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Mary Virginia Howell Christopher portrait

Mary Virginia Howell Christopher

Registered Nurse, Army Nurse during World War II

United States

Mary Virginia Howell Christopher, age 97, a longtime resident of the New Orleans area, succumbed to complications of the COVID-19 virus as she passed away on April 6, 2020 at Slidell Memorial Hospital. She was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Joe Frank Christopher (1920-1989); her parents, Littleberry Barrett Howell (1885-1947) and Johnnie Louise Williamson Howell (1885-1961); and her sisters and brothers and their spouses: Frances Howell Williams (Michael), Milton Howell Wallis (Kennon), Minniere Howell Founds (Joseph), Major Reece Howell (Mildred), and Littleberry Barrett Howell, Jr. (Eleanor). She is survived by her sons Claude Barrett Christopher (Terry), Joseph Allen Christopher (Mary) and Frank Richard Christopher (Bonnie); grandchildren (who called her "Gram" and sometimes "Grambo" for her boundless energy, toughness and military service): Elisabeth C. Voigt (Peter), Ryan Christopher, Christina Taylor, Allen Christopher (Kaeli), Sara Christopher, Mathew Christopher, Andrew Christopher, Joey Christopher, Zack Christopher, Jackie Porath (Andy), Shane Alger (Kristen), and Casey Boggs (Emily); great grandchildren: Selena Voigt, Phoenix Voigt, Payton Taylor, Caleb Christopher, Cody Porath (Cassie), and Kyle Porath; great-great granddaughter Avery Porath; great friend who was more like a son: Kevin Curley (Diane); many nieces and nephews, cousins, and countless loving friends throughout the world who will treasure her memory. Mary Virginia was born in Talladega, Alabama on May 24, 1922 and was the descendant of some of the first early 19th century settlers in Talladega County. Upon graduation from High School, she traveled to New Orleans to attend the Mather School of Nursing at Baptist Hospital from 1940 to 1943. After becoming a Registered Nurse, she enlisted in the military in January 1944 and was deployed in 1945 to the European Theater, serving as part of the 134th Evacuation Hospital, which replaced the 51st Field Hospital, where she was ultimately promoted to 1st Lieutenant, Chief Nurse, and participated in the Rhineland Central European Campaign. She was scheduled to deploy to the Pacific Theater when WWII abruptly ended and she returned to the United States, leaving active duty in 1946. After completing reserve duty, she was honorably discharged in September of 1952. She was awarded the American Theater Ribbon, the Victory Medal, and the EAME Theater Ribbon with two Bronze Stars. After the war, Mary Virginia worked at the Public Health Hospital in Birmingham, AL. She eventually fell in love with her brother Reece's best friend, Joe Frank (whom she first met in the fourth grade), and married in 1950. The couple moved to New Orleans and raised a family. Mary Virginia continued to work as a nurse at Baptist and Methodist Hospitals in New Orleans until the 1970s. After her husband passed away, she moved to Slidell where she became a dynamic part of the community and a devoted member of Aldersgate United Methodist Church. She worked for years as a volunteer at Northshore Regional Medical Center and was active in NARFE, AARP and other senior organizations. She was a devoted mother, grandmother, and great grandmother and always participated in activities involving her family. She loved sports, competing in local senior Olympic events, and would challenge her grandchildren to compete with her in almost any sport. Of course, none of her grandchildren could defeat her in bowling. She was a competitive league bowler until the summer of 2019. She has been a devoted Saints fan since she attended the very first game in Tulane Stadium and would never miss watching a game with her son Joe and honorary son Kevin. "Gram" would take great pride in the accomplishments of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren and all would strive to exceed her expectations. She enjoyed and relished family dinners and vacations and would never miss any functions. It is tragic irony that this "Florence Nightingale" who treated countless patients and was involved with public health for decades should be a victim of the COVID-19 virus. Four years prior to her birth, her Uncle Dan's wife, children, and mother-in-law visited New York and died during the 1918 flu epidemic. This was one of the reasons Mary Virginia and her older sister Minniere became nurses. Mary Virginia would be the first to emphasize to everyone to follow the public health guidance to maintain social distance, practice proper hygiene and stay safe. Mary Virginia was a selfless, tireless, and loving person who stressed to her family to live by her motto of "always treat others as you would like to be treated." To paraphrase what was said upon the death of her great-great grandfather, Reece Howell, "none knew her but to love her," and all would agree with her granddaughter Eli's regular parting statement of "I love you to the moon and back." Mary Virginia will be sorely missed with immense sorrow, but will be lovingly remembered by all who were touched by her beautiful soul - she was a living saint. Our hearts are shattered that we will no longer be able to experience the physical, emotional and spiritual impact of her presence by gazing into her sparkling, sapphire blue eyes; feeling the warmth of her motherly embrace; and hearing her honest, cherished words of "I love you."