THOMSON, Ga. - Mr. Ben O'Neal Howell, disabled veteran of World War II, retired wholesale grocer, former salvage storeowner, and businessman in Thomson and McDuffie County, died Monday, December 22, 2008, at McDuffie Regional Medical Center in Thomson. The cause of death was heart failure.
Mr. Howell had retired with a medical disability from the United States Army as a Captain after having been severely wounded from German machine gun bullet fire at the end of World War II. He was awarded a Purple Heart. He was a lifelong resident of Thomson.
He was born on August 13, 1922, as the youngest of four children of Robert Lewis and Marion Gross Howell. During his youth, he became an Eagle Boy Scout and earned the Boy Scouts of America God and Country award. He attended the first Boy Scout National Jamboree in Washington DC, June 30, 1937-July 7, 1937.
During the 1960s and 1970s, he served as Upper River District Chairman for several years and was awarded the Silver Beaver award by the Georgia Carolina Council of the Boy Scouts of America in recognition of his service to the Boy Scouts of America.
Mr. Howell was a graduate of Thomson High School and received a bachelor of business administration degree from the University of Georgia on December 19, 1942. While at the University of Georgia he was a member of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, the Grid Iron Secret Society, was on the track team, and, during his senior year, was Business Manager of the University of Georgia Pandora Yearbook.
Mr. Howell and his family were in the Nehi Fruit Drink and R.C. Cola bottling business during the 1930's and 1940's. During the 1950's he and his father founded Thomson Wholesale Grocery, Company, Inc., a successful wholesale grocery distribution company in Thomson. Thomson Wholesale Grocery Co. supplied groceries and general merchandise during the 1950's and 1960's for many of the "Mom and Pop" grocery stores located in East Central Georgia. In 1963, the grocery company moved in to a new company-owned 100,000 square foot modern warehouse building on Boulevard Drive in Thomson. A 40,000 square foot expansion was later added. During the 1970's the grocery company was liquidated. He then founded Howell Hardware and Building Supply Company, a retail hardware and building supply store, which he later sold to Lowe's Companies. Next, he began a new retail store, Thomson Quality Salvage, Inc., in the Thomson Plaza Shopping Center in Thomson, which he operated during the 1980's and 1990's. He was named a director of Merry Land and Investment Company, a publicly traded Real Estate Investment Trust, in 1984 and retired as a director in 1994.
Mr. Howell and his first wife, Robin, had four children, Ben, Jr., Brad, Nancy and Danny. Robin died of cancer on August 3, 1986. Ben married Marian Schubert in 1987. Between them, they have seven grandchildren and one great grandchild. Children include Ben O'Neal Howell, Jr., Brad Marshall Howell, Nancy Anne Howell, Daniel Brabham Howell and stepson Edward Watson Clary. Grandchildren include, Ben O' Neal Howell, III, son of Ben, Jr., and Cecelia; Brad Marshall Howell, Jr., son of Brad and Allison Howell, Daniel Brabham Howell, Peyton Lord Howell and Silas O'Neal Howell, children of Danny and Stacy Howell; and Ashley Victoria Clary and Edward Watson Clary, Jr., children of Edward Clary. Great-grand children include Kaley Rose Clary, daughter of Ted Clary.
Mr. Howell had 61 years of perfect attendance in the Rotary Club of Thomson. He served as club president during 1957-1958. He is a Paul Harris Fellow and a Will Watt Fellow. One of his great contributions to Rotary was his ability to find the most interesting and outstanding Rotary program speakers, due to his ability to meet and make friends with people from all walks of life. Ben was an Honor Deacon and trustee of First Baptist Church of Thomson. His church activities included teaching a youth Sunday School class, serving as the chairman of the First Baptist Church History Centennial Celebration in 1959 and serving as the co-chair, along with Miss Lila Davey, of the First Baptist Church History Committee, which published, in 1984, the History of First Baptist Church of Thomson, Georgia. Mr. Howell and his family are members of the Belle Meade Foxhunt in Thomson.
Funeral services were held at 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 26, 2008, in the Thomson First Baptist Church with Dr. James Ramsey, Dr. James Elder, and Dr. Leonard Dupree officiating.
Curtis Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.