Bringing healing to Newtown, one pie at a time
December 19th, 2012
10:30 AM ET
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Beth Howard pulled up to Newtown in her 24-foot-long camper, loaded with 240 apple pies.

She dished out pie to kids from Sandy Hook Elementary School, grieving parents and anyone who asked.

She describes herself as an attaché for grief, with her greatest gift being pie “made from love.” Most people simply call her "the pie lady."

“Pie is meant to be shared,” she said. “It’s meant to be given away.”

As she spoke, there was a knock on her door. Women preparing a wake for one of the slain girls would like some pie for mourners.

“Could we give them three pies?” a helper asked.

“Of course,” Howard said. “Will you please put ribbons on them?”

Her 1,100-mile journey here began with a Facebook post last Friday. Like the rest of the nation, she was horrified by the massacre that killed 26 people at the school, including 20 children.

She told her Facebook friends that she was considering loading her RV up with baking supplies and heading to Newtown.

She lives in Eldon, Iowa, in the American Gothic home where artist Grant Wood got his inspiration for his most famous painting - the farmer couple with a pitchfork. She sells pies there from the Pitchfork Pie Stand.

Within two hours, she had $2,000 in donations.

“I felt like, how could I not go with that groundswell of support?” she said.

She hit the road at 8 a.m. Saturday. She picked up a friend in Chicago and cruised to another friend’s home in Flanders, New Jersey, where she “walked into this pie-baking mania.” More than 60 volunteers were peeling apples and making dough throughout the neighborhood. One family made 60 in a single day.

“They were making pies for Newtown because of this one Facebook comment,” she said. “That was a powerful thing.”

After several days of intense baking, she posted on her The World Needs More Pie website at 8:45 a.m. that the pies were done and en route: “We’re on our way to Newtown, Connecticut, now to hand out slices of pie, gift pies to funeral receptions and grieving families, and later in the week bake more pies with residents of the community.”

They went straight to the Newtown Youth Academy where therapy dogs helped children cope with the horror at their school. Parents were there too. One mother said she realized she hadn’t eaten since before the tragedy. She was glad to eat apple pie.

Another father explained his two sons knew one of the slain children.

“He was talking about how he was talking with his children about the grief, and they seemed to have had a very open conversation about it,” Howard said. “That was very encouraging to hear.”

"It’s a pretty positive energy over there, I have to say. There’s grief, but there’s also an amazing spirit here. It comes through very loud and clear,” she added.

An author, blogger and TV host, Howard knows about grief: Her husband, Marcus Iken, died three years ago of a ruptured aorta. She poured her grief into baking pies.

“Why pie? Answering that is about as easy as explaining why seemingly healthy Marcus dropped dead at the age of 43,” she wrote in her book, Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Pie. “If only the answer was as easy as ‘It was his time.’”

Relaxed in her pie-filled RV, she elaborated. “What I learned is people don’t like to talk about grief,” she said. “That’s a big reason why I’m here.”

“If I just keep slicing pie, that helps me. It’s not a cake that you make with a little mixer. This is something made by hand," she said. "The pioneers made pie; the pilgrims made pie. It’s about endurance. It’s about nurturing. It’s about simplicity. It’s about nostalgia. And ultimately, for me, it’s about sharing and it’s about giving.”

Her love of pie goes back to her parents’ courtship. One night, her mom baked a banana crème pie. When the two finished, her father said, “Will you marry me?”

“Pie makes me happy,” she said. “It makes people happy. It makes me want to do something nice for somebody else.”

Another resident knocks on her door. She wanted a pie for her family and for a friend’s. A smile grew across her face when she was given two.

Howard smiled too.

“People smiled today,” she said. “And that alone was worth the drive.”

So far, she has raised $7,000 in donations. Any extra money - after gas and pie expenses - will be donated to a local grief counseling center.

Ways to donate in memory of the victims

Help Howard’s Newtown pie-making efforts

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Filed under: Dishes • Feed the Soul • Local Heroes • News • Nostalgia • Pie • Think


soundoff (76 Responses)
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    March 30, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  3. david

    the one standing behind the sign looks like she might be hotter

    January 19, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
  4. david

    All I see is another RV containing what knows that the police have to worry about. No One should be moving more crap into town.

