Mary L. Howell - cherished mother, Mema, sister, aunt, teacher and No. 1 Oklahoma Sooner fan - died in her home in Ponca City, Okla., on May 25, 2023. She was 90.
Graveside services will be at 10:00 a.m., Wednesday, May 31, 2023, in Oak Park Cemetery in Chandler, Okla., with Kelli Hosford officiating. Arrangements are by Grace Memorial Chapel in Ponca City.
Mary was born Sept. 23, 1932, to Powell and Mary Mildred Watson on their family farm in the community of Jacktown, Okla. Located about 40 miles east of Oklahoma City, the farm was settled by the family in the Oklahoma Sac and Fox Opening Land Run of 1891 and still remains in the family.
Mary and her seven siblings were farm kids all the way. She was the fifth-born child and did her share of hoeing and picking cotton, and feeding the chickens, hogs, and cows. As soon as she could grasp a ball, Mary was a natural at playing baseball and softball with her brothers and sisters.
She attended White Rock School until the 11th grade and graduated from Meeker High School. During her school years, she excelled in softball and basketball. Remarkably, Mary never missed a day of school, a feat also accomplished by one or more siblings, her daughter Diana Howell, and grandson Dr. Dane Stalcup.
Her mother helped her become a huge baseball fan by tuning into St. Louis Cardinals games on the farm’s radio. She was also introduced to University of Oklahoma football and other sports. Mary’s admiration of sports and physical activity led to her majoring in physical education at Central State College in Edmond, Okla.
It was at Central State where she met Thomas Howell. The future chemist was the apple of her eye right away. They were married while in college. But the new bride didn’t shy away from continuing her devotion to sports. Mary was a catcher on the college’s softball team and a guard on the basketball court.
While in college, the Howells welcomed their first daughter, Deborah (Debby), who was born in September 1953. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, Mary and Tom moved to Ponca City where she was hired as a PE teacher at Roosevelt Elementary. After three years, she transferred to Liberty Elementary, where she helped students enjoy sports and other physical activities for 27 more years.
In November 1957, their second daughter Diana was born. By then Mary had fined-tuned her knack for cooking comfort foods, a skill she first learned from her mother. But gourmet cooking was also part of her kitchen skills. Mary’s holiday cooking became a favorite of her brothers, sisters, and their families. Those treats included tin foil candy, stinky stuff chex mix, and divinity.
Along with cooking, teaching, and caring for the girls, Mary also kept up her own sports activities. She was part of several bowling leagues and had trophies to prove her 10-pin skills.
Mary’s pride and joy, grandson Dane Stalcup, was born in November 1981. She never missed a chance to visit him in Amarillo, Tex., and attend school activities at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. Mema, as Dane called her, hosted Dane during summers when they never missed a 101 Ranch Rodeo in Ponca City. She was a regular at Dane’s school programs, graduations, concerts, and beamed when Dane became an Eagle Scout.
Mary was the first one to board the train, plane or automobile to a Disney park, Paris, Hawaii or anywhere her grandson was going. As Mary was known to say, “If the car is going…” Among her favorite journeys were the trips to New Orleans for Dane’s bachelor’s and master’s degree graduations from Tulane University. And when Dane earned his doctorate from New York University, Mary joined his parents, family, and friends for the ceremonies.
Mary retired from teaching and when not traveling she found friends and fellowship while working in various service fields. For many years she also delivered lunch meals through the Wheatheart Nutrition Project in Ponca City. She attended OU football games religiously, followed other sports, read biographies, and continued to cook special things for family and friends. Always a lover of pets, many special dachshunds all named Rudy, brought much comfort in her latter years.
To all who knew her as mother, Mema, mother-in-law, sister, aunt, teacher, friend, and lifelong Methodist, Mary was a winner in life. She put all others before herself. Survivors include: daughter Debby Stalcup and husband Larry of Amarillo; daughter Diana Howell of Ponca City; grandson Dr. Dane Stalcup of New York City; her brothers Clayton Watson and wife Mary of Bethel, Okla., Donald Watson and wife Pat of Choctaw, Okla.; sister Joy Southard and husband Mike of Albuquerque, N.M.; and numerous nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by Deborah and Diana’s father, Thomas Howell; her parents Powell and Mary Mildred Watson; sister Beulah Knesek; brothers Powell E. Watson, Wayne F. Watson and Walter L. Watson; niece Allison Watson Mahaffey; and great nephew Jon Knesek.
Like her beloved Oklahoma Sooners, Mary scored high in life. She will be deeply missed. So, Mary, Boomer Sooner to you! We’ll put the ponies in the barn.
The family would especially like to thank Humanity Hospice of Ponca City and caregivers Stephanie Hazard, Claire Beck, Haylee Rogers, and Shelly Bruno.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the OU Foundation at the University of Oklahoma. Checks made payable to the “OU Foundation” may be sent to: The University of Oklahoma Foundation, P.O. Box 258856, Oklahoma City, Okla. 73125-8856. Contributions may also be given to your favorite charity.