There are born leaders. There are dedicated doers. We need both types for the world to work the way it should as there are more sideline-sitters than initiative-takers.
The late Patty Markham Howell was one of those exceptional people who could truthfully be labeled as both a leader and a doer. She was not afraid to take the reins and make the tough decisions involved in leadership and she also never backed off from doing more than her share of the grunt work. She was a difference-maker who knew how to organize and make things happen. In a long and productive life which ended earlier this month at the age of 85, she never stopped finding ways to give back to the Jackson area community in which she was born into and lived her entire life.
Nowhere was her good work and presence more felt than with the Jackson County Unit of the American Cancer Society (ACS). On a per capita basis, the Jackson County Unit has always been one of the ACS’s most successful county organizations in terms of both fundraising and positive community impact.
As the onetime executive director in the 1990s, Patty was instrumental in starting the annual Festival of Trees, Ladies’ Tea, and Relay for Life in Jackson County, helping to lay the template and the groundwork for the great charity events they have become. Not only do these events generate thousands of dollars annually for crusades against cancer, they also provide both a social outlet and spiritual support for local cancer survivors.
Although she stepped down in 1997 as the executive director of the local ACS unit, she has continued to be involved, interested and supportive of the ACS and its annual events.
 She has continued to be an enthusiastic participant in the Festival of Trees and delighted in being part of a group which annually created one of the trees.
Even with her declining health in recent months, she was still very much looking forward to this year’s Festival of Trees, which is set for this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Jackson Memorial Building.
With her daughter, Vicki Howell Williams, serving as the longtime chair and organizer of the Ladies’ Tea event, Patty has remained a fixture in the planning and execution of that event as well.
Several years ago, present-day Relay for Life Committee members wished to find an enduring way to honor and recognize Patty’s important role in founding the event. They came up with the perfect answer, the creation of the Patricia Howell Community Award, which is presented annually at the Relay for Life event to a person who has demonstrated his or her outstanding support for the Relay for Life and the community in general in the same manner as Patty.
Patty also was a proud 1951 graduate of Jackson High School and has demonstrated that school pride by being a pillar of the Jackson High School Alumni Association for many, many years. Even when restricted by health and physical disabilities as she was in recent years, Patty seldom missed a meeting, a work session and never missed attending and working at the alumni program or at its after-party, The Happening. You could always count on Patty to be there and do everything she could for the cause. She was a rock of reliability and her example was an inspiration to many others.
Patty’s commitment to community service will continue to live through daughter, Vicki, who inherited her mother’s resolve to serve good causes, along with a willingness to work hard and lead. I know that Vicki will miss working side by side with her mother on all these projects, but her mother’s spirit of giving back will inspire her and others to keep working. It’s one of the best and most meaningful legacies a person can have.
That’s About It… Be Seeing You.