FRANCIS “TOBY” HOWELL – Voice with three forks

Toby was the firstborn of Shapleigh & Susan Howell in Mitchell, SD. He grew up in rural SD and attended Yankton SD High School where he met Marion Dwelle, his beloved 67-year-old wife who survives him. They attended dances at Gurney’s warehouse to live music from the Lawrence Welk Band. Toby worked as a bricklayer and painter; attended Yankton College before enlisting in the Air Force in 1952.

Toby served 4 years in Beirut, London and Tripoli with Strategic Air Command, ECM, Staff Sgt. He and Marion married in 1954. They moved to Volin, SD in 1956, where Toby ran his own radio and television repair. He also taught high school science and math in Yankton & Marshall, MN. He received his masters degree and taught at SHU, Vermillion 1962-64.

In 1965 he and his family moved into their VW van in Bozeman. While studying for his doctorate at MSU, he also enjoyed studying horse management, becoming a farrier, training and racing horses in the mountains with his family and friends. He obtained his doctorate in physics in 1969-70. His research has added to the body of knowledge in the field of nuclear magnetic resonance imaging which has led to the advancement of current MRI technology. From 1970 to 1995, Toby taught astronomy and physics at the University of North Dakota. He served on the board of directors of the National Science Foundation; was a researcher at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, OH; has taught in the UND INMED Program for Alaskan Native American / Native Medical Graduates, taught high school and college teachers, and mentored numerous graduate students.

During these years he established the Lake Agassiz Sailing Society and was the first Commodore. He and Marion enjoyed cruising Minnesota and the Great Lakes with their family and friends.

Toby retired from UND in 1995 as Professor Emeritus. He and Marion returned to the Gallatin Valley where he worked for an additional 17 years with his son’s company, Westech Forms & Docs, as a warehouse inventory manager.

Despite his many and varied accomplishments, Toby was best known for his

big and genuine heart. Never self-promoting, his curiosity and love of the natural world were marked by humility and respect. Along with Marion, their love of people made them endearing to a wide range of individuals. Their homes and hearts were open to people at all stages of their lives, who were always shown with dignity and respect. Knowing Toby was a privilege; he believed in his fellow men no matter what their situation in life and uplifted others to do better.

In the early morning hours of August 26, 2021, he breathed his last until Jesus Christ called him. He was surrounded by his loving family.

Toby leaves behind his beloved and priceless wife Marion, son Shapleigh Howell III, son and Dan Howell and wife Sheila Howell, and daughter Alice Crofts and husband Dave Crofts, brothers Shapleigh Howell II and Dan Howell and wife Mary Howell.

Cherished grandchildren: Rachel Martin and her husband Shawn, Christopher Howell and his wife Jolene, Hannah Howell, Sophia Hutchinson, Colton and William Crofts

Beloved great-grandchildren: Ava, Ben, Dannie, Mike and Titus

Esteemed nieces and nephews: Sarah and Catherine Howell, Dolly Nickerson, Casey Erickson, Spence Blakey Jr, Susan Cunningham, Michael Brown, Jessica Shitara, Kennedy, Sharin and Shaniz Howell, Anna and Chase Dwelle.


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