Bea Howell was born on a farm in Newton County, Missouri on January 16, 1906, to the union of Noah S. Barker and Nancy Wooten Barker. She was the 11th of 12 children, and got her start in the kitchen at age 11, clearing and washing dishes as she helped her mother feed the threshing hands. She attended school at Newtonia through the eighth grade, but could not go beyond that due to the segregation policies of the time.
“Bea”, as all knew her, and Ollie Jefferson Howell were married in September 1924, and had two children, Lois and Warren. After 54 years together, Ollie died in 1979. The couple moved to Jasper County in 1938 and both were employed at Frerer Dairy southwest of Carthage. Bea also worked for the Ulmer family at the funeral home for many years.
She later began to supplement the family income by selling her tasty cooking and baking. She began her catering service during the early part of World War II, and provided gracious service for big parties and small luncheons, for banquets and picnics, for community gatherings, business meetings, social events and family affairs, gaining many admirers and cherished friends along the way.
At the donation of a book in her memory to the Carthage Public Library, Carthage author Jacquie Potter noted that “she lived in Carthage for 65 years and she was just a marvelous cook and a marvelous spirit”. During the 1970s, The Carthage Press featured many of her coveted recipes, including her popular Parker House rolls, cinnamon rolls, southern pecan pie and chicken tettrazini.
Bea was a long-time member of First United Methodist Church, and at age 95 was honored by the Carthage community as a special honored citizen at the front of the line of the Maple Leaf parade in 2001. At that time she said “I like Carthage. I think it’s a wonderful place. Everybody’s so nice and friendly”. In 2004, advancing age forced Bea to move to her daughter’s home in St. Louis, where she died in 2009 at age 102.
“This remarkable and hard-working woman who had such a tremendous presence in Carthage and the surrounding area for 50 or 60 years” is truly deserving of recognition as one of Carthage’s Heroes.