Bernita Howe

Bernita Howe

1937 - 2023

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Obituary of Bernita Howe

Bernita Mae Howe, 86, of Iowa City, IA, died peacefully with loved ones by her side on June 6, 2023, following an unforgiving battle with dementia. Today her family and friends wish to publicly honor the life and death of their beloved Bernita Mae.  As a woman who led her life in pursuit of art, love, adventure, and extravagance, this tribute won’t begin to capture the void she has left in her passing.

Bernita and her twin sister, Berniece, were born April 20, 1937, to Vivian White and Leo Potthoff in St. Charles, South Dakota. A spirited woman for her time, she dreamed of a bigger life. At 19 years old, she married her first husband, Robert Halseth, on May 29th, 1957, in Indiana, settled in Ohio where their family grew as they welcomed their two daughters Pam (1958) and Sheri (1960), and eventually moved to Iowa City, Iowa in 1963.  There, Bernita enjoyed careers in various positions, including secretary, department store seamstress, salesclerk, cosmetologist, and realtor.

Bernita later married Dr. Gerald Howe in 1981, and life grew again. “Nita” and “Gerry” spent their years together trotting the globe, from polar bears in the Arctic, to kimonos in Japan, to safaris in Africa, to snow-birding in Hot Springs, AK. This pair made it their mission to enjoy what this world has to offer. Bernita supported Gerry in his passion of photography, as she invested in her own creative outlets. Bernita was quite the interior designer, hostess, and craftswoman; best enjoying animal prints, gold jewelry, and fashion. In her free time, she sewed jointed bears out of repurposed fur coats for her business, Paws-itively Bears. She attended craft shows and even made the local newspaper. As she aged, her travels came to rest, and her focus turned to her love for family and the Iowa Hawkeyes. Bernita watched as her children’s and grandchildren’s lives grew, enjoying the fruits of the family tree she planted decades prior. As Iowa Hawkeyes football season ticket holders, Bernita ensured their passion was shared with those closest to them, leading to an infamous tailgate group fondly dubbed “Howe’s Owls”.

In her retirement, she frequently spent time at the Iowa City Senior Center quilting and practicing Tai Chi. Life downsized as she moved from her marital home she enjoyed with Gerry, to condo living, and eventually to assisted living in her 80s. Family continued to visit and call. Her spirit persisted as long as she could, but her body and mind could not maintain. The love and care she received from her assisted living facilities (Legacy and Bickford), hospice workers (Compassus), and devoted family helped to provide the best quality of life she could receive.

Bernita was loved through till the end; may we all be so loved as Bernita is and was. With a large, beautiful family and an indelible impression made in her community, Bernita’s dream of a bigger life as a young, tenacious woman coming-of-age in the 1950s was beyond achieved. Her memory will be honored, and legacy continued in the life and love of her surviving family and friends. Some of Bernita’s final advice? “Just be happy”. Don’t worry, Bernita, we’ll do our best.

Bernita is survived by: her sister, Berniece Pravacek; her daughters, Pamela Jean Halseth Wilson and Sheri Halseth Foster (Stefan); her step-children, Martha Howe Crowley (Chris), Michael  Howe (Christine), Steve Howe (Jennifer); her grandchildren, Chelsea Crocker, Kirby Kost (Travis), Beau Larkin (Katie), Chas Wilson (Lindsey), Sophie Foster (Devin Rose), Casey Wilson (Bianca Lopez), and Callie Foster; her step-grandchildren, Aengus “Gus” Howe Crowley (Eden Pollack), Lurana Carter Howe Crowley, and Sarah Ruth Howe, and eight great-grandchildren.

Bernita was preceded in death by her sister, Dorothy Frank; husbands, Robert Halseth and Dr. Gerald Howe; parents, Vivian White and Leo Potthoff; and brother-in-law, Ed Pravacek.

The family plans to have an internment and celebration of life later in the summer. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made in her memory to the Memorial or Honor Donation - Compassus Living Foundation. To share a thought, memory or condolence please visit Gay & Ciha Funeral and Cremation Service website @