Louise Townsend Nolen, a longtime resident of Houston and Livingston, Texas, who had moved in recent years to Alexandria, Virginia, died March 21, 2019, at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Virginia. She was 94.
She was born Jessie Louise Townsend on Jan. 7, 1925, in Ennis, Texas, to Lucille (Snider) Townsend and Jack Townsend. She was shaped in large part by the Great Depression as she saw her extended family come together to help one another, leading her to cherish family above all. Though her parents were young and poor they always managed to provide, and she felt not deprived but greatly loved. She enjoyed family time over meals that too often were only biscuits and watered-down gravy. She recalled how flour manufacturers of the time decorated their sacking material, knowing that people were using it as fabric, and she loved the gaily patterned dresses her mother made for her.
The family moved often as her parents sought work, eventually settling in Houston’s Heights neighborhood when she was 13. She graduated in 1942 from Sam Houston High School, where she was a member of the Black Battalion, the world’s first all-female marching drum and bugle corps.
Louise later served as office administrator in her first husband’s small business. She loved their home and wonderful neighbors on Nottingham Street in Houston; in 2015, she was delighted and gratified when these kind neighbors gathered to surprise her on her 90th birthday.
In later years she traveled, crossing the globe with one husband and the U.S. with another. These two husbands each later developed cancer and she spent years caring for them, as well as her aging and ill parents. She did so cheerfully, considering it not a privation but a privilege to look after those who had cared so dearly for her.
Louise was tender-hearted, sweet-natured and fun-loving. She was a lifelong Baptist but never missed an opportunity to have a dance, or a margarita. She loved big band music, gardening, cold gray rainy days, bonfires on the beach, giving gifts, visiting wineries and art fairs, watching hummingbirds gather at the feeders outside her kitchen window, remembering old times, helping her mother host family holidays, and everything about Christmas.
Her early optimism and resolve, which had stood her in good stead throughout many difficulties, became especially important as her health rapidly failed: She went from living in her own condo and driving her own car in spring 2018 to four hospitalizations in as many months during the following year. Even so, any phone call asking after her well-being was always met with a cheerful, determined “I’m doing just fine.” She never complained.
She died on the first day of spring, with her daughter by her side.
She was predeceased by her parents; sister Rae Riley; and husbands Matt Howard, William Nolen and William Schroeder. She is survived by a daughter, Patricia Howard (Michael Trimarchi), of Arlington, Virginia; brother Jack Townsend of Harwood, Texas; brother and sister-in-law Robert and Sharon Townsend of Katy, Texas; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Services will be 2 p.m. Palm Sunday, April 14, at Georgetown Lutheran Church, Pastor Brett Davis presiding. A reception will follow. She will be later laid to rest in the Columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery.
Donations may be made to Shriners Hospital for Children — Houston (https://www.shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/houston/ways-to-give), The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (rcfp.org), or Spirit of Houston (giving.uh.edu/gift, click on “Colleges and Programs,” then “Band”).