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Ruby Howell remembered as a gifted pianist and loving mother

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 | 7:13 p.m. CDT; updated 5:24 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 25, 2012

COLUMBIA — Despite the challenges of overcoming a brain aneurysm and multiple strokes, Ruby Howell never forgot how to play music and never forgot who her children were.

Family came first, her daughter, Renee Hulshof said. Remarkably, Mrs. Howell could also still play complicated pieces on the piano and organ. She said her mother wasn't able to put emotion into her playing the way she could before the strokes, but the technical elements were sound.

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"She seemed to enjoy it, in the living room (playing) her organ," Hulshof said.

Mrs. Howell was born May 26, 1944, in Leola, S. D. She died April 9, 2012, of multiple myeloma, nine years after the brain aneurysm and strokes.She was 67 years old.

Hulshof said she thinks of her mother's life in two parts: before and after the aneurysm. Before the aneurysm, she was a part-time nurse and busy mother and grandmother. Hulshof said family was of the utmost importance to her mother, and nothing made her happier than being a grandmother.

Throughout her life, Mrs. Howell had a wide array of interests, including politics, health care and music. She was a gifted pianist and organist, and she could play by ear. She played in her church, Community Christ Church on Fairview Road. Sharing her gift made her happy; if she was having a bad day, the first thing she would do would sit down and play piano.

Mrs. Howell loved to debate about politics, and she thought participating in politics was very important, Hulshof said. When she lived in Hannibal, she would often call the Hannibal Courier-Post to talk about an opinion she didn't agree with. Likewise, she instilled in her children her strong sense of civic responsibility, and she admired political participation. When her son-in-law, Kenny Hulshof, was elected to Congress, she was very pleased. She was also proud when her son, Ryan Howell, served in the Army. 

Hulshof said Mrs. Howell was a second-generation immigrant, so she was raised on the principles of integrating into American culture and taking part in the political process. Her family did not have a history of getting four-year degrees, so she made sure all her children got an education, and she was very proud of that fact. 

Mrs. Howell was a very active person. Just weeks before the strokes, she was working a 12-hour shift at Hannibal Regional Hospital, and she was helping take care of Hulshof's daughters. She was also considering going back to school to get her bachelor's degree in nursing. She saw firsthand how health care had progressed since she began her nursing career, and she devoted herself to how people were cared for in a hospital setting.

In February 2003, she had an aneurysm and a series of strokes. The strokes left her physically weak, and sometimes she struggled to recall things, Hulshof said. She had to have full-time care because she wasn't able to read her environment anymore; she would light candles and forget.

Mrs. Howell is survived by her sister, Miriam Shears of Colorado, and a brother, LaVern Binder of Missouri. She had three children, Renee (Howell) Hulshof and her husband, Kenny, of Columbia, Rhonda (Howell) Peeples and her husband, Clayburn, of Trenton, Tenn., and Ryan Howell and his wife, Katie, of Baltimore, Md.; and 10 grandchildren.  

Visitation will be held from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Community of Christ Church, 1111 Fairview Rd., in Columbia.  A memorial service will follow at 1 p.m.

Memorial contributions can be made to Outreach International or the Multiple Myeloma Society.


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