Sue Howe, 61, of Madison, said goodbye on Tuesday, October 4, 2016 in the home she artfully shaped and where she welcomed so many to share her love of good food, good causes, and good people. Susan Kathleen Keck was born on May 28, 1955, the first child and daughter to Raymond and Shirley (Moody) Keck at Peoria’s Methodist Hospital. Sue graduated from Berlin High School in 1973 and from UW-Stevens Point in 1977, where she honed her skills in home economics. At Stevens Point Sue found her life partner, and, on December 23, 1978, married Tom Howe.

Sue built a life that revolved around beauty, serving others and embracing joyful experiences with her family. She fashioned her backyard into a haven for birds and pollinators, her garden full of vegetables among a riot of flowers. Always practical, Sue canned and froze this harvest, bringing summer warmth to her remarkable cooking throughout the year. She colored her home in nature’s hues, white birch contrasting bittersweet’s fiery orange and in season, a daily flower bouquet fresh from the garden. And she loved “the land” in Richland County, where with family and friends she camped and worked to steward this small piece of our shared natural world. After a long day’s work she would sometimes sit alone, reading a mystery novel by flashlight through the night, stars glowing overhead while below she warmed her feet at the fire.

In her working life, Sue taught students of all ages across three decades. As Head Teacher of Lakeview Cooperative Preschool for ten years, she brought to young children joyful play and experiential learning. She finished her career at Monona Grove High School helping students learn about healthy life choices, how to raise fulfilled and loved children, and how to buy, prepare and appreciate real food. Sue taught by doing, encouraging others to be active, to do what needed to be done, to trust in oneself and to always—always—move forward. Even while undergoing difficult medical treatments, Sue continued to volunteer with young children who needed extra support. Knowing that all kids deserve a rich education, she was a fierce advocate of public schools and worked tirelessly on behalf of students and teachers across our state.

Sue is survived by Tom, her best friend and loving husband of 37 years: her two boys who admirably carry her strengths, Alex (Kelsey Schroeder-Gasser) and Nate; her father, Raymond (Barb Sullivan); sisters Sara (Tim) Hoff, Linda (Ed) Heimstreet and Becky (Ken) Doro; brother Matthew (Sara) Keck and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. She was preceded in death by her mother Shirley and her sister Cynthia (Jon) Youngblood.

A Service of Remembrance will be held at OLBRICH GARDENS, 3330 Atwood Avenue, Madison, on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at 6 pm, with an informal gathering to follow from 7–9 pm. In lieu of flowers, you may honor Sue’s commitment to public education through a gift to the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools. Please note that your gift is in Sue’s memory. All gifts will fund programs that directly serve kids. You may donate online at

A private committal ceremony will occur later at Sue’s beloved prairie in Willow Township, Richland County. We extend heartfelt thanks for the superb skills and genuine warmth of Doctors Sam Lubner, Diane Elson, and Sharon Weber, who, with Sue, forged a formidable team as she lived her life with courage, dignity and grace.

Many of us remember in our own ways that Sue provided a model of a life well-lived, one that embraced travel and the outdoors, savoring small joys daily with family, showing persistence and grit in the face of devastating adversity, and living in simple yet elegant ways. She buoyed many by providing guidance through forthright and firm conversation, providing direct advice gently with her trademark Mona Lisa smile. And remember always just one of the things Sue taught us: “Do the best you can in the time that you have.”

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