William “Bill” Howe


William R. Howe, community leader, father/grandfather/great grandfather, veteran, athlete, and friend of many, passed away peacefully in his sleep on January 24, 2023, in Bemidji, his permanent home for nearly 95 years.

A service commemorating Bill’s life will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, February 17, 2023, at St. Phillips Catholic Church in Bemidji, with visitation beginning at 10:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to BSU Foundation, Bill & Bette Howe/Jolly Erickson Scholarship Fund. The Howe family wants to thank Bill’s friends, acquaintances, Bemidji athletes, and business associates for helping him enjoy a fulfilling and happy life. We are especially indebted to the staff at Sanford Health Neilson Place for assisting Dad during his last days.

Born in Bemidji to Paul E. Howe and Mollie A. (Whalen) Howe on February 1, 1928, Bill attended St. Phillip’s Elementary School and Bemidji High School, where he graduated in 1946. After serving in the U.S. Navy for 2 years, Bill attended Bemidji State College, where he was a multi-sport athlete (football, ice hockey, and golf), graduating in 1952. In 1948 he married his high school sweetheart Bette (Imler), forging a bond that endured for 53 years until her unexpected death in 2001.

In 1950, Bill began working at the Northern National Bank in Bemidji, eventually becoming President in 1968, a position that he held until his retirement in 1985. During his professional career he was a strong advocate of independent banks and served as president of the Minnesota Independent Bankers Association. Among the many causes that he supported and championed in Bemidji were education (serving as School Board member), St. Phillips Parish and School, Bemidji Town and Country Club, Bemidji Curling Club, Bemidji Jaycees, Ducks Unlimited, and others. He was President of the BSU Foundation from 1973-1978 and received the Outstanding BSU Alumni Award in 1976. Along with Richard Kroll, Larry Dow Sr., Halvor Reise, “Tuss” Langlie, Bill Hemp, and others he developed the Bemidji Youth Hockey Association in the 1960s, creating a source of pride and tradition shared by many young athletes during subsequent decades. His contributions to the community were recognized by the Charlie Naylor Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.

He is survived by his 5 children: Paula Van Brunt of Brooklyn Center, MN; Bob (Amy Wolf) of Green Bay, WI; Dave (Cindy) of Monticello, MN; Dick (Julie) of Chaska, MN; and Tarri Nelson (Mark) of Maple Grove, MN; 13 grandchildren; 15 great-grandchildren; sister Helen Mary Wagner; and twin brothers Kent (Marylyn) and Kevin (Mary Ann) and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife Bette (Imler) and his parents, Paul and Mollie Howe.

After Bette’s death, Bill continued to enjoy many good times and precious moments with his family, his dear and close friend Mary Jane Stubbins, and a cadre of business colleagues, educators, coaches, Bemidji transplants, and other friends, with whom he shared thousands of coffee conversations, stories, and breakfasts in downtown Bemidji, even to his final days. Those close to Bill remember a man of great integrity, generosity, kindness, and deep passion for Bemidji and the state of Minnesota. We all will miss him immensely.

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