Related Biography: Wife Colleen Howe
Colleen Joffa was born in 1933 and spent part of her childhood in Sandusky, Michigan. After her parents' divorce, she moved with her mother and stepfather to Detroit, where she completed high school. She was working as a secretary at Bethlehem Steel when she first met Gordie Howe at the Lucky Strike bowling lanes on Grand River Avenue in Detroit in 1951. The couple dated for two years and married on April 15, 1953. They raised four children: future hockey players Marty and Mark, physician son Murray, and daughter, Cathy, who later worked for the family's business.
As the manager of her husband's business interests, Colleen Howe broke new ground in major-league sports. In addition to running Power Play International, Howe became an Amway distributor, sold life insurance, and even ran for U.S. Congress as a Republican candidate when the family lived in Connecticut. She was also a founder of the Detroit Junior Red Wings, the first junior-league hockey team in the United States. These accomplishments made her a pioneer in the sport of hockey, but sometimes brought her into conflict with the teams' owners and managers.
During her husband's retirement, Howe organized the couple's time around their philanthropic efforts, including the Howe Foundation. The first woman inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Howe was also honored as Michigan's Sportswoman of the Year in 1973. In 2002 Gordie Howe announced that Colleen was suffering from Pick's Disease, which causes sudden and debilitating dementia in its victims.