Friends, family of Carolyn Mitchell Howard celebrate her life at memorial service
By Blenda Copeland
The great-great-granddaughter of the namesake of Ft. Mitchell, Ala., in Russell County, has passed away at the age of 108. Carolyn Owen Mitchell Howard, born in 1909, died on New Year’s Day, 2018, at Kindred Hospice in Columbus, Ga.
A descendant of a former Georgia governor, David Brydie Mitchell, Howard was well-known and beloved in the community and her church, Oswichee Baptist, where she was the eldest and longest-attending member (about 88 years).
“She was pretty much an open book,” recalled one of her granddaughters, Susan Howard Braud.
“She was always wanting to share and to help somebody who needed something.
“My sister and I were discussing the other day (that) when the church was smaller, she was in charge of the weddings. She knew everything that had to be done: refreshments, everything. She made veils, the garter, and sometimes, she even made the gown, if someone wanted her to.”
Braud said her grandmother also taught a class on jelly-making once through the Russell County Extension Service and was adept at most things home-related. She made curtains, aprons, dresses, suits: anything from cloth and a sewing machine. She canned fruits and vegetables, jams and relishes, and only stopped making such products in recent years. She also was well known for making cakes – particularly caramel cake — earlier in her life. Some goodies she was known for making also included her cheese straws, homemade party mints and, even late in life, she would bake cookies for Vacation Bible School when she became unable to do other things.
“She has never been idle,” Braud said, which she attributed as perhaps one of the key factors that kept her going through the years. “She never sat around and said, ‘Oh goodness, I don’t feel well.’
“She was amazing. She had a very strong faith in the Lord.
“She’s been a fixture in this community. She’s accomplished so many things. She’s always been positive. She never looked for the bad things in people. She was blessed with a good spirit and she just passed that on. All my life she’s always been very much the same. She was always keeping busy. She didn’t give up.”
Always particular about what she ate, Braud said her grandmother never had a weight issue, except perhaps being underweight at one point.
“She was moderate in the way she did things,” Braud recalled. “She enjoyed working in the yard and with her flowers. That’s one thing she truly loved.”
“I was very fortunate to grow up with grandparents so close by,” Braud said. “We were all very close and everything to do with the family and home, that’s what she liked.”
Howard was the stepmother of Braud’s father and his brother and raised them with her husband as her own children.
“She’s the only grandmother I’ve ever known,” Braud said.
Howard also was blessed with a keen memory and sharp mind that remained with her into her latter years, even at 105 and beyond. “Her memory was amazing,” Braud said. “She would tell me something and I’d say, ‘When was that?’ and she’d say, ‘I just told you that this morning; you don’t remember that?’”
Howard was among a small group of Russell County super-centenarians documented by The Citizen in previous years. The newspaper interviewed her multiple times and published features covering many of her memories, including riding steamboats down the Chattahoochee River to see relatives, what it was like when her church first got air conditioning and her baptism at age 21 in Ihaghee Creek. In 2012, at age 103, she published a locally popular cookbook of her recipes — and though at a slower pace, she was at that time still canning relish and pickles.
In 2013 the Lee-Russell Council of Governments and Area Agency on Aging began honoring Lee County’s and Russell County’s centenarians and super-centenarians by hanging their portraits on an interior wall in their building in Opelika. Howard was among the first eight featured in February that debut year. Of that group that year, she was the 5th oldest living person over 100 years old. She was 103 then, and was the third oldest of the elders from Russell County (preceding her in age, oldest to youngest, were Glennville native James Richardson, then 109, who was honored in 2015 at age 111 with a presidential birthday letter; and Hurtsboro’s Julia Cochran, then 109).
Of all Russell County’s centenarians and super-centenarians The Citizen documented in 2013, Howard was the third oldest, at age 104, of 10 who were featured, ranging in ages from 109 to 100.
As far as The Citizen can confirm, before her Jan. 1 death, Howard was the oldest currently living female in Russell County, and possibly the oldest currently living person in the county that the newspaper has documented. She had just celebrated her 108th birthday last July with a community party in Ft. Mitchell.
According to her obituary, Howard received an appointment from a Georgia governor to Gracious Ladies of Georgia for her many civic accomplishments; served on the Russell County Historic Society Board; was a charter member of the Ft. Mitchell Volunteer Fire Department; served many years on the Ft. Mitchell Cemetery Committee; and was instrumental with Congressman (Ret.) Jack Brinkley in the choosing of a location for the Ft. Mitchell National Cemetery.
According to her obituary, she is survived by a family that spans to the 6th generation – to a great, great, great grandson. Her celebration of life memorial service was held Jan. 6 at her church, Oswichee Baptist, and she was privately buried at Oswichee-Alexandria United Methodist Church Cemetery.
Online condolences may be shared at www.vancememorial chapel.net.