Alexa Rose Howell cut a striking figure. Barely 5 feet tall, she was a wisp of a woman more so in her last few years as she struggled with lymphoma.
The artist, arts supporter, writer and teacher was soft-spoken and warm-hearted, an unshakeable optimist.
Howell, 65, died after a 12-year battle with cancer at St. Lukes on Jan. 15, leaving a legacy not only through her colorful, whimsical artwork but also through her love and support of Boises cultural life.
She was the wife of Ken Howell, who develops buildings in Downtown Boise, such as the Idanha, Idaho and Alaska buildings and the Union Block.
She was an original, Ken Howell said. She didnt think like anyone else and shes irreplaceable in my life.
A New York City native, Alexa Rose served as the managing director for the Boise Philharmonic in the mid-1970s. She and Ginger Scott, a good friend, created the Ginger-Ales Puppet Theater and did shows wherever they could pitch their stage. She taught art and cooking classes for kids out of her home and wrote a column for the Idaho Statesman in the 1980s.
She brought a touch of New York to Boise, said Dan Stern, the Boise Philharmonic music director who worked with Howell in the 1970s.
She had a quality of dedication to the arts that was incomparable, Stern said.
In 2008, she opened Gallery Alexa Rose in the Idaho Building, not to show her own work but to showcase the works of a group of young artists she wanted to support.
Already a woman of accomplishment, she said: At this point in my life, I wanted to make a contribution, and this is my area.
She often worked behind the scenes, said friend Karen Bubb, Boises public art manager.
She was this really quiet force and had her hands in more things than people were aware of both as an artist and organizer, Bubb said.
Alexa and Ken met at New York University.
Ken Howell, who grew up in San Francisco, was working in New York and took a fiction-writing class at night. One evening he stopped in the student union building on a lark.
It was practically deserted except for Alexa and she caught my eye, Howell remembered. We were both looking at bulletin boards and ended up walking out the main door together. I asked: Did you find what you were looking for? I forget what she said but we struck up a conversation and went out for drinks and dinner.
That was September 1972. The couple married by January and left for Europe and a years stay in Athens, Greece.
They came to Idaho to work on a friends cattle ranch. I realized that the cattle business was not for me, Ken Howell said.
They then moved to Boise. Alexa would have prefered Seattle, but she fell in love with the City of Trees, he said.
They raised three children, Amy, Bryan and Clarke, and started Parkland Management to run their buildings.
Howell overcame much since her diagnosis in 2001, especially over the past two years, when the cancer spread. When they learned a few weeks ago that it had spread into her lungs, the Howells made a plan, Ken said.
We were going to do more chemo and Alexa had bought four new hats, he said.
Despite feeling fine last week, she entered the hospital over the weekend. As her options became more extreme, she decided to let go, her husband said to let herself pass.
Howell would have turned 66 on Feb. 15. She loved birthday parties, and the family will hold a party and memorial in her honor at 3 p.m. Feb. 2 at the Rose Room, 718 W. Idaho St., Boise.
Dana Oland: 377-6442, Twitter: @IDS_DanaOland