Cover photo for Mary Jean Howell's Obituary
Mary Jean Howell Profile Photo

Mary Jean Howell

August 15, 1944 — October 4, 2023


Mary Jean Howell


The article below was written by Mary about her life and sent to a friend many years ago. It is that friend’s wish that it be shared at this time with those who knew and loved her.


During the last quarter of her senior year at the University of Cincinnati

(UC), Mary visited Lisbon, Portugal with a group of her classmates, then

attended a two-month Course for Foreign Students at the University of

Salamanca, Spain, where she lived with a Spanish family to become

acquainted with the culture and develop linguistic skills.  At the end of

her stay, she toured Seville, Malaga, Granada, and Madrid, and was

especially inspired by the paintings she saw at the Prado Museum.

Mary earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, and following graduation, taught

elementary Spanish on an assistantship at UC, while taking coursework

towards a Master’s Degree in Romance Languages.  Later, she served as

translator and bilingual secretary to several local exporters and worked

in the international departments of large manufacturing companies such

as Mosler Safe Company and Kenner Products, processing paperwork on

overseas shipments.  However, her greatest joy came from the studies

which prepared her for work in the visual arts: as a fine artist, decorative

artist, floral designer, artisan, and fine craftsman.

There were three major milestones or turning points in her

development. The first spark of inspiration which prompted her to paint

came in the summer of 1985, after visiting the Virginia Beach Boardwalk

Art Show where she fell in love with paintings by Georgia watercolorist,

Jim Dodd.

The second milestone came in 1988, when a career change class she

took at Scarlet Oaks Vocational School in Cincinnati revealed an interest

in fine crafts, as well as a broader interest in art, generally.  At the time,

she was working full time as a secretary for Cincinnati Public Schools,

serving a team of 35 school psychologists, and needed to continue

supporting herself, so, rather than attend the Cincinnati Art Academy,

she designed a course of self-guided studies and began taking art classes

wherever and whenever she could.

She studied Drawing at the Discovery Center and earned a certificate in

commercial floristry from the J.W. White School of Floral Design in

Dayton, Ohio.  At Riverbend Art Center in Dayton, she took classes in Silk

Screen, Airbrush, Illustrator’s Techniques, Oil Painting, Watercolor,

Woodcarving, Pottery, Navajo Weaving, Pen and Ink Rendering, and

Marketing Art.  She studied Drawing at Middletown Fine Arts Center;

Copper Enamel at Baker Hunt Foundation in Covington, KY; Quilting at

Northern Kentucky University; Weaving at Peach Mountain Studio in

Cincinnati, Calligraphy through guilds in Cincinnati and Louisville, KY; and

Stained Glass at Tiffany Art Glass Studio in Cincinnati.  When a supervisor

inquired about the reason for taking so many art classes, Mary declared

with her typical sense of humor that the aim was to become a “one-

woman art show.”

As a child, Mary was inspired by the beauty of her grandmother’s

appliqued quilts.  As a tiny tot, she loved sitting beside her grandmother,

sewing together small squares of brightly colored fabric.  As an adult,

Mary loved the beauty of floral displays at Cincinnati’s Krohn

Conservatory, and she enjoyed participating in a photography workshop

in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which captured a glorious mountain sunrise. 

She valued her memberships in the Northern Kentucky Watercolor

Society, Ohio Watercolor Society, Liturgical Art Guild of Ohio, American

Association of Marine Artists, and Queen City Art Club.  While she was a

member of the Cincinnati Art Club, she took special pleasure from

interviewing fellow artists, visiting their studios, then writing articles

called Focus on the Artist for the group’s newsletter, The Dragonfly.

During summer vacations, she attended two Maine Coast Art

Workshops, where she studied with watercolorist Christopher Schink,

widely known for his paintings of jazz musicians.  She toured Monhegan

Island, home of Jamie Wyeth, and visited the Farnsworth Museum to see

an exhibit of his paintings.  And while in Port Clyde, Maine, she had the

unexpected pleasure of meeting world famous artist Andrew Wyeth, son

of NC Wyeth, illustrator of children’s books, and father of Jamie Wyeth,

at the tiny restaurant on the wharf called The Dip Net.

Other watercolor workshops she attended were taught by Skip Lawrence

in Pemaquid, Maine, and by Joe Miller, proprietor of Cheap Joe’s Art

in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  Her travels also took her to San Diego

for the Second International Watermedia Symposium, and to San

Francisco for a workshop at the studio of Christopher Schink, with tours

of the Napa Valley wine country, Pacific Coast Highway, Carmel, Pebble

Beach, and the Monterey Aquarium.

The third milestone came around 1990 when a coworker expressed

interest in tole painting, which led Mary to become a member of the

national organization then called Society of Tole and Decorative Painters,

now known simply as Society of Decorative Painters (SDP). She

subsequently joined three local chapters of this group: Greater

Cincinnati Decorative Artists, Ohio Valley Decorative Artists, and

Decorative Art Guild of Southwest Ohio in Dayton, and through their

activities enjoyed the friendship of other artists, as well as the joy of

learning to paint, hands on, one project at a time; thereby gaining

expertise and developing her skills.  And for the past ten summers, she

has attended a week-of painting classes at SDP’s Heart of Ohio Tole

convention, affectionately known as HOOT, which is held at the Hyatt

Regency Hotel in Columbus.

Mary is currently a member of a worldwide, internet group of artists

known as Tolefriends (, which consists of close to

2,000 artists in the continental USA, Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, Australia,

New Zealand, Scotland, UK, Central America, South America, Italy, Japan,

Israel, and Saudi Arabia.  She has participated in two philanthropic art

organizations.  One is a bereavement support group that provides hand

painted memory boxes; to hospitals which give them to grieving

mothers in their perinatal loss units (; while the

other group, Guardian Angel Artists, paints or handcrafts images of

angels, and sends them, along with prayers or condolences, to people

who are experiencing personal loss, family problems, or serious illness.


Mary has also edited four cookbooks.  The first was for the Pioneer

Antique and Hobby Association of Cincinnati.  The next two were for

Cincinnati Public Schools, emphasizing ethnic diversity and interracial

understanding for Brotherhood/Black History Month, and the most

recent was for the Miami Senior Citizens Center of Cleves, Ohio,

celebrating their 20th anniversary of service to the community.

A special honor came to Mary in 2000, again in 2003, when she was

asked to submit biographical information to Marquis  “Who’s Who” of

American Women; In 2004, she was also invited to submit her bio to

“Who’s Who in America’s” and “Who in the World” for their 2006


Mary painted a Christmas ornament for Society of Decorative Painters,

and it has been accepted to hang at the Smithsonian Institution’s

Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC.


A graveside service will be held at Spring Grove Cemetery at 10:30 AM on Monday October 9th 2023.  A procession will form at the front gate of the cemetery (4521 Spring Grove Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45232) Please arrive at the front gate no later than 10:30 AM.



To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Mary Jean Howell, please visit our flower store.

Past Services

Graveside Service

Monday, October 9, 2023

Starts at 10:30am (Eastern time)

The funeral procession will form at the front gate of Spring Grove Cemetery (4521 Spring Grove Avenue) Please arrive no later than 10:30 AM

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