GLOUCESTER — Evelyn Howe spent the morning Sunday at a gathering with friends in her Rocky Neck neighborhood.
She had brought a key lime cheesecake, the tasty treat she had crafted various variations of for different celebrations and get-togethers, along with pomegranate juice and champagne. She gushed to pals about her excitement for a pair of Rhode Island friends to visit her that afternoon in the harbor she loved.
“She was just so thrilled that these friends were coming to visit,” close friend E.J. Lefavour said of the 46-year-old woman, who had been living on Cape Ann for about a year. “She was going off with her friends to show them this special place that someone else had showed her. That’s the one thing I can just be grateful for — she was just having a wonderful day and she was just so thrilled.”
The day’s adventures, which were set to end with a Cinco de Mayo celebration, instead took an abrupt and tragic turn. Howe’s Rhode Island friend, David Machado, 49, slipped from a rock in front of the Gonzaga Retreat House on Eastern Point, and Howe slid in after him.
Howe and Machado were identified early yesterday as the pair who died in the waters off Eastern Point early Sunday evening. Pulled from the waters by Gloucester police, and transported with CPR and other lifesaving equipment on board the city’s police boat to Coast Guard Station Gloucester, the two were then taken to Addison Gilbert Hospital, but were pronounced dead there Sunday just before 8 p.m.
According to witnesses, Machado’s and Howe’s fall into the water left Machado’s wife on shore screaming, flailing and running for help.
Machado’s wife found a man with a cellphone, and he called police, with officers boarding Gloucester’s patrol boat and responding almost immediately along with a Coast Guard vessel. Howe and Machado struggled in the 50-degree water, then fell unconscious. Police found their bodies about 40 minutes after the initial 911 call.
The two had fallen in the same area where, in August 2010, Belmont fisherman Nicholas Roussos, 67, had climbed down the rocks to cast a recreational rod, slipped under a wave and drowned.
Gloucester police Chief Leonard Campanello said that, despite the clear sky and warm air Sunday, strong winds had churned up the sea, creating heavy swells by Sunday evening.
“This is a tragic event for the families of the two victims as well as the community,” Campanello said, “a very hard lesson from the sea that, while enormously beautiful and majestic, should always be approached and enjoyed with respect and extreme caution.
“The ocean follows no rules or schedule,” he added, “and its unpredictability can cause this type of tragedy.”
Friends gathered to recall memories and their fondness of Howe at a memorial last night at The Center at Rocky Neck. They brought photographs of Howe laughing with pals, and embracing her hobby of stand-up paddle boarding.
Howe had recently made more time for these kind of outdoor activities when she moved her work for a Framingham ITT company into her home, her friend, Lefavour said yesterday. Ditching the long commute freed up time for activities and adventures and embracing the outdoors.
Friends called Howe fun-loving, bubbly, and adventurous, adding that she was a devoted mom, always up for trying something new and loved her sea surroundings.
People might recognize her from her volunteer work in cleaning up the paint factory, or as one of the brave New Year’s swimmers who sprinted and dunked under the water at the Rocky Neck New Year’s Day plunge. She bought artwork priced a little out of her budget, not to impress people, but to support her beloved artist friends, and she attended parties baring memorably delectable treats, Lefavour said.
Lefavour said that, when Howe jumped into the water about 5 p.m. Sunday, ditching the safety of the rocks to try to scoop up the fallen Machado, Howe was exercising the most frequently noted trait of her personality — her generosity.
“She jumped in. She wasn’t really a strong swimmer, she used to say she had really dense bones and she would just sink, for her to do that in the first place,” Lefavour trailed off. “Well, that was just what she does.”