    January 19, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
  5. mnahra

    The simple fact here is that when we set up to pass out pies at the Edmund Townhall, we were parked a few feet away from the CNN news crew. As we passed out slices of pie, the news crew snapped a few pictures asked questions, and had some pie.

    December 27, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  6. Kathy

    I would have packed up and helped her if I had known. Beautiful!

    December 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  7. openMind

    It is nice to bring food at times like these. I hope the people of Newton enjoyed it. However, I also noticed the book plug. And that she has been in other media promoting her book and story. And look at all the attention she gets and how wonderful SHE is. It just makes me wonder when people constantly promote their own big heart, posting it constantly on facebook, etc. Really, I don't announce it every time I do something nice for someone, which may or may not be more than her and everyone else who constantly plug it.
    Here's to all who give with humility. Thanks for all you do!
    God bless and keep the victims of Newtown.

    December 19, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • Leslie

      Or perhaps you are cynically mistaking someone who has sympathies with those experiencing intense grief with someone engaged in self promotion?

      Of course, not all of us can be as loving, blessing-filled and open-minded as you.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
      • openMind

        When I am loving, that is between me and the loved. I don't need everyone else to know about it so they can congratulate and admire me! Announcing my good deeds would take the focus and place it on me. That is not why I do it. And my family and I know first hand about grief several times, Leslie. But this is not about me. It's not about some woman and her book that was plugged in the article! It happened to people in Newtown and the kids are the Angels. They are dead and she is on CNN. Get it?

        December 22, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • david

      that RV doesnt belong in Sandy Hook

      January 19, 2013 at 9:45 pm |
    • Bill Rushby

      I find this story about the "pie lady" inspiring, and I am glad that it is getting some good publicity. We need more "news" like this, not less!

      May 24, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
  8. Sandra LeVin

    @Scott – you should join the voluntary extinction movement and be next to reduce the carbon footprint of the planet

    December 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  9. Sandra LeVin

    Hey Greg – how about a nice cup of STFU?

    December 19, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  10. Roddney

    I am one Newtown CT resident that is touched down to my pie loving soul by this.

    December 19, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  11. Michael A.

    When is CNN and the rest of the media going to leave these people alone? Don't they realize that the people of Newtown are tired of their pestering, and frankly the rest of us are tired of the constant coverage, in which reporters keep repeating the same facts over and over, all while trying to hide their excitement at being part of a "big story." I find it curious that although there are stories all over the media today about how the people of Newtown are tired of the media hounding, that I was unable to find a single story about this on CNN.com. I guess that kind of story doesn't win these reporters the kinds of awards they are aiming for. Cronkite never won an award for being told to leave people alone. I thought Wolf Blitzer was going to break a hip hustilng to get in front of the camera in time to declare how sad this all was. And Anderson Cooper apparently didn't get enough attention standing in front of a camera during the bombings in Israel, dining to the ground as if he were really in danger, although he was miles away in a hotel, so he's now sporting his fancy skiwear on the streets of Newtown. Where's the guy with the big touchscreen TV? Maybe he can set it up in the local diner. If these media heroes are lucky, there'll be another natural disaster somewhere soon., so they can move on, get the tear ducts going. Maybe a mudslide, or an asteroid shower? Just something to fill the gap between elections.

    December 19, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
  12. Name*marcus

    All thoughts and prayers go out to the parents and beautiful children may God heal every family who lost a loved one in this tragedy....This is so sad so tearful I wish there was something I could do.

    December 19, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  13. timteboww

    Kind of weird that a community whose median income is over 100k and whose houses are over 1mil needs donations.

    December 19, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • realtalker

      They don't need them but it means a lot to them to receive them. A letter of condolence, money to help with funeral costs that even for someone at that income level can be overwhelming especially in a time of greif. Let's just do whatever we can to help them cope whether it's a necessity or not and let's cast cynicism aside for a while.

      December 19, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • A Newton neighbor

      What she did was an act of love and just something to hopefully help people who have had their hearts ripped out by a senseless act of violence. Why complain about this? What have you done for anybody lately except take up airspace?

      December 19, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • jjcora

      Your comment is very shallow. Do you honestly think that a family's status or finances can replace what has been done to this community? It would not matter if they were billionaires, the pain is the same, over and over again. Get a life.

