John I. Howell of Greenwich, Connecticut and Springfield Center, New York died peacefully March 13 at the age of 97 at his Greenwich home with his companion of the past decade, Marge Boger, at his side.
Born in Sewickley, Pennsylvania on February 2, 1917, Mr. Howell was the son of the Rev. Alleyne C. and Rosalie Howell. He was the youngest of their three sons. Mr. Howell led a full and active life. He graduated from St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire in 1935 and Yale University in 1939. In 1941 after war was declared, he sought to enlist in the United States Army but was rejected, a matter he overcame when he memorized the eye chart. Once in the Army, he was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Washington and later sent to Burma and China where he provided intelligence on Japanese maneuvers.
His intelligence background also came into play after the war when he worked for the CIA under cover as a banker in Tangiers, Morocco. His efforts were focused on tracking the source of funds to pay for Soviet spies in this country, but it was finance that became his career. With a keen interest in world affairs and commerce, Mr. Howell was well suited for J. Henry Schroder Banking Corp based in London, England. He worked at the New York office of the company where he became president in 1962 and then chairman of the board in 1970. In that capacity, and eventually following his retirement he went on to serve on the board of directors of several companies including Ward Howell Associates Inc. and the American International Group.
His work took him around the world, almost always accompanied by his wife, Nelda Audibert Howell. They were a vibrant couple guaranteed to liven any gathering. An artist and gifted raconteur, she was born in France, the daughter of an American mother and French father. They met at a dance in New York City when he was at Yale. They continued to see each other as Mr. Howell began his career as a journalist working for a paper in Long Island and then PM, a New York City daily newspaper. Their love bloomed and following their marriage in 1941 they moved to Cleveland, Ohio where he worked as a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the couple started a family. They then moved to Washington, DC where he worked in the Division of World Trade Intelligence for the Department of State prior to enlisting in the Army.
Mr. Howell had a strong attachment to Springfield Center, where his grandfather, Henry Wardwell, built a home that over the decades became the nucleus of a family compound. His advice and counsel was sought and treasured as were his efforts to bring together members of the family. He was gifted with the ability to listen to people, understand their needs and get them to realize, and draw upon, their own strengths. He was instrumental in saving one of the country's first golf courses, the Otsego Golf Course, from development although he was never an avid golfer and much preferred tennis.
The Howells were the parents of two children, a son, John, married to Carol B. Howell of Warwick, RI and a daughter, Claire Blatchford, married to Edward Blatchford of Shelburne, Massachusetts. He was the grandfather of Diana O'Brien of Wilson, Wyoming, John Howell III of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Theodore Howell of Saunderstown, RI, Laurel Blatchford of Washington, DC and Christa Blatchford of Brooklyn, NY. He had eight great-grandchildren. Following the death of Mrs. Howell in 2002, Marge Boger, a close friend whose late husband also served in Burma, but with the Army Air Corps, became his companion. A retired nurse, Mrs. Boger lovingly cared for him and saved his life after he had a nightmare, falling out of bed and breaking his neck.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, March 22 at 11:30 a.m. at St. Barnabas Church, Lake Avenue, Greenwich, CT. A second service is being planned for early July in Springfield Center.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Head of the Lake, the corporation established to save the Otsego Golf Course, and addressed to the Otsego Land Trust, PO Box 173, Cooperstown, NY 13326.