Sylvia Howell Krebs
Douglasville, GA - Sylvia Howell Krebs died Tuesday, January 12, at Baptist Hospital of Mississippi, following complications of abdominal surgery, with family at her bedside.
She was born in Forest on September 9, 1937, and grew up on the farm at "the old Lod Moore place" which her father, Sam Howell, had purchased in 1935. Her mother was Mary Sue Williamson Howell.
Sylvia was educated in Forest city schools and was known for her basketball career at Forest High School. The Forest girls won state tournaments in 1954 and 1955. A few years ago, Sylvia wrote a small book entitled 81 Straight, a reminiscence on those teams and her teammates. Sylvia was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1996; she is also one of the initial class of inductees into the Scott County Sports Hall of Fame in 2015; she received the same honor from her alma mater, Belhaven College, in 1996.
Her 35-year teaching career began at Yazoo City high school and continued to colleges and universities in Alabama, Georgia, Taiwan, and China. She earned her doctoral degree in U.S. history at the University of Alabama in 1966. Sylvia joined the history department at (then) West Georgia College in 1968. There she met and married a colleague, Ed Krebs. Sylvia joined Ed in Seattle soon after their wedding in 1970. Their honeymoon was the trip "out west," camping and pulling their belongings in a small trailer and visiting Yellowstone National Park and other sights along the way.
After Ed completed his course work in Chinese history at the University of Washington, the couple went to Taiwan in 1971-72 for Ed's program in Chinese language study. This was the first of many residences in China. They made their first trip to the Chinese mainland and the Peoples Republic in 1984-85, to teach English in a foreign languages institute in Chongqing. Later sojourns in China were spent in Xi'an, Beijing, and Nanjing. Sylvia and Ed spent about half of the 1990s in China. Sylvia taught courses in language, literature, and culture while Ed worked with American students in the Duke University Study in China Program.
From 1999 until 2017 the couple organized travel tours to China; the last group was called "Family and Friends," and all but one of the travelers had spent some time at the farm—even two who are from Montana and Seattle! Sylvia enjoyed organizing art exhibits: photography and peasant paintings were shown at Colbert Commons in Forest, and an exhibit of children's art from China was arranged some years ago in Cleveland and at Delta State University there; a friend in Xi'an made the arrangements on the Chinese side.
Besides her doctoral dissertation on early post-Civil War Reconstruction in Alabama, Sylvia had articles published on a range of subjects, from the role of Chinese workers in Mississippi and other southern states after the Civil War, to family travels and manuscripts. Some of her "op-ed" comments on China were published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She enjoyed sending observations on her experiences in China to the Scott County Times. Then-editor Sid Salter liked to call Sylvia "the Times China correspondent." She also wrote reflections on her experiences in China in her book, How Am I to Touch with You? Encounters with China (2010).
Sylvia loved to come back to Forest to work and relax at the farm, and Ed joined her enthusiastically. Stays at the farm were often planned for reunions with classmates and old teammates, lifelong friends. The couple enjoyed church services at Forest United Methodist Church, and the pancake breakfasts and holiday dinners featured in the church's work; they appreciated the warm welcome from church members. Even though Sylvia traveled widely, she always returned to her first home.
Although they married relatively late in life, Sylvia and Ed celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary in August 2020; they looked forward to adding to those years together, but it was not to be. It is fitting that Sylvia's life on earth ended where it took root. "Mr. Sam" and "Sue Sue" gave their daughter a great start in a loving family with solid Christian values. She learned about challenge and discipline through basketball. She always sought to learn more, through formal education and serious reflection on life's experiences. Her key values have been equity and justice in society, peace as more than the absence of violence, and living a caring, inquisitive life. To today's young people, especially from a farm or a small town, Sylvia would say "Keep your eyes and your mind open, have goals and 'Go for it!' Don't worry if the road isn't direct: keep trying!"
Besides husband Ed, survivors include two nephews, Bart Pass of Forest and Michael Pass (Dianne) of Waynesville, North Carolina. Mike's children are three grandnephews and one grandniece, and of that next generation, two great-grandnephews and two great-grandnieces.
Because of our current public health conditions, no services or memorial gatherings will be held for some time; look for announcements on those gatherings later. Meanwhile, all are invited to share memories through Ott & Lee Funeral Services at www.ottandlee.com
. Sylvia's earthly remains have been cremated, and family and friends will spread her ashes at places she loved.
Those who would like to make memorial contributions are encouraged to support Forest Public Library or the library in your home area. Farther afield, Doctors Without Borders
, International Rescue Committee, and the Nature Conservancy also have been among Sylvia's causes.
Published by Clarion Ledger from Jan. 20 to Jan. 24, 2021.