Giohra “Julie” Howard, 91

Nov 15, 2021

Giohra “Julie” Howard passed away on November 11, 2021, in Barnstable, MA, from kidney disease. She went peacefully surrounded by love. For 53 years she was married to Edwin Howard, who passed away in 2017.

Giohra Gabsu was born on April 1, 1930, in the Jewish sector of Tripoli, Libya, the daughter of Eliau Gabsu and Mazal Tesciuba. Giohra was proud to be Jewish and to be part of a Jewish family. Her name means “jewel” in the Tripoli dialect. 

Tripoli, a former Italian colony on the Mediterranean Sea, was a diverse and cosmopolitan city and as a result, Julie spoke five languages! Until 1967, it was a place that Arabs, Jews, Italians and Americans lived together in peace. During World War II, Giohra remembered hearing bombs in the distance and seeing British, American and German soldiers, all who occupied Tripoli. She was educated in an Italian school up to the 3rd grade. At that point her father declared that a woman didn’t need an education and put Giohra to work to help the family. While she was happy to work to help her family, that lack of education was something she always regretted. She worked various jobs in Tripoli from cooking to cleaning to child care, caring for several U.S. military families stationed at Wheelus Air Base in Tripoli.  

Julie’s dream was to have a family and in 1961 at the NCO club on the base she met Air Force Sergeant Ed Howard. They courted for three years and married on June 3, 1964 in Milan, Italy with her brother, Rahamin attending. 

Moving to Sandwich for Ed’s assignment to Otis Air Force Base, they rented a small apartment on Pleasant Street in a house owned by Dr. John Lewis. Julie got her first job washing dishes at the Yankee Clipper for owner Bob Gianferante. Bob and his wife Rosemarie became dear friends. Julie gave birth to David in 1965 and James in 1967, raising them in that small apartment. In 1968, Ed was sent to Vietnam and Julie was frightened. Her English wasn’t strong and she couldn’t drive, but she made it work with grit and ingenuity, even purchasing the Pleasant Street house that has been their home ever since!

Julie and Ed made a great team. Ed was the imagination and Julie was the determination. In 1970, their dream of owning a business came true when they opened the Howard Lounge (formerly Mr. Seafood) in Buzzards Bay, which they ran until 1991. Ed’s personality would fill the room and he was the life of the party. With his charm and singing and Julie’s food and bartending, the lounge thrived. Raymond was born in 1976. In 1978, they purchased the Canalview Apartments in Sagamore, MA. The property was run down and in terrible shape. Through blood, sweat and tears, Ed and Julie worked to the bone to create a clean, safe and affordable community for their residents and to leave that legacy to their sons. 

Giohra was a strong, independent woman that could outwork any man. Over the years many people would doubt her because she was a woman, standing at only 4’11”, with an accent and minimal education. This woman proved them wrong, amassing a small empire while raising three talented boys. For over 20 years she maintained a brutal schedule at the lounge and the apartments, sacrificing herself, getting four hours of sleep a night; the lines in her hands permanently blackened from the bar and her clothes reeking of second hand smoke.

This sacrifice was for her family and to Julie, family was everything. We asked her a few years ago what she wanted to be when she was a little girl. She said she always dreamed of getting married, having a home and raising a family. She was what a mom should be. Her three grandchildren meant the world to her and she loved them with all her heart.

Julie was one-of-a-kind and touched so many people in her life. She had this smile that melted your heart and even in her final days, that smile would light up the room. 

Julie had the most incredible mind and spending time with her, you would quickly realize this. She enjoyed listening and giving advice, with an uncanny ability to read people. She knew if you were hurting and knew if someone shouldn’t be trusted. Many a night behind the bar, at the apartments or over the phone Julie would be that sounding board for friends and strangers empathizing, sharing and giving the situation what it needed. She had the ability to deliver guilt that only a Jewish mother can. Julie was feisty and it was all but impossible to win an argument with her!

Julie and Ed kept a big garden and raised chickens, sharing the fruits of their labor with friends and loved ones. She was a homebody, finding peace in hard work and routine. For Julie, food was love and she was a tremendous cook. Having seen hunger, nothing meant more to her than feeding her family and friends! 

Giohra was predeceased by her husband in 2017 and survived by three sons, David (Patty), James (Cammie) and Raymond (Lyndi) and brothers Miro (Betty) and Simo (Tina), and the “daughter she never had,” her niece, Giuliana Coen. She was also predeceased by her sister, Uasina Gabsu in 2010 and brother, Rahamin in 1989. Julie has three grand children, Melanie, Julia and Evangelos Howard.

The last few years have not been easy and we wish to thank all of the caregivers that took care of Mom. In particular, we want to thank Juliana Machado, who took care of Mom as if she were her own mother. 

Giohra was buried in the Orthodox Jewish tradition with a service at Chapman Funerals in Mashpee, MA on Monday November 15, 2021 at 8:30 a.m. Burial was at 10:00 a.m. at the Cape Cod National Cemetery in Bourne.