Helene ‘Billy’ Van Dyke Howe

Published 11:06pm Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Helene ‘Billy’ Van Dyke Howe

Helen “Billy” Van Dyke Howe died peacefully Wednesday morning, Oct. 3, 2012, in Holland after a long illness.


She is survived by her son, Eric Howe (David Marcus) of Oakland, Calif.; daughter, Kristen Conners (John); and granddaughter, Lauren Essex of Worthington, Ohio; sister, Marilyn Helder (Raymond); and many nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews.

She was preceded in death in 1984 by her husband, David Leonard Howe; her eldest sister; Dorothy Ann Mickola; and in 1988 by her youngest son, Steven Howe.

Billy grew up in Holland, graduated from Holland High School and completed her bachelor’s degree in sociology at University of Michigan, where she met Dave.  They married Aug. 5, 1948, at Riverwood, her family home in Port Sheldon. She and Dave raised their family in Niles after living briefly in Ann Arbor and Buchanan, and retired at Riverwood where she lived until 2011.

Billy distinguished herself as Niles’ League of Women Voters president, and was a strong proponent of all human rights. She chaired the Niles City Charter Commission and was active in the Seepawa Reading Club.

She and Dave traveled worldwide, and she continued those adventures after he died, often with her dear friend, the late Dody Frederickson. She was associated with Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids, and became active in Hope Academy of Senior Professionals (HASP).

She also dabbled in writing, becoming a published author most noted for the novella “Tipping the Balance.”

Billy avidly enjoyed theater, jazz, classical music and Broadway musicals, and played flute and piano. Music was a big part of her life, as were family gatherings that often erupted into much hilarity, singing and laughter.

When alone, she engulfed herself in crossword puzzles, books and gardening; and enjoyed the companionship of her dear canine friend, Muffin. Billy found her greatest comfort and joy with her family and the natural beauty, wildlife and peace at Riverwood. Concerned with conserving natural resources, she arranged for Riverwood to be permanently protected from development.

She is lovingly remembered, with many tears at her parting but much joy for who she was and what she shared with all who knew her. The family extends a special thanks to caregiver Kim Melin, who so selflessly provided comfort, companionship and support to Billy over the last two years.

Family and friends are invited to an open house to share memories at Riverwood in Port Sheldon (West Olive) on Saturday, Oct. 6, between noon and 2 p.m. For directions, please contact Eric Howe at EricVH@aol.com.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to: Alzheimer›s Association, P.O. Box 96011, Washington, DC 20090-6011, www.alz.org; Amnesty International, 5 Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10001, http://www.amnestyusa.org; Forever Changed, 3611 Butternut Drive, No. 98, Holland, MI 49424, www.foreverchangedllc.com; or the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, 1345 Monroe Ave. NW, Ste. 324, Grand Rapids, MI 49505, www.naturenearby.org.

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