Slain teacher did whatever it took to help, husband says

By Stefano Esposito and Emily Gray Brosious
Originally published at Homicide Watch Chicago
May 30, 2014

Betty Howard taught at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep on the South Side, but her daily work often stretched far beyond its walls.

Betty Howard / Family photo
Betty Howard / Family photo

The beloved special education teacher, an innocent victim of gun violence Thursday evening, was also the “first lady” of New Light Holiness Church, 4740 W. Chicago Ave., where her husband of five years, the Rev. Major Howard, is pastor. She worked as a case manager at the church and organized a tutoring program.

“Betty was a good woman,” her husband said Friday. “She was all about the children.”

Howard, 58, of Broadview, the mother of two sons and grandmother of two, was shot in the head about 5:25 p.m. in the 700 block of East 79th, police said.

A 58-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman were also shot and treated at the scene, police said. The man suffered a graze wound to his abdomen, and the woman had a graze wound to her hand.

At the time of the shooting, Howard was working her part-time job at the South Side branch office of Kale Realty, said Graham Allen, vice president of operations for the company.

She was in the office with four other agents, Allen said.

“They were just wrapping up their work, laughing, getting ready to leave,” Allen said.

A bullet grazed one of the agents, and then the office manager yelled for everyone to drop to the floor. Howard couldn’t take cover in time, Allen said.

Howard grew up in Englewood and valued education, persevering until she earned her doctorate, her husband said.

“She was always interested in educating children,” said Lynne Long, Howard’s sister-in law. “She wanted to give back in that way.”

“I used to tease her that she was a professional student. …. Dr. Betty Howard — the title meant a lot,” Long said.

As a teacher at Brooks, Howard would travel to homes to teach disabled students, doing whatever it took to help some of the city’s most challenged youth, Brooks Principal D’Andre Weaver said.

Howard, who taught at Brooks for seven years, even rode school buses to help out when school aides were absent, Weaver said.

“She did it willingly, every single day — making home visits, working with kids after school, before school,” Weaver said. “We truly miss her, we love her and we’re really thinking about her family at this time.”

Inside Brooks, grieving students were writing “thank you” letters to Howard. Shortly after noon, about 25 students from Howard’s home room released green and pink balloons, the colors of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the teacher’s Chicago State sorority. She had remained close to many of her sorority sisters.

“Betty’s death is an enormous loss of someone who meant so much to others,” Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said in a statement, “especially through her work as a special education teacher serving children with unique needs who required exceptional care.”

The randomness of the crime left her family with unanswerable questions.

“It’s crazy, she wasn’t a thief, she didn’t harm anyone,” Long said, noting Howard’s brother, Orlando Long, is a police officer. “This isn’t how it was supposed to end for her.”

Meanwhile, area political officials and residents held a peace rally Friday night at the corner where Howard was killed.

Some 200 people turned out, joined by Howard’s relatives and such officials as U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush and Aldermen Roderick Sawyer (6th) and Bob Fioretti (2nd).

“This senseless violence doesn’t hit home until it actually hits home,” said another Howard brother, Roosevelt Long.

Contributing: Maudlyne Ihejirika

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