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Tom Mix, Published February 11 2013

Longtime Lisbon track and field coach Howell recovering from open-heart operation

FARGO – Former Lisbon (N.D.) boys track and field head coach Joe Howell is making a slow, but steady recovery in a Fargo hospital after a health scare two weeks ago.

Howell was alone in his Kindred, N.D., home on Jan. 27 when he began to experience chest pains.

He dialed 911 and was taken by ambulance to Fargo. It was discovered Howell had a leaky aortic valve and was prepped for surgery.

Howell underwent an eight-hour open-heart operation to repair his aorta as well as replace the damaged aortic valve.

“Joe is pretty fortunate to be with us,” Lisbon activities director Pat Adair said.

According to his CaringBridge journal, Howell is making a slow recovery from surgery, but progress has been positive.

“As far as his recovery, the signs are optimistic,” Lisbon track and field head coach Mark Moss said. “The family has been doing a good job of letting everyone know how he is doing and that the doctors have been optimistic. They want everyone to know that it is still a long road to recovery.”

Visitors are still limited to family, but support for Howell has been pouring in from Lisbon and surrounding areas.

Besides the CaringBridge journal, friends, well-wishers and former Broncos athletes have been posting stories along photos on a Facebook group devoted to Howell and his ongoing recovery.

Gold and red “Team Howell” T-shirts featuring Howell’s famous saying “Yowzer” have been printed. Proceeds from the T-shirts will go to help the Howell family with medical expenses.

“He means everything to everybody here in Lisbon,” Moss said. “He is a coach. He is a mentor and he is a friend. He is always someone you can call for advice. Since I came to Lisbon, he has been my mentor and taken me under his wing.

“You just can’t replace that experience and that wisdom.”

Howell guided the Broncos boys track and field team to four North Dakota Class B state championships in his 30-plus seasons coaching the team. He also coached football, basketball, baseball and also started Lisbon’s first cross country team.

On top of coaching, Howell formerly served as Lisbon’s activities director.

“Joe knows everybody and everybody knows Joe,” Adair said, who succeeded Howell as activities director six years ago. “He is such a likable guy that people love him and remember him. He makes an impression on everyone he meets.

“He bleeds red and gold.”

Howell remained an assistant under Moss last spring when the Broncos once again captured a state team title.

“If there was a Mount Rushmore of North Dakota track coaches he would be on it,” Moss said. “No doubt about it.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562