      December 21, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  14. Name*marcus

    Very nice of her she felt like she wanted to be apart of something to keep the community involved....however nothing can never replace the precious lives of these innocent beautiful babies that this left this earth to be with Jesus.....I can only imagine what it would feel like going to a my baby funeral at six years old..I earnestly pray for the parents what a sad lost I grieve with you newtown parents although I cannot relate but imagine the pa in. and hurt

    December 19, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • corncheck

      and thats why people dont like to talk about grief. cuz they get nauseating baby jeezus platitudes from the likes of you. shut up and eat your pie.

      December 19, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  15. SueRH

    Pie is awesome!

    December 19, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  16. Maceo M NeSmith III

    Beth Howard,
    This is the type of Love that I like to see.

    December 19, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Maceo M NeSmith III

      Oh yea I forgot to mention that Love heals!!!!

      December 19, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  17. Jockey

    Greg is just focused on his one post that he keeps cutting and pasting to everyones post !

    December 19, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Greg

      Jockey,
      You obviously havn't read all of my posts.

      December 19, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  18. Minal

    God Bless her for driving down there and handing out pies. When I am sitting at home drowning in my tears.

    December 19, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Love

      God bless all the children that have to be raised by SINGLE MOTHER LOSERS: MANHOOD101. COM

      December 19, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  19. joy augustine

    If you guys really sad about this incident and serious...please return your guns and pledge, I won't buy a gun or keep a gun in my life...So that Kids like Adam has no access to get a gun. Everybody says My gun is for self defence or for my own security...Can I ask you a question? Are you taking your gun with you when u go to church? Are you taking your gun with you when u go to watch baseball game? Are you taking your gun when you go for shopping? Are you taking your gun when you go to school to attend meetings? Are you taking your gun when you go to Airport/Railway Station...? Are you wearing your gun when u cook? The answer is a big "NO". You can't save your life...by just simply owns a gun. The person trying to kill you always come with a gun and shoot you before u get your gun....So there is no gurantee that you can save your life, if u own a gun...So Return it....so that you can atleast save your kids avoid get access the gun and go with it to the school to kill himself and his friends. I dont think anybody in America want to be known as a Killer's (Adam Larza's) dad or mom......Return it...If you have courage and serious to avoid this tragedy again..Return all Guns and pledge I won't buy or keep a gun...That is the best law we can implement without the help of polititians or Gun lobbyists and easy to work.

    December 19, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Greg

      Amen,
      Though everyone today thinks I am a hater, and possibly a gun owner, I am neither. I have never fired a weapon in my life, not even a BB gun, and I never will.

      December 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  20. freddie

    Out of 25 responses 8 are from Greg. If you didn't intend for this to be about you maybe you can quit hitting the 'Post' button. My wife is from Eldon Iowa where the Gothic House sits. My sister in law maintains the grounds of the Gothic House and Tourism Center. Beth Howard does have a book and also has a tragedy in her life so her empathy is most welcome in this moment of mourning for Newtown.

    December 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Greg

      We are not un-empathetic. And dont tell me about tragedy. I have lost 2 grandchildren to disease. I am also a realist and see how people can use situations to their advantage.

      December 19, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
      • pdx soul

        Greg,
        Obviously, you don't know Beth. Her book is already a bestseller. She has done many things in Iowa and many other places that have nothing to do with promoting her book. At the very least, follow her blog, her facebook, etc before you speak. There's always one person putting a negative spin on a good deed- why? No need for that...keep on baking, Beth. You're one of the good ones.

        December 19, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
        • Greg

          There are 2 sides to every story. We have the handwrimgers who say 'Why!' and the doers who do stuff

          December 19, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
        • Kellen

          People are allowed to have opinions. Get a life!

          December 19, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
      • openMind

        Greg I got what you were saying. Sorry for your loss.

        December 19, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  21. zlop

    To protect against future massacres,
    Hand out Love Guns to Parents Teachers and School janitors.

    December 19, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • sly

      I'd be happy to share my love gun with some cute teachers.

      That is what you meant, right – 'make love, not war'. Truer words have never been spoken.

