By Mayra Flores De Marcotte
Sally Howe’s infectious smile and vivacious personality left a lasting impression on those that she met, as did her knack for building community everywhere she went.
Howe, the grande dame of Campbell, died on Jan. 14. She was 83 years old.
“Sally was like the sunshine; she was a beacon of information and was never shy about sharing her opinion,” said Evan Low, former Campbell mayor and now state assemblyman.
Low first met Howe as a boy at various Campbell events his father Arthur took him to. Over the years, Howe became a part of Low’s support system.
“When I think about Sally, I will remember the importance of expressing your opinions in a respectful and thoughtful way,” he said. “She was an icon in Campbell and will always be one of the greatest people our city has ever known.”
Howe was born June 1, 1931, in Los Angeles, relocated to San Jose and graduated from Lincoln High School in 1949. She made her final move from San Jose to Campbell in 1953 and remained an active participant of her community.
Campbell Planning Commissioner Phil Reynolds first met Howe at a neighborhood block party in 2007.
“I’ve known Sally for making the world’s best deviled eggs, and when she brought those to our block parties, they were the first to go,” Reynolds said.
Over the years, Reynolds said that along with those delicious eggs, he came to appreciate Howe for her ability to bring different groups together, her volunteerism and a playful personality.
“Everyone would joke about getting whacked with her cane,” said Phil Reynolds. “She would poke your toes with her cane. I always saw that as a term of endearment. That meant something special.”
“You knew where you stood with her,” Reynolds said. “She was outspoken and open and spoke her mind.”
For the 60 years that she lived in the Orchard City, Howe was involved with the Country Women’s Club of Campbell, an organization that brought local women together for the last century to support the community.
She was the driving force behind the annual Bunnies and Bonnets Parade as well as the Carol of Lights, both family-focused events aimed at bringing the Campbell community together.
“If you were ever a part of the events in downtown Campbell like the Bunnies and Bonnets parade or the Carol of Lights festival at Christmas, you knew that Sally put 1001 percent into making sure these events were done just perfectly so that the community would have something to remember these holidays by,” said Sonya Paz.
Paz first met Howe in 2007 when she opened Sonya Paz Art Gallery in downtown Campbell. The two instantly hit it off.
“Sally was a true gem, not only in Campbell but in the surrounding areas,” Paz said. “She knew a lot of people. She certainly touched everyone in this very special way. It’s not often that you meet somebody in their 80s that is still working a full-time job, working on projects, was on the board of many associations and still had time to visit and connect with people that she cared about.”
Howe was also involved in the Downtown Campbell Business Association, acting as its leader for a period but always offering guidance to others in the role in later years.
Former Campbell business owner Dana Smith first met Howe in 1994. The two met at a DCBA board meeting when Howe was vice president of the association. After a short period, the president position was vacated and Howe stepped in, asking Smith to take her place as veep.
“She told me, ‘Don’t worry, you won’t have to do anything,'” he said.
The two became friends and were involved in multiple events over the years, including many Downtown Campbell Wine Walks and the behind-the-scenes for the Carol of Lights.
“Her drive and enthusiasm and energy were pretty amazing,” Smith said. “She would go to every city council meeting, every DCBA meeting–anything that needed a voice or body or comment. At 80-something, she missed nothing. She had her whole heart and soul in it.”
Kelly Crowley, general manager at Khartoum, first met Howe in the late 1990s while she worked as a waitress at Mio Vicino’s and was struck by her passion for and knowledge of the community she was a part of.
When she began working in the downtown, she became a part of the DCBA and enjoyed what she called “lively, often heated, always passionate conversations.”
“Sally was a mentor to me,” Crowley said. “She was civic-minded and giving, brassy and strong.”
Campbell business owner Deb Rohzen also met Howe through her involvement with the DCBA 14 years ago. The two, Rohzen said, had their fair share of laughs and hugs and even arguments, but the friendship between them never waned.
“Above all else, Sally always had the interests of the Campbell community at heart,” Rohzen said. “She was the epitome of a good person–a passionate person indeed–and she will be forever in my heart.”
The local matriarch also ran the Campbell Express, the city’s longest-publishing newspaper. Howe’s presence was ubiquitous at city council meetings, community happenings and theater events, and her knowledge of the things that made the community tick was unending. If she didn’t know about, she’d quickly look into it and report back her findings.
“Somehow, even though she wasn’t an elected official, Sally got things done in the Campbell community,” said Al Bito, assistant to the Campbell city manager. “She had her own authority that people respected and followed.”
The two met when he attended his first city council meeting as part of his new job in 1997, and Howe introduced herself and then offered to introduce Bito to community leaders.
“I will miss Sally’s sheer presence and company at all of the public and community meetings because of what she brings to the table and this includes her friendship, her wisdom and her compassion,” he said.
Former Campbell mayor Rich Waterman met Howe at an event in San Jose more than 15 years ago.
“Little did I know that this lady, arguing with me about an issue she felt passionate about, would play an instrumental part in encouraging me to both start my own Campbell business and to get so involved in Campbell politics,” Waterman said.
Prior to her time as a newswoman, Howe worked various jobs. She was a switchboard operator in Los Gatos, an elevator operator at Roos-Atkins department store in downtown San Jose and a school secretary at Lowell Elementary School in the San Jose Unified School District.
Howe then wrote for the Campbell Press, the predecessor to the Campbell Express, for many years. She also edited the quarterly newsletter for the Metropolitan Adult Education Program. In the 1980s, Howe headed up the Campbell Progressive Seniors.
Howe was heavily involved in the dog breeding community. For more than 40 years, she bred and exhibited Pembroke Welsh Corgi dogs and fostered her relationships within that community. This aspect of her life took a back seat when she decided to focus on her role as newspaper reporter, then publisher and owner in 2003 when she bought the Campbell Express. Her love for the small dogs, however, never waned. Photos hung from her office and a golden Corgi charm hung from a necklace she wore regularly.
Sally Howe is survived by her daughter, Roberta C. Howe, son Matthew C. Howe, grandsons Starsun and Cyrus, granddaughter Lyra, and numerous nieces and nephews.
A Celebration of Howe’s life will take place on Jan. 24, 1 p.m. at the Home Church, 1711 Winchester Blvd. with a reception to follow at the Orchard City Banquet Hall, 1 W. Campbell Ave.
This article originally appeared in the Campbell Reporter.