Love story that began in the 1950s produces big boost for Bossier football in 2023

Bobby “Hurricane” Howell was a giving man. He was one heck of a multi-sport athlete at Bossier High in the 1950s and was asked to walk on by the LSU Tigers. The Plain Dealing native’s most important work came after his success on the field. Not only did he build an impressive business empire, Howell Environmental Companies, he was always happy to share the wealth.   

Thanks to his wife, Flora Howell, the generosity of the Bossier High Hall of Famer didn’t cease when he died at the age of 76 in 2015. 

Flora was pretty sure her next philanthropic move was to establish a scholarship in Howell’s name. 

Then the phone rang. 

Sometimes timing really is everything. 

At Howell’s alma mater, another passionate Bossier High product, Gary Smith, is on a mission to make the Bearkats great again. Smith is just a few weeks into his stint as the head football coach and he hit the ground running. 

“I put out a letter on social media,” Smith said. “We needed to raise $35,000 to revamp our weight room, for starters. 

“There are a lot of other things we need, but the weight room has to happen now.” 

Word traveled all the way to Flora Howell in Lafayette. Before he could blink, Smith was headed south on I-49 to meet with Flora on Saturday. 

“I was so excited,” Flora told The Journal. “I thought about how much (Bobby) loved Bossier High. The timing was perfect. He was a Bossier High School man, let me tell you. He went to all the reunions.” 

Smith and Howell met for more than an hour Saturday. 

The Bearkats are going to get that weight room. 

“You can tell how much Bossier High means to Coach Smith,” Howell said. “He’s very passionate. He feels he’s the right guy for the job.   

“Bobby used to pay for people’s funerals, weddings and college. If he could, he helped. He felt very blessed and wanted to return all that.” 

It may be easier for private schools and those in higher classifications to fundraise, but it can be done. There’s always someone willing to help. 

Bossier isn’t the only winner in this instance. Flora Howell was full of pride and love when describing her late husband and his desire to help others. But she’s still a little mad “Hurricane” played hard to get. 

Flora recalls meeting Bobby at the “Bossier pool” during their senior year of high school, however nothing came of the encounter. A short time later, the two ran across each other at Northwestern State College’s freshman dance. 

“He asked one of my friends to get introduced to me,” Flora said. “I said, ‘I just met you.’ 

“He said, ‘I don’t remember.’ I said, ‘I had my white bathing suit on, how can you forget?’” 

Although Hurricane was off to a rocky start, the soon-to-be lovebirds enjoyed their first date that night. The rest is history. 

From that moment on, Bobby Howell made sure Flora knew she was unforgettable. They were married for 53 years. 

A knee injury during the first week of practice in Baton Rouge sent Howell to NSC, but that didn’t prevent him from becoming a big man on the Demons’ campus, revered as an undefeated Golden Gloves and Tri-State AAU heavyweight boxing champion. 

And, of course, it paved the way for a love story seven decades strong. 

Smith has been encouraged about the outpouring of support for his Bearkats. In addition to the Howells’, he’s received several other contributions that will help with the weight room and cosmetic improvements around campus. 

“I want to make this a place players, coaches and teachers drive up to and say, ‘Wow,’” Smith said. “I could have probably mixed and matched weight racks, but these kids deserve better than that. We’re going to get the top-notch equipment and do it right.” 

Smith has already garnered a big fan in Flora Howell and will certainly add many others with his determination. 

“The other night, I was on the field and saw the skylines of Bossier and Shreveport,” Smith said. “I love the view. This is a great place for high school football.

“I want to end my career at Bossier.” 

It’s clear the Bearkats are in good hands.

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