Cover photo for Shirley Howell's Obituary
Shirley Howell Profile Photo
1944 Shirley 2017

Shirley Howell

September 19, 1944 — May 4, 2017

Shirley Howell, 72, a great-great granddaughter of 19th century author and former slave Solomon Northup, whom penned the acclaimed narrative Twelve Years A Slave, passed away peacefully on the evening of May 4, 2017. She was surrounded and comforted by her loving children and family at her bedside. Shirley was born to John C. and Ethel L. (Devoe) Northrup on September 19, 1944, in Auburn, NY, and a resident of Seneca Falls for 54 years.

Shortly after graduating from Port Byron Central High School in 1963, Shirley moved to Seneca Falls engaging in employment with Philips ECG and in 1971 meeting the love of her life, late husband Army Veteran James D. Howell. They had two wonderful children, Melissa and Howard and stepdaughter Tracy Howell Briggs.

Shirley loved spending time with her close friends and family. She enjoyed lunching with her girlfriends, taking a ride with no destination, gardening, a good movie & popcorn, family celebrations and relaxing with a cold Pepsi. She was hardworking all her life and always lending a helping hand when asked or not, and enjoyed the fruits of her labor – her home and her family. When not at work, Shirley was an artisan crafting greeting cards, embroidery and canvas to sewing children’s pillows and books, but her enjoyment and comfort was in her crocheting all things from clothing to custom afghans.

In her retirement years, Shirley spent her time endlessly researching and recording her paternal family history with her elder sister Irene and her daughter Melissa in addition to being an artisan. The greatest creation and joy of her life though was raising her children and being their ‘Mom’ and to their friends- ‘Mum Howell’. She is remembered for her direct commentary, sense of humor, enjoyment of the simple things, and her unwavering support of her children’s lifelong endeavors.

“Mom, no one will love us more…a limb has fallen from our family tree. You will be missed by all those who loved you and all that was you. Your legacy lives on in us.”

Shirley was predeceased by her husband James D. Howell; as well as her parents, John C. and Ethel L. (DeVoe) Northrup; her sister, Beverly Boyer; and half-sister, June Alexander; two brothers, John P. Northrup II and Paul R. Northrup; sister-in-law, Diane (Kevin) Northrup; and brother-in-law, Christos (Irene) Zahos. Shirley is survived by her children Melissa Howell and Howard (Jens Storm) Howell; her sisters, Irene Zahos and Frances Emerson; her brother, Kevin Northrup; her half-sister, Joyce (Fred) Dennington; her sister-in-law, Sally (Don) McFarland; and many nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews. A warm acknowledgment to her best friends Carol Burke, Kathy Thurston and the late Barbara Shane for their life-long friendship and support of our mother over the years.

The family will have private funeral services at Union Cemetery of Hector, Burdett, NY. A Celebration of Life gathering will follow in Watkins Glen. Flowers and condolences may be directed to Royce-Chedzoy Funeral Home, 212 E. 4th St., Watkins Glen. Friends and family may also make donations to the American Heart Association. You may leave a memory of Shirley, express condolences or “Light A Candle of Remembrance” online at
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Shirley Howell, please visit our flower store.


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