The wife of hockey great Gordie Howe was remembered Wednesday as a resilient, "valued woman" who became one of the first female sports agents.

Hundreds of mourners paid respects to Colleen Howe. A memorial service for the woman known as "Mrs. Hockey" was held in St. Hugo of the Hills Catholic Church in suburban Detroit.

Her son, Murray, said at the service his mother's motto was, "Why not?"

"Hey, Gord, why not come out of retirement -- you're only 45 -- and play on the same team as your sons," he quoted his mother as saying to his father.

Crying quietly and wiping his face with a handkerchief, Gordie Howe grasped for support as he slowly walked out of the sanctuary. He joined family members in the church lobby, where they greeted those who turned out.

Detroit Red Wings owners Red Wings owners Mike and Marian Ilitch described Colleen Howe as a strong presence and skilled businesswoman.

"She was really pretty special," Mike Ilitch said.

In his homily, Monsignor Edward J. Baldwin said Colleen Howe was the model of what a woman should be as a mother, wife and friend. Borrowing from the Michigan state motto, he said, "If you are looking for a valued woman ... look around."

Colleen Howe died Friday at 76 of Pick's disease, a rare form of dementia similar to Alzheimer's. She was diagnosed at age 70 with the disease, which alters personality and whose progression cannot be slowed.

Colleen Howe promoted hockey in her own right and stood outside her husband's shadow through her charitable ventures, business and writing. She was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000 for her work with youth hockey. She founded the Detroit Junior Red Wings, the nation's first junior hockey team.

She negotiated contracts for her husband with the WHA's Houston Aeros and Hartford Whalers and also handled her husband's first endorsement contract

Colleen Joffa was born in 1933 in Sandusky and was living in Detroit when she met Gordie Howe in 1950. They married three years later.

Gordie Howe said during a 1999 interview that his long career as a top player helped ease the transition to life after hockey, but most of the credit belonged to "Colleen's ideas and representation."

His formula for success, he said, was this: "Believe in yourself. Love what you do. Follow your dreams. Overcome challenges. Believe in God. Marry the right girl."

Colleen Howe is survived by her husband; sons Mark, Marty and Murray; daughter Cathy; nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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