Honoring the late Sherri Gardner Howell

Betsy PickleBlount, Farragut, Kitchen Table Talk

It was on March 15 – three weeks ago yesterday – that our beloved KnoxTNToday colleague Sherri Gardner Howell passed away at age 67. She was on a Caribbean cruise when she fell ill, and she died in Kingston, Jamaica, as efforts were being made to transport her to a hospital in Florida.


There was a beautiful, well-attended Celebration of Life service last Friday. Friends and relatives paid their respects to her husband, Neville, and sons Trey and Brett at the visitation afterward. The family laid her to rest in a small, lovely cemetery on Saturday.

Her loved ones – and those for whom her love had a ripple effect – are learning to navigate around the hole left in their lives. Sherri made a positive impact on everyone she met.

We at KnoxTNToday wanted to honor our friend in a way that reflected her interests and passions. Sherri put her heart into many channels and promoted many causes. She gave not just money but also her time and her talent.

Columnists Sherri Gardner Howell and Sam Venable at the Golden Press Card Awards in 2012.

To those of us who came to know her in the news business, she was a mentor and a mama, a peer and a protector, an editor and an encourager. She was the consummate storyteller, and she tried to make all of us better at communicating as well.

One of Sherri’s greatest pleasures was serving on the board of the Pellissippi State Foundation for 11 years. She loved helping students achieve their academic goals. Even after she rotated off the board, she continued to support Pellissippi’s mission.

She also loved Blount County. She left the Knoxville News Sentinel after nearly 30 years to become the publisher of the weekly Blount Today. With a handpicked team, she created a community newspaper that became invaluable to the residents and businesses of Blount County.

When the parent company, KNS Media Group, closed down the paper, Sherri still kept a hand in the publishing business of Blount County and supported the community there.

That history led us – with the family’s blessing – to join forces with the Pellissippi State Foundation to raise money for the Pellissippi State Community College’s Blount Campus general scholarship fund in tribute to Sherri.

Journalism isn’t the same as it was when Sherri graduated from the University of Tennessee 45 years ago; it isn’t a major at Pellissippi. But we felt that Sherri would love the idea of supporting both Pellissippi and Blount County in one package.

With the addition of the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center on the Blount Campus, Pellissippi’s contribution to education in Blount County will be even stronger.

KnoxTNToday is donating to the Blount Campus general scholarship fund in Sherri’s memory, and we encourage her readers and fans to do so as well.

Gifts may be made to Pellissippi State’s Blount County General Scholarship in memory of Sherri Gardner Howell or by check mailed to Pellissippi State Foundation, P.O. Box 22990, Knoxville, TN 37933, with “Sherri Gardner Howell” in the memo.

The hope is that enough donations will be raised to turn the gifts into a named scholarship. That’s a big goal – $10,000 worth. We’re not fundraisers. We don’t have deep pockets. But if everyone who was touched by one of Sherri’s columns through the years donated a little, our dream might come true. Even if it doesn’t, having Sherri’s name connected to dozens, even hundreds, of gifts to help students will be a worthy tribute to one of East Tennessee’s journalistic treasures.

Betsy Pickle is a veteran freelance writer and editor and a longtime friend of Sherri Gardner Howell.

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