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We marveled every time we saw it – she’d enter a room full of complete strangers -- at the airport, at a restaurant or a party, then immediately and so naturally strike up a conversation to the point we thought she knew the persons prior. The most memorable example happened years ago while she was awaiting her son, John, at Northridge Mall. He returned from a store to find her holding the Jackson Family (who she met 15 minutes earlier) captive and captivated in conversation, and she introduced them to him like long-lost friends. That was the essence of our Catherine “Katie” Howman, who passed peacefully and gracefully to God, in the presence of her loving family, on June 6, 2018, at the beautiful age of 93.
While a lifelong Wisconsin native, born in Appleton WI, on March 26, 1925 to Cecelia Gibbons O’Neill and Mathew O’Neill, Katie always said she was 100% Irish and she relished her Celtic heritage. A hard-working farm girl, as they all were in those days, Katie eschewed milking cows with her four siblings, but through her other chores, developed her oft-expressed love of vegetables, telling us many times how she ate the veggies freshly picked and raw while tending the family garden. Katie attended Appleton High School, where she made many lasting friendships to the point where she and a group of girls rented a house together right after high school. These friendships were so close and enduring that when several of these high school gals, now young women, eventually married, they shared the same bridesmaid gown over several weddings. That elegant bridal gown stood the test of time and could easily be worn today, as did these women’s elegant friendships, which continue to this day for those who still survive.
Katie worked at Kimberly Clark where she met her future husband, Richard (Bub) Howman, as the legend goes, at the Kotex stuffing machine in 1947. They wed on January 29, 1949 and spent nearly 50 devoted years together before his death in 1998. During their marriage, Katie and Dick adopted two children, Robert and John, with the family joke (but actually true) being Katie was so nervous when she got infant John, the gas man had to come into the house and show her how to change a diaper. Once the boys were in school, Katie went back to work for the Neenah Joint School District as the attendance secretary at Shattuck High School. Thus, Katie knew an entire generation of Neenah High students, but she knew the ones in trouble a little better. Many a student heard Katie say: “Now, why would you want to do that?”
Never one to be inactive, Katie loved to golf, danced with a line-dancing troupe, served on her Neenah condo’s board, and performed joyfully “for the old people” with the Y-Nots singing group up until almost the age of 90. Of course, she maintained close and active relationships with her lifelong friends, many of whom lovingly came to visit her after she moved from Neenah, and particularly over the past several months. She was a proficient sewer, knitter, quilter, and was a voracious reader to the point where, until recently, she kept a running list of all the books she had read and rated them from good to bad. Katie was an active member of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Neenah until she moved from Neenah to the Milwaukee area in 2016 to be closer to her family. She most recently resided at Lincoln Village in Port Washington, Wisconsin. Over the past six months, Katie courageously and happily dealt with medical and cognitive issues related to a serious head injury sustained in a fall, until a recently-discovered cancer hastened her passing.
Katie was preceded in death by her parents, Matt and Cecelia; her siblings, Eileen Beachkofski, Amy Weiss, Roy O’Neill, Robert O’Neill; and her in-laws, Clem Weiss, James Howman, Doris Howman, and Stanley Howman. She is survived by her sons Robert (Alicia “Cory”) of Winona, MN and their son Maxx; and John (Laura Gille) of Grafton, WI and their children Marielle and Jack. She is survived by in-laws Robert Beachkofski, JoAnne O’Neill, Vivian O’Neill, and Delores O’Neill; and nieces and nephews and their children. Katie had a special relationship with her nephew Jim Weiss and his wife, Margie, and their children; Katie thought of the Weiss’s as her second set of children and grandchildren.
We will miss watching Katie sip a glass of white wine while reading the newspaper, hilariously mixing-up news facts, expounding wisdom on just about any topic, and telling jokes in her own special brand of Irish brogue featuring a Mrs. O’Leary or a Father O’Grady. But most of all, we will miss our Katie.
The Howman family would like to give special thanks to Lincoln Village for their superior and loving staff, Allay Hospice for their care and concern, and Jim and Margie Weiss and their children for their on-going and constant presence in Katie’s long and blessed life.
To honor Katie, the family encourages attendees to wear a “Wee Bit ‘O Green” to the funeral.
A celebration of Katie’s long and wonderful life will be held on Friday, July 13 , 2018 , at ST. MARGARET MARY CATHOLIC CHURCH, 620 Division Street, Neenah, Wisconsin, with Fr. Guy Gurath officiating. Friends and relatives may greet the family at the church prior to the Mass from 9:30 am until 11:00 am, with the Mass beginning at 11:00 am. All are invited to a lunch in the gathering room following the service. The Y-Nots will perform Katie’s favorite Irish songs at the luncheon. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to St. Margaret Mary Parish or to The Brigade (formerly The Boy’s Brigade) of Neenah http://www.bgbrigade.com/
There's still time to send flowers to the Visitation at the St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church from 9:30 AM to 11:00 AM on July 13, 2018.
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