Beloved community figure Sherri Gardner Howell, who died March 15 at the age of 67, will continue to encourage young people even though she is no longer with us.
Howell, whose column Kitchen Table Talk has run in KnoxTNToday since the online publication’s inception in May 2017, started writing a column about children and family in 1988 during her long career at the Knoxville News Sentinel. Throughout her life she served as a mentor, cheerleader and sounding board for countless students and colleagues of all ages.
She also became a friend in spirit – as well as often in person – to her numerous loyal readers, who all felt as though they knew and were cherished by her.
KnoxTNToday and Pellissippi State Community College are working to build a scholarship benefiting students at the Blount County Campus of Pellissippi State. Howell had been an advocate for Blount County since she launched the print weekly Blount Today (now defunct) nearly 18 years ago.
She served as a board member of the Pellissippi State Community College Foundation and was an indefatigable volunteer at its annual golf tournament. She also served as the United Way of Blount County Campaign chair. Her concern and advocacy for Blount County students ran deep.
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.
In addition to the writing, editing and business-management skills Howell put to work under her SGH Enterprises shingle, she had in recent years started a travel-booking business specializing in cruises, SGH GO Travel. Earlier this month, she and her husband of 44 and a half years, Neville, were on a cruise in the Caribbean when she started feeling unwell. The ship put ashore at Kingston, Jamaica, so that she could be airlifted to a hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but she died before she could get to the plane. She had suffered from pulmonary arterial hypertension for six years.
She was born May 18, 1954, in Mobile, Alabama, and grew up in Lexington, Tennessee, near Jackson. She came to Knoxville to major in journalism at the University of Tennessee and graduated in 1976.
Howell accumulated many journalism awards throughout her career. She won the YWCA Tribute to Women Award in the Arts category in its inaugural year, 1985. In 2017, she was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame for nonfiction writing. As publisher of Blount Today, she and her team received the Blount Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Excellence Award.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Mack and Frances Gardner. In addition to her husband, Neville Howell, she is survived by her sons and daughters-in-law, Trey and Kinsey Howell of Nashville and Brett and Olivia Howell of Seattle, Washington; grandsons King Howell of Nashville and Cohen Wilburn and Gardner Howell of Seattle; brother Tim (Tina) Gardner of Lexington, Tennessee; and nephew Mack (Kelley) Gardner of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
A Celebration of Life will take place at 5 p.m. next Friday, April 1, at Central Baptist Church of Bearden, 6300 Deane Hill Drive, Knoxville. Chris and Libby Phillips of Journey Point Church in Denver, Colorado, will officiate. Receiving of friends will immediately follow the service.
A private interment will be held at Pleasant Forest Cemetery, 401 Concord Road, Farragut.
Betsy Pickle is a veteran entertainment, features and news reporter who particularly enjoys spotlighting South Knoxville.