HOWARTH, Esther Matilda of St. Petersburg, died Dec. 22, 2013. She was born in Royal Oak, Michigan, graduated from Royal Oak High School and moved here with her family in 1934 when they purchased the Marl-Jean Hotel. She graduated from St. Petersburg Junior College, attended Florida State College for Women and graduated from Michigan State University. She was a member of Matrix, the Journalism honorary society. For a brief time during World War II she was secretary to Tom Harris of the St. Petersburg Times and started a military column showing those people drafted or enlisted into military service. Later she went to New York City to study voice and worked as editor of the house organ for the W. T. Grant Company department stores. In 1947 she and her brother, the late artist and teacher Milton Howarth, sailed for France aboard a converted troop ship, the MARINE TIGER, to study at the American Art Schools in the palace of Fontainebleau, France. This was the reopening of the school after the end of World War II. Later she worked as a radio reporter for Radio Diffusion Francaise, American division and as editor of the house organ for the U.S. Embassy in Paris while studying at L'Ecole des Hautes Edtudes Musicales. She received first prize and a diploma. Returning to the U.S. in 1952 she concertized and was soprano soloist three times with the Air Force Symphony in Washington, D.C. at the Watergate, Rock Creek Park and Inter-Departmental Auditorium. She was also soloist with the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra in St. Petersburg and Clearwater under conductor Bernard Rosenthal. After the death of the father in 1964 the family sold the Mari-Jean Hotel and Esther went to work for the city of St. Petersburg. She retired in 1982 as an Administrative Assistant in the Real Estate Department. In 1969 she heard about the Indian holy man Sri Sathya Sai Baba and in 1974 joined a group led by Yoga teacher Indra Devi of Hollywood, CA to see the World Teacher. Thereafter she made many trips to India, living at the ashram known as Prashanti Nilayam in a small village in South India. Today it is a large city with people coming from allover the world to see this World Teacher. She and her brother in 1975 started weekly meetings in their home, which developed into the Sathya Sai Baba Center of Tampa Bay. She was a member of the Association of Research and Development (A.R.E.) of Virginia Beach, VA (Edgar Cayce), the D.A.R. Princess Hirrihigua Chapter, and Alpha Chi Omega sorority. She is survived by a niece Barbara Goodale Jang of Palm Beach Gardens, nephews, Preston Goodale of Bradenton, Frank Ryll, Jr. of Tallahassee and Roger Ryll of Gotha, FL. Service will be on Sunday, December 29 at noon at the Sathya Sai Baba Center of Tampa Bay, 1417 South Belcher Road, Suite B, Clearwater, FL 33764.
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Published in the Tampa Bay Times on Dec. 26, 2013