      December 19, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  22. scott

    I'm against gun bans on assault weapons. The reason being that this shooting reduced 520 metric tons of excessive carbon from out atmosphere. That is the cumulative carbon footprint of the victims of this shooting. It was good for our environment. Secondly these children are just a higher form of intellectual species on this planet which we are over populating. Strange how a lion can slaughter hundreds of wildebeest and no one ever threatens to remove its claws and teeth. We have predators in this society for a reason, to reduce our excess population. We are consuming far too many resources as a nation and need to reduce the population to 100 million to be sustainable. Read the UN's adjenda 21 for a rational look at our environmental, economic, and social issues. We; as a species, are killing this planet and we need to change. I propose reducing the populations of the prisons first, and the populations of those who are genetically inferior for a healthy society. Then a lottery could be set up for the remaining millions of people.

    It just makes sense! It is a step in the positive direction.

    Funny how people try meaningless things to rectify the situation. Like pies.

    December 19, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Ryan

      Wow Scott..what a full proof plan and senseless take on the situation and article.

      December 19, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Greg

      Wow! And you guys think I am cold.

      December 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • openMind

      What is wrong with you? Get to the hospital now and admit yourself.

      December 19, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  23. Humans at their best

    December 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • zlop

      On The Road To Apple Pie Heaven.
      So wonderful are us.

      December 19, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
  24. Yoh2012

    This really is comforting. When my sister died of cancer at Christmas years ago, I couldn't eat or sleep and the world was gray. But I had been given a tin of homemade Christmas cookies from an office mate that I took with me on the flights up for the funeral. Those cookies were all I wanted during that time, all that I could taste. I still remember the comfort of them all these years later. Maybe they went well with salty tears. :-)

    December 19, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  25. Cary N.

    Nice to hear about someone doing something so simple, yet effective, at putting just a little bit of happiness into such a sad and difficult situation. Keep up the great work Beth.

    December 19, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  26. Jodie

    Beth, this is such a heartwarming and positive gesture. Pure, simple, love. Thank you for sharing this story and for your inspiration. Every bit of love that is expressed in this world elevates us in the face of difficult times.

    December 19, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  27. darbfred

    Alan Maki was so moved by the Newtown tragedy that he felt inspired to create a video tribute. Watch, listen, and let it touch your heart.

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqLz9xU5Je4&w=640&h=390]

    December 19, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  28. 20sandi12

    It is obvious to a 3rd party that most of the comments here are from friends of the pie lady –

    Quit being bullies; Greg's intentions were good.

    December 19, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Greg

      Thank You.

      December 19, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • jessica

      I agree! The overly negative reactions to Greg's posts are very strange.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
  29. kathy

    I read her book, it was Wonderful, can't wait until she writes another one!!!

    December 19, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  30. Joe

    This whole thing is starting to resemble a media circus. Gotta question whether I want someone with a big jolly smile giving out free pie after a child's funeral. Deepest sympathies to the affected families.

    December 19, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • jokiebird

      It's a media circus because of the media, not because of a woman giving out pies out of the goodness of her heart.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • rs1201

      Have you ever heard the expression "as American as apple pie"? We, Americans, like comfort food...apple pie, chicken soup, meatloaf, potatoes...it makes us feel all warm and fuzzy. This is what Newtown needs...a little bit of TLC in the shape of the likes of apple pie...nothing wrong with that!

      December 19, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Aloisae

      Logical or not, giving and sharing food is part of how many cultures and individuals deal with grief. The US includes many different cultural traditions and in quite a few of them friends and neighbors bring food to the mourning family when somebody dies. In this case, while not every family lost a family member, the entire community is in shock and mourning and this woman thought to step into the nurturing role that the rest of the local community would normally provide when a family member is lost.

      Having said that, I am starting to share your concern about the media attention... and not letting the community and families that were directly impacted by this tragedy have some measure of privacy in their grief. While I was reading this article I was thinking what a nice gesture it was.. until I reached the point where Ms. Howard's book was plugged. That might not have had anything to do with the woman.. it could have been inserted by the CNN writer without her approval. But it still smacks of trying to profit from the grief of others.

      December 19, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
      • Greg

        Amen,
        Just look at the picture that was posted at the top of the article. Neither Ms. Howard nor CNN are fools.

        December 19, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  31. Jeremy junju

    What an endevour agape love heals wounds give and get rewarded from,God.

    December 19, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  32. Valerie Tower

    What a fabulous and kind thing to do. This story cheered me up.

