Barbara Lewis Howell, a longtime resident of Vineyard Haven with family roots on Martha’s Vineyard stretching back more than a century, died peacefully in her home on the morning of May 3. She was 97 and surrounded by her children.

Barbara was born in Evanston, Ill., the eldest of three children of the late Dunbar and Gladys Dowley Lewis. She attended New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill. and the Brillantmont School in Lausanne, Switzerland before graduating from Wellesley College in 1943 with a degree in English literature.

Barbara moved to New York city after college to pursue her deep interest in books and publishing, working for more than a decade at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and Scribner’s. She loved the bustle of the city’s cultural life, and enjoyed her first date with future husband, William J. (Bill) Howell Jr., watching Jackie Robinson play baseball at Ebbets Field.

The family love affair with the Vineyard began when Barbara’s grandfather George B. Dowley bought what had originally been the East Chop Lighthouse in 1903. Barbara briefly alternated summers there and out west as a child before the Vineyard became her fulltime heart’s content; she and Bill were married at the Edgartown Federated Church in 1952. They continued living in New York city, then Wichita, Kan. before settling in Chicago to raise their family. They rented homes every summer all over the Island so their children could enjoy the Vineyard as Barbara had when she was a child.

Barbara and Bill finally bought their own house on Grove avenue outside Vineyard Haven in 1972 where their family continued to spend summers; they moved full-time to Grove avenue in 1992. Barbara treasured her longtime and closely held neighbors and enjoyed the presence of many other friends and family, including both her late brothers and their many children. She took a swim most everyday from late spring through early fall at the beach the family lovingly named Foot of Grove.

In Illinois, she was a longtime member of the Winnetka Congregational Church, where she sang in the choir and oversaw the annual rummage sale (which set Guinness Book records for highest grossing rummage sales). On the Vineyard, she served on the board of the Friends of the Vineyard Haven Library; she was a member of the Peter Luce Playreaders and The Want to Know Literary Club; she was a dedicated parishioner of the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury and sang in the choir; and she was a Governor of the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club. She was also a competitive tennis player, an intrepid swimmer, a voracious reader, and an avid and sometimes rule-bending player of family games ranging from charades to Scrabble. She treasured her memories skiing in Switzerland and her hiking experiences out west, including her ascent of the Grand Teton with her brothers as a college student.

After Bill’s death in 1995, Barbara’s heartfelt passion for the arts continued unabated, sometimes enjoyed in quiet solitude, sometimes shared in her exuberant joy of connection with others. She played the piano almost every day, designed and carved handmade holiday cards from linoleum blocks, made all her clothing and much of her children’s and grandchildren’s, crafted braided rugs from fabric scraps, made quilts (including one that earned a Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair blue ribbon), and wrote pithy letters to her friends and children detailing events of the day. Her handmade wool socks are the stuff of legend in family lore. Later in life, here on the Island, she made her stage debut in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, produced by the Playreaders.

Barbara was predeceased by her brothers, Albert Lewis and John Lewis, and is survived by her four children: Priscilla and her husband Tom of Roslindale; Peter of Manhattan, N.Y.; Samuel and his wife Anne of Middletown, R.I.; and John of Brookline; and seven grandchildren, Galen, Eva, Owen, Kate, Gwyneth, Madeline, Agatha and Liam.

A celebration of her life will be held on June 17 at 11 a.m. at the West Tisbury Congregational Church, with a reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services or the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury.