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Prison mechanic mourned: Family, friends pay tribute to Howe

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Mourners are seen entering the Fountain of Life Church in Elizabeth City for the memorial service for Geoffrey Alan Howe, Wednesday. Howe, a 31-year-old mechanic at Pasquotank Correctional Institution, died Nov. 2 from injuries he suffered during a failed prison inmate escape attempt at PCI on Oct. 12.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Family members, friends and coworkers paid tribute to Geoffrey Howe during a memorial service for the state prison worker at his church on Wednesday.

Howe, a mechanic who had just celebrated his one-year anniversary with the N.C. Department of Public Safety in August, died Thursday, Nov. 2, from injuries he suffered during a failed inmate escape attempt at Pasquotank Correctional Institution last month.

Unlike the recent funeral services for three other PCI employees who died as a result of the failed prison break on Oct. 12, Howe’s memorial was a private service held at Fountain of Life Church.  

Mark Carden, a Fountain of Life member who said he had known Howe for 17 years, was among those who attended who spoke briefly with a reporter afterward.

Carden said his own son was born four days after Howe and that, because he was their soccer coach, he got to know Howe pretty well. He described Howe, who was 31, as a wonderful young man. 

"I'd be proud for him to have been my own son," he said.

Carden said he and others who knew Howe don't understand why his life was taken away the way it was. But he expressed the hope that "one day, we will."

Diana Gardner, who also attended the service, said she knows Howe’s mother, Debra Howe, well.

"Geoff was just the star of her life," Gardner said. "There's just no way to describe (what he meant to her)."

Gardner recalled when Geoffrey Howe worked at the local Lowe's Home Improvement store.

"He was just a go-getter," she said.

Gardner said Wednesday’s service brought to mind an experience she shared with Debra Howe probably a dozen years ago. Both women had attended the funeral for the child of a friend and were talking afterward about how difficult the experience of losing a child must be.  

Gardner recalled advising Debra at the time, "It will never happen, Deb. It won't happen."

Gardner said Geoffrey Howe’s death — and the pain it’s brought to her friend — have made her realize how “everything in your own life is pretty small."

"I don't think you ever can really ever understand (why this happens) — there's a lot of whys for a long time," she said.

State Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, was another service attendee. He said one of the most poignant moments of the service for him came near the end, when 7-year-old Abel E. Sutton sang the 1965 song, “What the World Needs Now.”

The song, an anthem for unity in the turbulent ‘60s, features the lines: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love; it's the only thing that there's just too little of.”

"That spoke volumes," Steinburg said. "I've never seen that done before. I think it caught a lot of us by surprise."

Han Hess, Family of Life’s pastor, described Howe’s service at the church Wednesday as “a beautiful representation of the community.”

“There were employees, state troopers, firemen, ministers, friends and family (in attendance),” he said. “It was a great display of unity and love in our community.

“We wanted to encourage the family and friends that we don't have all of the answers for why things happen like this, but we know that God is with us through it all,” he said.

 

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