Julie Frances LaCombe Howie – Mom, Nanny, and Herself, the Queen of Everything – died Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021, in Indianapolis.
She lived for 89 years and is now reunited with her beloved husband, who prepared the way for her in 2007.
Julie was proud of being born in Negaunee, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, on Aug. 20, 1931, a daughter of Eileen and Oral LaCombe Jr. Wherever she went in her life, she took part of the U.P. with her. The special-occasion comfort food of her youth, the pasty (it rhymes with “nasty” and if you haven’t had one, we’re sorry for you), came with her to her own family. When her children would complain about the snow or cold, she would scoff and say, “This is nothing.” She was right. We’ve seen the photos.
She attended grade school in Negaunee and high school in Danville, Ill., where her family moved when her mother ran a neighborhood grocery store.
While working as a carhop at the Steak ’n Shake at Main and Gilbert in Danville, she met a young sailor just home from World War II. The attraction was instant and mutual. Again, we’ve seen the photos.
She married that sailor, James Andrew Howie, on Jan. 27, 1951, in Danville. The love of her life, he died Feb. 18, 2007. But for more than half a century, they took great joy in their time together. He built a house – two houses, actually – and she built a home. While he worked for more than 40 years at the General Motors Central Foundry, she raised eight children and kept them all out of trouble. Well, mostly.
If anyone knows where they hid the Christmas presents in that tiny first house, please tell us.
Music was always present in her life. From Ave Maria to the Clancy Brothers, she played records that to this day resound in her children’s ears. When the nest emptied, she joined the Danville chapter of Sweet Adelines and delighted in the shows and practices, especially in her spot-on impersonation of Mae West: “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.” Music is always present in her children’s lives, too. Coincidence?
She and her husband shared a passion for politics. Dinner conversation often revolved around which Democrat they wanted to vote for. Neither ever missed an election. In November 2020, she was happy to vote blue one more time, and smiled in her last days because Joe Biden – her candidate all along – was president.
They also loved to travel, frequently driving to the U.P. They crossed the Atlantic to visit Ireland and Scotland and the Pacific to visit Australia. We’ve seen the photos.
She was a feminist before it was a thing. She was smart, well-read and well-informed. She held neither tongue nor temper. She knew her grammar, and pity the person whose preposition appeared at the end of a sentence. She loved being the center of attention, and when she had a birthday, you ignored her call of “I’m opening!” at your own peril.
She was complicated in a particularly Irish way. She was strict and sweet and sarcastic and sentimental. She was petrified of water when she was young, so in her forties, she learned to swim … and loved it. She held her convictions in an iron grip, and seldom felt the need to apologize. She taught her children that life isn’t fair, that it takes less time to do it right than to do it over, and that some things are worth fighting for – all valuable lessons, then and now. Reflecting on her years of child-rearing, she said simply, “I did the best I could with what I knew.” When one of her adult children was worried about loving a second baby as much as the first, she advised, “It doesn’t divide. It multiplies.”
Talk about multiplying. Survivors include eight children, 20 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren (with another on the way): James Howie, of Danville, Ill., formerly of Warsaw and Winona Lake; his daughter, Aubrey Carpenter (Brian) of Danville, and their children Cooper, Camden, Callan, Caryss and Corine Jules (who is named for Julie); and his sons Michael Howie of Fort Wayne; and Logan Howie (Kristen Waikel) of Warsaw. Karen Stelzer and her husband Keith of Danville, and their son, Jim Stelzer and his son Daulton of Danville; son, Phillip Stelzer of Rienzi, Miss.; daughter, Morgan Peacock of Rienzi, Miss.; and son, Joseph Stelzer (Brittany) and children Ronnie, Jaiden, Uriah and Tommy of Georgetown, Ill. Michael Howie and his wife Mary Ann Royse of Marathon, Fla., and his sons, Andrew Howie (Kristen) and Tommy Howie, both of Champaign. Allen Howie and his wife Lisa Howie of Lanesville; their daughter, Emma Howie, and son, Jack Howie, of Lanesville, and daughter Sophie Howie of Jeffersonville; Laura Howie-Walters and her husband Gary Walters, and Julie’s granddog Rex, of Indianapolis. Christopher Howie and his wife Julie of Urbana; their daughters Megan Colba (Scott) of Bloomington, Ill. and Erin Newnam (Kyle) and their children Charlotte and Callahan of Ogden, Ill.; and their son, Mitchell Howie of San Antonio, Texas. David Howie and his wife Cindy of Champaign; their son, Daniel Howie of Chicago, and daughter, Ariana Howie of Champaign. William Howie and his wife Lisa of Massillon, Ohio; their son, Jamey Howie of Massillon; daughter, Beth Howie of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and son, Jordan Howie of Berea, Ohio.
Survivors also include many nieces and nephews, all of whom she adored; and her “third daughter,” Kathy Robinson.
In addition to her husband, she was preceded in death by a grandson, Zachary James Howie of Champaign; three sisters, Marion Russell, Orian Martin and an infant; and a brother, William LaCombe.
Funeral mass will be at 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 29, at Holy Family Catholic Church, 444 E. Main St., Danville. Visitation will be prior to the mass from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at Sunset Funeral Home and Cremation Center, located at 3940 N. Vermilion St., Danville.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in her name to Holy Family Catholic Church.