, then watched the county transition to more outdoor tourism.
Despite the often tough local economy, he forged a successful business life as a founder and landlord of valuable properties, including the popular Tilly’s Diner and the Beer Store in Monticello.
He even ran a spirited campaign for county legislator in 1999, though he didn’t win.
But inside and outside Sullivan County, he was perhaps best-known for owning the home and land on which Max Yasgur lived just down Route 17B from where Yasgur famously welcomed half a million people to the 1969 Woodstock festival.
Howard and his wife, Jeryl Abramson, carried on that welcoming spirit, hosting Woodstock-themed “reunions” on their property that drew thousands of revelers and complaints from neighbors and the Town of Bethel.
The couple fought the town over the events for years, winning and losing court battles, always maintaining that Woodstock aficionados needed somewhere “to land.”
That concern prompted the affectionate nickname of “Roy and Jeryl” by their fans, ultimately adopted by news agencies and bloggers around the world.
Though sometimes deeply discouraged by the local reaction, the duo persevered in seeking to create a welcome home for the free-spirited August crowds, and were currently engaged in gaining temporary campground approval on their land for Woodstock’s 44th anniversary.
Abramson said those efforts will continue.
“A posthumous victory is a victory nonetheless,” she stated. “Therefore, I will continue to pursue the permit process in order to host the First Annual Roy Howard Memorial Reunion at Yasgur’s Farm this August in honor of Bethel’s native heroes: Max Yasgur and Roy Howard.”