Felisa Howard was a Human healer from the Caldos colony on Caldos, born in 2270. Although she was not a professional doctor, she had taught herself how to use herbs and roots in place of traditional medications and developed other remedies. She was also known for her frank advice and wisdom. Felisa kept detailed journals of her life, going back many years from the time of her death. She also served as keeper of the Howard family candle and as host for the anaphasic lifeform Ronin, who had been living with Howard women for centuries. Felisa's favorite flower was the camellia – she always kept fresh camellias in her house. (TNG: "Sub Rosa")
Felisa's son, Paul Howard, and his wife, Isabel, died when their daughter, Beverly, was a young girl. Felisa, whom Beverly called "Nana," adopted her. Both Howards were present for the terrible Arvada III disaster, and it was here that Felisa learned many of her remedies. She passed this knowledge on to Beverly, inspiring her to attend medical school. (TNG: "The Arsenal of Freedom")
Felisa and Beverly moved to Caldos colony by at least 2342, since that was when Beverly entered Starfleet Academy, subsequently marrying Jack Crusher in 2348. Felisa remained on Caldos after Beverly had left. While there, she often had resident Ned Quint take care of her affairs. Quint was somewhat aware of Ronin's presence, believing him to be a ghost. (TNG: "Sub Rosa")
Felisa was over one hundred years old when she died in 2370, apparently of natural causes. Beverly, now a Starfleet officer and chief medical officer aboard the starship USS Enterprise-D, returned to Caldos aboard the ship to deliver a eulogy. While there, she found her grandmother's journals, and discovered that she had a 34-year old lover named Ronin. They had met shortly after Felisa's mother's funeral. Ronin was in fact an anaphasic lifeform who had been living with Howard women for centuries. Their biochemistry allowed him to maintain molecular cohesion, and he used the family candle as a receptacle. Ronin had attempted to merge with Beverly as well, but Enterprise-D crewmembers investigating the failure of the colony's weather control system nearly uncovered his secret. Felisa's body registered anaphasic signatures from her time with Ronin and was exhumed as part of the investigation and Ronin took control of her, incapacitating Lieutenant Commanders Data and Geordi La Forge. Beverly then destroyed the candle and Ronin himself, and Felisa was likely returned to her grave.
From Felisa Howard's journal:
- It was always difficult for me to write about Ronin without romanticizing him. In many ways I loved him the most of all, and it is with him that I am most tempted to embroider, to flatter, to basically reinvent. I think it is because Ronin himself was constantly in the process of reinventing people and events around him. In many ways it was the reason that I loved him, for that flattering light in which he saw me, for the person I was when I was with him, for what it was he allowed me to be. I could also say that Ronin did this not through altruistic motives but selfish ones in order to fulfill some egoistical impulse of his own. And I could elaborate on this with some degree of accuracy and great length. But still that would not explain the fundamental magic of his personality or why even in the light of subsequent events I still have an overwhelming wish to see him the way that I first saw him: as the nice young man who appeared to me out of nowhere at my grandmother's desolate grave site.
- He had a tantalizing offer to make all my dreams come true. He wills only to care that I understand the heavy price I would have to pay for those fairy tales. (TNG: "Sub Rosa")
Felisa Howard was played by actress Ellen Albertini Dow.
Felisa was first mentioned in "The Arsenal of Freedom", but didn't get a name until "Sub Rosa". Brannon Braga chose the first name Felisa after his own grandmother who had died shortly before the latter episode was written. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 281)) The character's surname was a tribute to Star Trek: The Next Generation production manager Merri Howard. (TNG Season 7 Blu-ray release, "Sub Rosa" deleted scene supplementary text)
Her exact age is somewhat uncertain. Beverly Crusher said "Nana was a hundred years old," but it is unclear whether this meant she was one hundred at the time of her death, or one hundred at the time she met Ronin following Crusher's great-grandmother's death years prior. Given the long lifespan expected in the 24th century, it is entirely possible she was a great deal older than one hundred. Her tombstone gives the birth date of 2291, apparently making her only seventy-nine at the time of her death in 2370. On the other hand, the script specifies the tombstone text as "FELISA HOWARD - BORN 2270, DIED 2370", confirming the simplest interpretation of Beverly's line.
At Felisa's funeral the colony leader, Maturin, used Christian Bible verses at the burial. There is no reference to indicate whether this was simply a burial tradition or that Felisa was a practicing Christian.
In a deleted scene from the episode, Beverly Crusher's eulogy to the character is extended and she states that Felisa's favorite hobby was cooking and that she was writing a cookbook when died, with a recipe for "Nana's Gingerbread." (TNG Season 7 Blu-ray release, "Sub Rosa" deleted scene)