Cover photo for JoAnn (Smith)  Howell's Obituary
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1934 JoAnn 2022

JoAnn (Smith) Howell

July 19, 1934 — February 2, 2022

JoAnn Smith was born on Thursday, July 19, 1934, in Fort Worth, Texas, to Henry Wiggs Smith and Ella Rinn Smith. She was the first child of H.W. and the second child of Ella, who had been widowed after the death of her first husband. In addition to her half-brother, C.A. Dahse, JoAnn also had a younger sister, Nancy Lee, who was born after the family moved to Big Spring, Texas, where she was raised.

As a girl, JoAnn loved to socialize with friends. She was interested in art and wanted to become an architect. She was especially proud of her swimming skills; she taught swim lessons and served as lifeguard as a teenager in Big Spring. She graduated from Big Spring High School in May 1951 at the age of 16. After graduation, she attended Texas Tech University for one year as an Architecture major. While at Texas Tech, she participated in the KoShari sorority and had many fond memories of this experience.  After receiving blowback from her (male) professors, she decided to transfer to North Texas State University in Denton and majored in Interior Design. At NTSU, she joined Chi Omega sorority and developed many enduring friendships. She took a brief break from her academics to marry in the summer of 1955, and completed her studies to graduate from NTSU in 1956.

JoAnn married J.F. (Frank) Howell, Jr., from Sonora, Texas, on June 7, 1955. As the wife of a future surgeon, she had to move around with her growing family while her husband completed medical school, then his residency, and specialty training. Her first child, J.F. (Jack) Howell, III, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. A short time later the family moved to Detroit, Michigan, where her second child, Clem A. Howell—named after her beloved brother who had tragically died in an airplane accident—was born. Her only daughter, Lesley L. Howell, was born several years later, in San Antonio, Texas. Finally, the family settled in Amarillo, Texas, where her youngest, Henry S. (Smitty) Howell was born.

JoAnn was a devoted, full-time mother. Her four children kept her busy with piano lessons, sports practices and games, scout meetings, doctor’s appointments, and all of her children’s many extracurricular activities. Afternoons were often spent in the family station wagon with children in tow, sometimes stopping at the A&W Root Beer Drive-In or Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream shop for treats. JoAnn joined forces with friend Cindy Reid to be Den Mothers for Smitty’s Cub Scout Troop. She was deeply involved in all her children’s activities, trying to afford them rich and varied life experiences.

JoAnn enjoyed entertaining and hosted many parties at her home for her children’s birthdays and for her adult friends. She tried to make each celebration special and unique based on the nature of the event. Her parties were always lovingly and creatively planned. She loved celebrating holidays with family and always delighted her children with Halloween, Christmas and elaborate Easter day traditions. Whether traveling to be with family during the holidays or celebrating at home, JoAnn made these events a high priority for her children.

She also participated in the Amarillo social scene. With her husband, Frank, she enjoyed numerous trips to Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico. Many Amarillo families participated in social gatherings centered around a robust community of Amarilloans who loved to ski, particularly at Taos. She enjoyed the symphony, sharing her love of music with all of her children. She afforded them many opportunities to develop an appreciation for music and their own unique musical talents.

JoAnn was confirmed as an Episcopalian in 1958 at Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans. After moving to Amarillo in 1964, she became a communicant of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and immersed herself into the church community.

Over the years, she participated in many activities and organizations at St. Andrew’s, “as an indian more often than a chief” to put it in her own words. She was active in Christian Education for the young people of St. Andrew’s and also chaired the Adult Christian Education Committee for a time. She was a co-leader of the EYC (Episcopal Youth Community) for several years, and chaperoned at least one of the famous ski trips. She teamed up with other church members to teach Sunday School classes for several years, attending to different age groups and children over the years. She touched the lives of many young people of the church. She participated in the Vacation Bible School many times.

JoAnn was active on the Christian Education Committee for youth for many years. She participated in the Education for Ministry (EFM) program for two years. Youth ministry was a path of service very near to her heart. Early in the Church’s participation in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program, JoAnn attended the training and assisted that program for quite some time. After serving in these capacities for many years, she became involved with the nursery program. In 2005, she created now inactive Aunt Mary’s Nursery Memorial to benefit the nursery fund at St. Andrew’s in honor of a favorite aunt, Mary Elizabeth Foster.

Another endeavor that was very dear to JoAnn involved her service to the St. Andrew’s library. She was part of the team that catalogued all the books in the church library and entered that information into a computer database to create a new card system for checking out the books. She was already beginning to have some health impacts associated with aging and the perhaps earliest hints of the Alzheimer’s disease that would ultimately take her life. Even though this was a labor of love, she often struggled with the burden of it. She was utterly devastated when the church burned in 1996, destroying not only all their hard work, but the books themselves, which were almost all destroyed.

She enjoyed working in the Saint’s Corner, a religious book store associated with St. Andrew’s that was open for business after services on Sunday afternoons and at other times during the week. In addition to keeping the little shop open, she also served on its board for a year. She worked periodically in the church office as a volunteer. She served on the Stewardship Committee for two years, acting as chairperson for one of those years. She also served on the Search Committee to call a new rector to St. Andrew’s. In addition to these more formal stewardship efforts, she sang with the choir over the years and enjoyed playing with the handbell group when that first formed.

