Home Obituaries OBITUARY: James Elmer Howe Jr.

OBITUARY: James Elmer Howe Jr.

John Elmer Howe Jr. died May 25, 2024 at his home in Palm Springs, California, following a diagnosis of terminal cancer just four weeks prior. In typical John fashion, he accepted this news with grace and made his decision to receive only comfort care. He began putting the remainder of his affairs in order and saying his “goodbyes” to family and friends.

John was born June 29, 1942 in Hamlet, the eldest son of the late John Elmer Howe Sr., and the late Myrtle Louise Shuford Howe.

He was a graduate of Hamlet High School and in 1965, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. John was editor of UNC’s Yearbook, the Yackety Yack, during his senior year at Carolina.

Shortly after graduation, John moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he worked as an accountant for General Motors. However, California was calling and in 1967, John moved to San Francisco where he began his very successful career with Kaiser Permanente. He held numerous positions in accounting at Kaiser and at the time of his retirement in 1999, was Kaiser Permanente’s executive project manager for payroll.

It was in California that he created a beautiful family of friends who adored him. John loved entertaining at his home in San Francisco and later in 2003, when he relocated to Palm Springs, California, John purchased the home formerly owned by movie star Loretta Young. In 2004 following changes to the marriage laws in California, John married William (Will) Brown Williford III, his partner of 38 years. John and Will visited John’s parents, brothers, other family members and friends on the East Coast regularly.

John and Will were renowned hosts known for their Southern hospitality, and their Palm Springs home served as a venue for elaborate parties and exquisitely decorated fund-raising events for Cancer, HIV AIDS, and many other charities. John would remark on his decorating skillset, “It’s not done till it’s overdone.”


John also had a passion for traveling and the desert’s hot summers in Palm Springs offered a perfect time. He often joined with friends on three separate six-month world voyages where he enjoyed the elegant decor and black-tie style he so loved on board Cunard’s Queen ships. John continued to fill his bucket list with automobile adventures to every U.S. capital city and train excursions through Canada and along the California coastline. In so many ways, John’s life, full of adventure, was one of grace that overflowed with friends, laughter, and love.

John was predeceased by his husband, Will Williford III in 2017; brothers Alan Massey Howe in 2010, and Michael Shuford Howe in 2020.

In 2021, John met Rodrigo Sampaio Krugner. Over the last four years, John and Rodrigo traveled the world together enjoying new experiences and for John it was no longer a life’s journey to be traveled alone.

Surviving John are his sister-in-law, Gay Phifer Howe of Wilmington; his nieces, Yve Shuford Howe of Wilmington and Alana Clark-Howe (Emily Clark-Howe) and their daughters Maeve Clark-Howe and Tessa Clark-Howe of Brooklyn, New York; and numerous cousins.

John’s family and friends give special thanks to Hospice and the caregivers from Caring Hearts Premier Homecare — Stephen, Marlin, Rosa, Ody, Dean, and Krissy — who provided so much comfort and love to John in his time of need.

John will be Interred at Richmond County Memorial Park, Rockingham, on Aug. 7, 2024 at 11 am. Family and friends are invited to join this Service of Commitment. A Celebration of John’s life will take place in Palm Springs, California, at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions for John Howe may be made to DAP Health in Palm Springs, your local Hospice, or to a charity of your choice.