John Ross-Lewin Howell, born on July 5, 1933 in Beaver, PA to William Ross-Lewin and Marion Scull Howell, died peacefully in his home in Bethlehem, PA on November 3, 2021 with his three children, Bill, Courtney and Annie, at his side. His wife, Dorothy Courtney Howell, preceded his death in 2017.
Those who knew John over his 45 years in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania may remember him professionally as the young 43-year-old who was recruited from Philadelphia to chair First Valley Bank. Under his leadership, the once-troubled company became profitable and was later acquired by Fleet Financial and then Bank of America. Not only did John contribute to the bank’s financial success but he also developed a people-first culture valuing every employee. His motto was, “If you surround yourself with great people and remind them that they are doing great work, then inevitably great things will happen.”
Beyond his professional reputation, John was also known as a philanthropist who gave tirelessly to the Bethlehem community where he was sought after for his remarkable fundraising skills. John served on several nonprofit boards, including Allentown Art Museum, Moravian College, Bach Choir, and Historic Bethlehem where he recognized the importance of reviving historic buildings such as the “Smithy House” built in 1750. John was also committed to giving back to the places that raised his family spiritually and academically - - The First Presbyterian Church and Moravian Academy - - and was unabashed about asking others to do the same. John continued to serve his alma mater, Princeton University, as an active participant in Princeton Project 55, a foundation aimed at connecting talented graduates with public interest organizations around the world.
John developed a tremendous group of friends throughout his life such as those from Princeton University’s lightweight football team, Cap and Gown social club, and the Nasoons singing group. Fellow sailors joined him for three years in the Naval Reserve where they were assigned to patrol the Red Sea during the Suez Crisis. Traveling the far corners of the globe (Japan, China, Africa, Nepal, Europe, and Israel to name just a few), singing in Gilbert and Sullivan amateur theater group, playing countless rounds of golf at John’s Island Club and Saucon Valley, and enjoying Wednesdays men’s lunch group or late-night dinner parties gathered around the piano cemented other relationships over many years.
John considered that his most important service was the one to his family. Keepsakes include droves of handwritten letters to his wife over their 55 years of marriage and Kodak pictures of him standing on the sidelines of seemingly every field hockey, soccer, lacrosse and rugby game that his children and grandchildren played.
Survivors: John is survived by his son, Bill, wife, Nina, and three children Courtney, John Ross-Lewin II and Kate; his daughter Courtney McDonnell, husband Andrew, and their three children Emmet, Jamie and Ben; and daughter Annie, husband, Ben Rinehart, and their two children, August and Margot.
Services: A service to celebrate John’s life will be held at First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem on Saturday, March 26, 2022 at 1:30 pm and a reception will follow at Saucon Valley Country Club. Cantelmi Long Funeral Home of Bethlehem has been entrusted with arrangements. A memorial tribute may be placed at www.cantelmifuneralhome.com.
Contributions: In lieu of flowers, John would have liked to know that you gave even more at year’s end to your favorite charity.
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