Monday, October 15, 2012

Special Report: Helen Howard Has Passed

Helen Laurence Howard was a native of Florence, Alabama, the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Francis Howard. She is survived by her daughter Lauren Carroll and her son Jack Carroll.

She grew up on Wood Avenue in Florence, attending the Kilby School and graduating from Coffee High School.

Helen was a graduate of the University of North Alabama, studying theatre and journalism. While attending UNA she was active on the stage. She is a charter member of the Gamma Psi Chapter of the Alpha Gamma Delta Sorority, selected by a panel from International.

Growing up Helen developed an interest in the stage. She would joke that she was almost baptised in a theatre. First Presbyterian Church in Florence was being renovated at the time and was using the Alabama Theatre for services. Her mother made arrangements to have her baptised at another church.

She was active in the production of the play "The Miracle Worker" in Tuscumbia, Alabama at Ivy Green, Helen Keller's home. As a small child she wrote to Keller (and received a response), happily telling her that she was named Helen, too. Helen was at Ivy Green working on the play the night Helen Keller died. Helen started in the play in one of the children's roles, and after many years increased her participation, eventually directing the play for several years. During her tenure as director new sets were built and professional lighting was added. Once while she was directing she was asked to portray Keller's teacher Anne Sullivan in a segment on the television series "American Lifestyles". She last visited Ivy Green in 2011 to attend a production of "The Miracle Worker".

Helen also got her start in broadcasting in the Shoals, working at AM radio stations including WLAY and WBCF (the former WOWL). She started in television as an anchor on WOWL-TV. She later worked at WQLT-FM, a station owned by Sam Phillips of Sun Records fame. She loved to tell how Phillips called her "Little Lady".

She was also a competitive swimmer as a child. Growing up she would practice at a nearby hotel because they had a large pool. It was at this hotel where most of the artists stayed when they visited the Shoals to record. Helen met many of these musicians, and had plenty of stories to tell, from her and her school friends hanging out with the Osmonds during their free time when they were recording at FAME to being i
n the studio when Lynyrd Skynrd recorded the original demo version of "Free Bird".

Helen said she never intended to make broadcasting a career, with her interest being the stage, but a small job at WAAY-TV in Huntsville, Alabama changed her life's path. She was originally hired to work on a morning show, but one day they needed someone to fill in as an anchor. Though some at the station doubted she was ready, the show must go on and she did the job. She worked at WAAY-TV several years as a producer, anchor and reporter.

More career opportunities were presented to Helen and she followed the path upwards in broadcasting, working more and more behind the scenes as a producer and manager in many of the larger television markets. Helen possessed a quick wit and articulate speech that took her far, blazing trails in areas that were previously closed to women.

Eventually Helen arrived in Phoenix, Arizona, where she was destined to spend much of the rest of her life. During this time there were positive changes in Helen's life, in addition to continued career success. Helen became a mother of two children, of whom she was immensely proud after marrying Steve Carroll.

The oldest (sic) child is Lauren, a student a Duke University. It is tempting to say that Lauren is following in her mother's steps as a journalist, but that would be a simplification. Lauren is charting her own course as a print journalist, often working on complex investigative stories. She is Managing Editor at The Chronicle, the daily independent newspaper at Duke. Her work is also seen in regional and national news outlets.

Jack is a high school student. His interests lie in the area of music. He is already experienced in mixing and editing music. He inherits an artistic curiosity from his mother, sampling new music while still enjoying his favorites.

In addition to having a career and being a wife and mother Helen was involved in many community activities in Phoenix. She was a member of the Junior League, active with the Valley Youth Theatre and worked with the American Red Cross, earning a Clara Barton Medal.

Eventually Helen returned to Alabama, but for her friends here the few years she stayed was all too brief. Eventually she returned to Arizona, which was her adopted home, earlier this year, residing in Scottsdale. It was there where she became ill and was hospitalized. This illness claimed her li
fe this evening.

The above was written by Bryan Turner of Huntsville. I've personally known Helen for several years and counted her as a dear friend. At one time she had considered becoming part of our team. It's our loss that we never finalized the matter. The world is much worse for her absence. 


  1. Lifting Helen's family in prayer during this difficult time. May they find comfort in God's sufficient grace.

  2. Replies
    1. I have not heard; I was not aware she had been ill. I had an email from her about two months ago (or perhaps longer. I haven't checked date) and assumed everything was fine with her.

      On that note, let's make a point to check in with our friends much more often than we do...