    December 19, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  33. Greg

    My wife wooed me with chicken and rice followed by an amazing apple pie that she 'threw together' while we were watching Monday Night football together. We were married within a year. Since then she has baked an amazing number of cakes, and pies that should be on magazine covers. The statement that "It’s not a cake that you make with a little mixer" really ticked me off. Making a cake is actually much harder than making a pie, and she knows it. I know, I have watched it. I am not dismissing what this wonderful lady is doing for the grieving people of Newtown, I cried while reading the article. I just resent her opinion that making a cake is nothing more than using a "little mixer". There is a lot more to it than that.

    December 19, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Heidi

      I think it is sad that of all the wonderful words in this article you focused on one tiny aspect that you saw as a "negative". She was in no way saying that a cake is easy to make. She was just ILLUSTRATING that a cake is made with a hand mixer whereas a pie is made by hand. In the literary works it is called juxtaposition and this woman being the creative soul she is probably was just using literary elements to convey the story. I bake pies and cakes and cupcakes etc a lot. And I can see teh difference between a cake and a pie in terms of the physicality of my hands touching certain ingredients in a pie that my hands don't touch when making a cake. She choses pie as the deppest metaphor of love that she can cook because their hands are literally making the pies with love. It is a beautiful sentiment that they are doing and it appalls me that you have made this story about you and your wife. That is selfish. We may disagree with many things that we see or read but life is beautiful when we focus on the positive and when we live selflessly not selfishly. I hope you will read this article again and focus on the positive and get your own personal ego out of the situation while doing so.

      December 19, 2012 at 11:50 am |
      • Greg

        Heidi,
        I havnt made this story about myself and my wife, nor have I focused on one tiny aspect of it. My wife and I are but motes in the eye of God. What happened in Newtown was horrible. My wife and I are both horrified by what happened and dont understand how someone could have access to weapons such as those that were used. I am certain that you, or others reading our posts have at one time or another been reading something online, and been affected by a statement, innocent or not, self engrandizing or not, and had a negative feeling towards it. I am as human as you. I apologize to you and anyone else who focused on my response as negative. It wasn't and isn't that.

        December 19, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
      • Greg

        Additionally Heidi,
        you accuse me of focusing on 'one tiny aspect' of the story while you were reading my response. Maybe you should reread my response and see it for what it really is.

        December 19, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
      • Greg

        Heidi,
        Asyou suggested I reread the article. The only thing I missed is that she wrote a book! What a great way to promote it!

        December 19, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Paul

      In the midst of all of this tragedy and this lady reaching out in the best way that she knows how, you get ticked off at her expressing her opinion on baking a pie?? Wow........!

      December 19, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
      • Greg

        Paul,
        I havnt made this story about myself and my wife, nor have I focused on one tiny aspect of it. My wife and I are but motes in the eye of God. What happened in Newtown was horrible. My wife and I are both horrified by what happened and dont understand how someone could have access to weapons such as those that were used. I am certain that you, or others reading our posts have at one time or another been reading something online, and been affected by a statement, innocent or not, self engrandizing or not, and had a negative feeling towards it. I am as human as you. I apologize to you and anyone else who focused on my response as negative. It wasn't and isn't that.

        December 19, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
      • Greg

        Additionall Paul,
        She is promoting her book. Look closely at the picture. maybe you can get an autographed coppy on one of the stops on her book tour. Her time, and expenses were all writeoffs for this 'attache for grief"

        December 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
        • GET3

          PIES? Seriously?

          December 19, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Tom

      Hey Greg, give it a break, will ya? It's not about you, although I get the impression that everything else in life is.

      December 19, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
      • Greg

        Tom,
        I havnt made this story about myself and my wife, nor have I focused on one tiny aspect of it. My wife and I are but motes in the eye of God. What happened in Newtown was horrible. My wife and I are both horrified by what happened and dont understand how someone could have access to weapons such as those that were used. I am certain that you, or others reading our posts have at one time or another been reading something online, and been affected by a statement, innocent or not, self engrandizing or not, and had a negative feeling towards it. I am as human as you. I apologize to you and anyone else who focused on my response as negative. It wasn't and isn't that.

        December 19, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  34. pandabear

    What an absolutely wonderful thing to do!! Bless these people for their caring hearts!

    December 19, 2012 at 11:21 am |
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