At various times in her life, JoAnn has served as Lector, Chalice Bearer, and read Friday Evening Prayer, as well as being active in the singles group, “The Phoenix,” and assisting with the adult Sunday school group. Later in life, she was part of the Black Belt Bible Study group and The Messenger assembly group until health difficulties made it too difficult to attend. When she became cut off from church life, she was heartbroken. She loved St. Andrew’s very much.

When the opportunity arose to enjoy some adult companionship while expressing herself artistically, JoAnn jumped. Around 1973, she became a student of sculptor Tommy Hicks. JoAnn thrived in this environment, producing several pieces that were cast in bronze using the lost wax process. The camaraderie and fellowship she enjoyed with Tommy and her “motley crew of kindred spirits” was a godsend for her, keeping her sane during a very difficult period of time in her life.

JoAnn’s marriage ended in October 1975; after 20 years of marriage, JoAnn embarked on a new phase of her life. She embraced the challenges of single-parenthood, discovering fresh ways to express herself as a newly single person in Amarillo. She was an excellent dancer and loved going out with friends. However, she wanted more diverse experiences with the singles community in Amarillo, so she joined forces with Patsy Burge to create a singles group and set about planning some very creative theme-parties. These parties, held throughout the 1980s became the talk of the singles community for years to come. The local news station broadcast live from the Twelfth Night party hosted at JoAnn’s house while the later Toga Party, held at a local health spa (aka Roman baths), is still remembered infamously by all who attended. This was a fun and fondly remembered period of JoAnn’s life.

Due to her unexpected and newly single status, JoAnn had to enter the work force for the first time in her life, but she tackled this opportunity to expand her horizons head on. Drawing upon her college background in interior design, she looked for and found employment. For two years, she worked as a sales associate and manager for Southern Furniture, also handling print and television advertising for the store.

After her foray into sales, JoAnn decided to return to school at Amarillo College and focused on computer programming and systems. She was quite proud of her accomplishments at AC and insisted upon receiving an Associate of Science degree, even though she had already earned a bachelor’s degree from NTSU. She also took some classes at West Texas State University during this time. She excelled in her studies and quickly became enmeshed with the college community, serving as a CIS Student Lab assistant and a programmer trainee. She also taught computer classes as an Instructor at Amarillo College from 1981 to 1982. This new experience led her to a job at Corporate Systems as a Training Representative from 1982 to 1984. Her job ended at Corporate Systems as her position was phased out.

While disappointed at the loss of a job that she greatly enjoyed and found fulfilling, the timing of this event allowed her to move back to Big Spring to help her mother, Ella, and to care for her father, H.W., who was suffering from the effects of late-stage Alzheimer’s disease. While living in Big Spring, JoAnn adapted once again, utilizing her computer skills at the State National Bank in Big Spring from 1984 to 1985. She was a great help to her parents and enjoyed her time in Big Spring. JoAnn always tried to make the most of her circumstances, even when things did not turn out as she may have hoped or planned. Her time in Big Spring ended ultimately when her father and her mother passed away.

With all of her children grown and living their own lives, JoAnn entered yet another phase of her life, enjoying what might be referred to as retirement. She enjoyed travelling and indulged herself in this activity over the next few years. She took all of her children with her to Hawaii in 1986 to enjoy a family vacation—the last time that everyone was together in this way. She also traveled to Europe with a friend and enjoyed the sights in several countries, including exploring some places associated with her distant family before they emigrated to the United States.

JoAnn was employed temporarily over the next few years at a few different jobs that included the 2000 Census and Lifeway Christian Store, but health difficulties made permanent employment difficult. She continued to enjoy her friends, her children, grandchildren, and eventually great grandchildren. As her Alzheimer’s disease progressed, life became increasingly more difficult for JoAnn. Unfortunately, she became somewhat isolated and cut off from activities that she had previously enjoyed. Unable to travel, she missed weddings, births, and other family occasions that she would have loved to participate in. Nevertheless, she continued to play a role in the lives of her family as much as possible.

In 2019, JoAnn became a resident at Windflower at The Craig. The nursing staff and other caregivers took loving care of JoAnn until her very last day. Her family is grateful for their efforts, acknowledging the great contribution they made in helping to care for her when her needs became too great to be satisfied at home.

JoAnn Smith Howell is survived by her sister, Nancy Lee Smith Puckette; her children: Jack Howell and wife Kerry of Austin, Clem Howell and wife Becky of Amarillo, Lesley Shelton of Lubbock, and Smitty Howell of Petaluma, California; her nephew, Steven Puckette (Holly) and niece, Linda Puckette (Ken Court). Her surviving grandchildren are Rachel Howell Shumaker (Justin), Andrew Howell, Sam Howell (Hannah), Gina James, Edward James (Andrea), and Erin Shelton. Her great-grandchildren are Ella Shumaker, Zelda Howell, Everett Howell, Brodie Wimer, Ty James, and Payson James. She was preceded in death by her parents, H.W. & Ella Smith; her brother, C.A. Dahse; brother-in-law, Cleve Puckette; and many aunts and uncles.

Services for JoAnn will be held on Friday, February 18, 2022, at 2:00 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Amarillo, TX, followed by inurnment at the St. Andrew’s Columbarium. After the celebration of JoAnn’s life, a reception will be held in the St. Andrew’s Parish Hall.

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Friday, February 18, 2022

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