Remembering Deborah

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There’s a cartoon hanging in our office kitchen that depicts the late great Deborah Howell, affectionately known as RNS’ Godmother, hovering above the Capitol in angelic splendor as her alter ego, pitchfork in hand, unleashes a spree of vulgarities that would make a sailor blush. Deborah embraced her bifurcated image — Mother Mary Deborah on […]

  • Solange De Santis

    I’ve been reading the various obits and posts about Deborah Howell. I wish I’d known her and worked for/with her. She sounds like my kind of gal and the tributes are a reminder of why the values of journalism are eternal, no matter what form they take.

  • Mark O’Keefe

    Add another Amen.
    Well done, Kevin.

  • Kevin,

    Your claim (which you modified on GetReligion to “I got the sense”) that “Deborah was received into the Episcopal Church in the middle of her life,” doesn’t match up with what Deborah Howell herself said in interviews 16 years ago when she was almost 53 years old.

    In the “middle of her life” (circa 1975) Deborah Howell was about to marry lapsed Roman Catholic MN State Senator, Nicolas D. Coleman, Sr. who had been trying to get a divorce from his first wife, Bridget Finnegan. As Deborah Howell noted (in an almost joking manner):

    “When I covered the legislature [1971], I met the then Senate minority leader [Coleman] and fell in love with him. It was sort of a mini-scandal at the time. He left his wife and six children and ran off with a reporter from the Minneapolis Star. That was me. Because we both knew so many reporters and they liked us, and a lot of people weren’t very fond of his wife, nobody ever wrote—there were a lot of whispers, but no one ever really wrote about it. Eventually he was able to get a divorce, and we got married.”

    Howell also noted: “My husband [C. Peter Magrath] and I talk about joining a church, but we’ve never quite done it. We go to the [National] Cathedral. When we go anyplace, we go to the Cathedral.” So the fact that she occasionally went to the National Cathedral doesn’t indicate Howell was actually a member of the Episcopal Church, even when she was almost 53 years old.

  • Kevin Eckstrom

    Carl: There’s a lot that can happen in 16 years, no? Maybe it was 5 years ago, maybe it was 10 years ago, I don’t know. And I’m not really sure it matters much. I could have said she found faith “late in life,” but it wasn’t a recent thing. It had been ongoing for several years at least.

    She did, in fact, find an Episcopal Church home near her home in northwest DC, and it wasn’t the cathedral.

  • Janet

    She was technically one of my business associates but I considered her a friend. She spoke often to me of the RNS and her drive to keep it going. I only saw her soft and caring side, and I will miss speaking with her.