Elsie Curtis Howe

November 17, 1920 - May 30, 2012
Elsie Curtis Howe

Memorial Gifts & Donations

Elsie (Arnold) Howe, 91, of Wilmington NC died of natural causes on May 30, 2012.

Born in Baltimore to Fannie Bell (Ostrom) and Alfred C. Arnold, Elsie Howe grew up in Philadelphia and White Plains, NY. She attended Moravian College before receiving a scholarship to study piano and voice at Julliard. In her final year at Julliard, Richard Rodgers cast her in the chorus of the original Broadway production of Oklahoma!, which opened to great acclaim on March 31, 1943. Known then by her maiden name, Elsie Arnold, she performed in the show for more than two years, and over one thousand performances. On March 31, 1993 she was one of eighteen members of the original company honored at a gala 50th anniversary celebration luncheon in New York City’s Rainbow Room.

Upon leaving Oklahoma! she sang with Phil Spitalny and his orchestra on his radio show, and with the NBC Symphony Chorus under Arturo Toscanini. She was also the musical director of the White Plains NY Gilbert and Sullivan Society.

After her marriage to Thomas L. Howe (d. 1989), she moved to Port Washington, NY, where she served as soloist for several Long Island churches and synagogues, founded and directed productions for a chamber opera company, and gave private piano lessons–all while raising seven children and maintaining active membership in St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

The family relocated to Annapolis, Maryland in 1966 and joined St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, where for years many of her children were members of the choir. Mrs. Howe performed with the Tom Thumb Players and Maryland Theatrical Productions Co., taught general music at Mayo Elementary School, directed the Mayo Methodist Church choir, and was the musical director for Annapolis High School’s 1973 production of Once Upon a Mattress.

She retired to Ocean City, MD and enjoyed ten years there before relocating to live with daughters in Platteville, WI, Hyattsville, MD, and Wilmington, NC. Over the years she helped to raise many of her grandchildren, who fondly knew her as “Grammy.”
She was a skilled bridge and Scrabble player, and always enjoyed sharing music with her many children and grandchildren.

She is survived by her children: Miriam A. Howe and her husband Dean Stackler, William I. Howe, Frances E. Welker and her husband William, Stephen G. Howe and his wife Carrol, Laura H. Czekaj and her husband Gary, Thomas A. Howe and his wife Lill Becker, and Sarah M. Howe. She is also survived by sixteen grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

A private memorial service will be held this summer.

In recognition of the role music played in her life, the family invites those wishing to honor Elsie C. Howe to donate in her name to VH1’s Save the Music Foundation: http://vh1savethemusic.com/give-tribute.

To make a donation with a check
Please send your check in the mail attention: Deniece Dykes, VH1 Save The Music Foundation, 1515 Broadway, 20th Floor New York, NY 10036. Please make checks payable to “VH1 Save The Music Foundation”.

Please share memories and condolences by clicking on the “Sign Guest Book” tab above.

Wilmington Funeral & Cremation , 1535 S. 41st Street, Wilmington, NC 28403. 910.791.9099

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  • June 03, 2012
    Vivian Parlier-Burnett says:
    Sarah and family, May comfort and peace be with you at this most difficult time. With Sympathy, Vivian Parlier-Burnett

  • June 05, 2012
    Rick Wade says:
    Mrs. Howe was a remarkably talented lady. She performed many years ago in a musical version of "Treasure Island" for which I provided the adaptation and lyrics. The first time I saw her on stage I wished we had written a song for her and her alone. Her son Bill was in that same production. My condolences to him and the Howe family. Rick Wade