Communication Builds Our Community

Gladys Howell Named Pioneer of the Year

Will Receive the Honor October 23 10:00 am During Pioneer Days

The Lake Wales History Museum will honor Gladys Howell as the 2021 Lake Wales Pioneer of the Year as part of the 45th Annual Pioneer Days Festival at Lake Wailes Park. The recognition celebration will be held during the festival on Saturday, October 23 at 10:00 am.

The Lake Wales History Museum's Pioneer Days Festival is synonymous with Lake Wales history and culture, and celebrates the heritage of the greater Polk County community. The two-day event will feature 50 craft & community market vendors, dozens of heritage education activities, historical reenactors, live entertainment, a dozen new and returning local food vendors, a new Pioneer Beer & Wine Garden, The Pumpkin Patch family activity area with petting zoo, antique car & tractor show, architectural tours, and of course, the naming of Lake Wales' Pioneer of the Year.

2021 Pioneer of the Year Mrs. Gladys Howell taught school in Lake Wales for more than 30 years. She was the first teacher in Polk County to raise fund and take her 4th grade class to Washington D.C. This was one of many extra-curricular activities for the students she raised money for. She worked part-time at Mountain Lake Estates so she could travel and pursue further educational experiences.

Howell was born in Florida in 1926 to Richard and Theresa Isom, and moved with her family to Lake Wales as a young child. She attended and graduated from Roosevelt School in 1944. She then attended Bethune-Cookman University, and graduated with her bachelor's degree in 1960, and afterwards she received her master's degree from Alabama State University. During that time, she met and married Robert Howell, and they moved back to Lake Wales to live permanently in 1964. Mrs. Howell starting teaching at her own alma mater, the Roosevelt School in 1960, and then later at Polk Avenue Elementary.

In announcing Howell's selection for the award, Museum Director Jennifer D'hollander said that "Mrs. Howell's dedication to her community is evident by the organizations she has volunteered at over the years including Girls Scouts, the NAACP, Lake Wales Care Center, Order of the Eastern Star, American Legion, and the Bethune-Cookman Alumni Association, and her hometown church, the First Institutional Missionary Baptist Church." She and Robert had four children, all of whom pursued the educational fields and community activities.

The Howell family has been recognized for their community contributions with a park named in their honor in Lake Wales, and Mrs. Howell was also personally honored at the Green and Gold Foundation Gala for her education and community efforts in 2019.

The Pioneer Days event is a heritage celebration for the whole family with free admission and parking on both days. The festival will feature great old-fashioned fun as well as some new offerings for the whole family. The event draws a diverse audience of nearly 10,000 visitors and residents annually to the area.


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