Laura Howard holds several firsts in the Vicksburg Rotary Club: First woman member – 1993? Check. First woman president – 2000/2001? Check. First person in the club history to hold the office of president for two terms – 2001/2002? Check.
When she was asked to join Rotary, two members told her how glad they were to have her in the club, but added: “You understand that you can’t sing in the chorus,” choosing their words carefully.
When she was recruited to join the board of directors, they didn’t exactly mention that it was a six-year commitment. She went through all the chairs of responsibility: trustee, treasurer, secretary, vice president, president and past-president and proved her mettle so well that plenty of other women have been able to follow in her footsteps since then.
Howard began her Vicksburg sojourn as a social worker and rehabilitation program coordinator at Franklin Community Hospital in 1983 with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Western Michigan University. As Bronson Vicksburg Hospital director in 1986, she had an expanded role that included all Bronson hospital-based rehabilitation services and occupational medicine services, which continues today with responsibility in Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.
She has chaired the Vicksburg United Way effort for over 25 years and served on the Greater Kalamazoo United Way board until 2016. She served on the Goodwill Industries board from 1997-2003.
Even though she doesn’t work in Vicksburg any more, she can be found helping out behind the scenes with Showcase. She will be in the light booth, high above the audience, in charge of the spotlights. She and several others who have pulled this duty for years are never seen during the show. But if they mess up, suddenly everyone is aware, she said.
“Sometimes we turn off the head sets so we can have our own private conversations about what’s happening on stage. We got busted one year when it was found out that those in the makeup room were listening in. Mostly, we have to pay very close attention and get our direction from Tina Forsyth, the stage director who knows everything! She gives us all the different cues. It’s like conducting an orchestra for her,” Howard said.
One year Howard’s spotlight jammed and wouldn’t turn or move and Lori Tichvon had to quickly turn hers on to spot someone on stage. Another time she was needing to explain to someone (she’s not saying who) why some of the newspaper jokes were funny. And all of those in the booth finally getting one of the newspaper jokes and laughing so hard they could be heard in the audience.