BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. – Hundreds of mourners gathered Wednesday to pay their respects to Colleen Howe, the wife of hockey great Gordie Howe and one of the first female sports agents.
A memorial service was held at St. Hugo of the Hills Catholic Church in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills.
She died Friday at the age of 76 after battling Pick’s disease, a rare form of dementia similar to Alzheimer’s. She was diagnosed at age 70 with the disease, which alters personality and whose progression cannot be slowed.
Son Murray told the assembled mourners his mother’s motto was, “Why not?”
“Hey, Gord, why not come out of retirement – you’re only 45 – and play on the same team as your sons,” he quoted his mother as saying to his father.
Murray Howe said his mother practised the biblical precept, “Love your neighbour as yourself,” adding, “My mom loved herself a lot,” he added.
“She’s waiting for us to step out of this door and love each other with everything we can,” he said.
In his homily, Monsignor Edward J. Baldwin said Colleen Howe was the model of what a woman should be as a mother, wife and friend.
Borrowing from the Michigan state motto, he said, “If you are looking for a valued woman . . . look around.”
Crying quietly and wiping his face with a handkerchief, Gordie Howe grasped for support as he slowly walked out of the sanctuary. He joined family members in the church lobby, where they greeted those who had turned out to support them.
Detroit Red Wings owners Red Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch described Colleen Howe as a strong presence and a skilled businesswoman.
“She was really pretty special,” Mike Ilitch said.
Known as “Mrs. Hockey,” Howe promoted the sport and stood outside her husband’s shadow through her charitable work and success as a businesswoman and author.
She was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000 for her work with youth hockey. She founded the Detroit Junior Red Wings, the first junior hockey team in the United States.
Colleen Joffa was born in 1933 in Sandusky and was living in Detroit when she met Gordie Howe in April 1950. They married three years later.
Gordie Howe said during a 1999 interview that his long career as a top player helped ease the transition to life after hockey, but most of the credit belonged to “Colleen’s ideas and representation.”
His formula for success, he said, was this: “Believe in yourself. Love what you do. Follow your dreams. Overcome challenges. Believe in God. Marry the right girl.”
Colleen Howe is survived by her husband; sons Mark, Marty and Murray; daughter Cathy; nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.