Sunday, October 26, 2014

In remembrance

My motivation for writing in this blog and keeping it active has evolved over the years.

I initially began blogging so that my writing could be recognized by those outside my own household. (Read: I wanted to get published.)

Then I continued to write simply as a means of further honing my skills, all the while using this as an outlet for my pent up thoughts and emotions.

And while the above is still true, it seems that lately I've mostly been writing to chronicle the events of my life so that my children can later have some insight into what things were like during their youth.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my father-in-law was battling stage IV colon cancer. Our family had been planning to take a trip to upstate New York for last August so that our newly-born son could meet his only living grandfather, but, because of my mom's poor health, I wasn't able to travel.

Instead, my husband made the trip alone in mid-September. It was the last time he saw his father alive.

Ken McGowan Jr. passed away at home the evening of Saturday, October 4th, in Potsdam, New York. My husband's greatest regret is that his father was not able to meet his grandson before he died.

Our daughter was lucky enough to have met her grandfather a few times (twice on separate trips to New York in 2010 and 2013, and also on a Caribbean cruise we took together in 2013), but I know that in a few years she'll have no recollection of these meetings.

So this post is for my children, so that they'll have some insight into the man who was their grandfather.

My daughter, husband, and father-in-law outside the old barn on his property in upstate New York. (June 2013)


The Obituary:

Kenneth A. McGowan Jr., 70, of State Highway 11B, passed away October 4th, 2014, at home surrounded by his loving family.

Ken was born in Potsdam on March 1, 1944, the son of the late Kenneth A. and Katherine Gorman McGowan, and was a 1962 graduate of Potsdam High School where he excelled in hockey. He earned his Bachelor's degree in Economics from Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island. He served in the United States Navy from 1968-1971 and was honorably discharged.

On November 22, 2000, Ken was married to his best friend, Jeanette Robertson.

Ken worked in sales for many years, first at Harold's Men's Shop and then as the store sales manager at Kriff's Furniture Inc. for over 23 years. Upon Kriff's closure, Ken worked for Blevin's Nisson, Memory Lane, and as a volunteer driver for St. Lawrence County. He was a lifelong member of the Potsdam Elks Lodge #2074 and served in several leadership positions, including as Exalted Ruler. Ken, along with his 1959-1960 (12-1-1) and 1960-1961 (14-0) hockey teammates, was inducted into the Potsdam High School Hall of Fame in 2007 and was a member of the winning team in the first ever Silver Stick International Hockey Tournament in 1958. Ken enjoyed spending time with his family, golfing, traveling, and playing cards.

Surviving Ken are his wife Jeanette and his six children: Sarah & Rich O'Neill of Phoenix, Arizona; Robert & Crystal of Bellevue, Washington; Steven & Joanne of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Kevin & Mary of Brewer, Maine; Shawn of Syracuse, New York; and Jen & Bobbie of Lincoln, Nebraska; three step-children: Stephanie & Mark Brittain of Pulaski, New York; Tod Robertson of Potsdam, New York; and Betsy Wood of Edwards, New York; grandchildren: Keller, Amara, & Nora of Bellevue, WA; Marina & Wyatt of Edmonton, AB; and Caroline & Nicholas of Brewer, ME; step-grandchildren: Beth & Casey Youngs of Fisher, Indiana; Melanie Brittain of Cazenovia, New York; and Taylor Robertson of Rochester, New York; and two great-grandchildren: Natalie & Carrigan Youngs. Ken is also survived by his brother Charlie of Potsdam; his brother-in-law and close friend Fred Brousseau of Slingerlands, New York; and several cousins, nieces, and nephews. Ken was pre-deceased by his two sisters, Theresa (Terry) Gallagher and Kathleen (Kathy) Brousseau. 

Arrangements are with Garner's Funeral Home as follows: calling hours Wednesday, October 8 from 2-4 pm and 7-9 pm. Funeral service will be held at 11 am on Thursday, October 9 at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Potsdam.

The family would like to sincerely thank the following people who were so caring and compassionate during his battle with cancer: the team at Hospice and Palliative Care of the St. Lawrence Valley, Dr. Howard Gold and Ryan Garfield, PA, the nurses and staff at the Potsdam Cancer Center, the nurses and staff at Canton-Potsdam Hospital, and Brook Madlin, Pharmacist, Potsdam Walmart.

Ken and the family also want to recognize the exceptional care and kindness of Dr. Andrew Williams.

Memorial contributions may be made in his name to the Potsdam Cancer Center or the Potsdam Animal Shelter.


The Eulogy (as read by Sarah):

Thank you all for being here to celebrate and remember my dad’s life. I’m glad to have the chance to share some of my favorite things about him here with you today.

My dad was about the most social a guy there was. If it involved interacting with people, my dad was all for it. He loved walking around town, bumping into friends from his 70 years in Potsdam. On occasions when he traveled outside the North Country, it was a running joke that it wouldn't take him long to find someone he knew or for someone to recognize him.

Dad built connections easily. He enjoyed many life-long relationships- ones that grew from childhood hockey, his father’s pharmacy, his sales jobs at Harold’s and Kriff’s, and the Elks. Many of dad’s friends and relatives grew up playing with him in and around his childhood home at 72 Elm Street.

My dad was fiercely competitive, beginning as a small boy. The Courier newspaper reported in July 1947 when my dad was just three years and four months old, that Kenny McGowan was the first place winner in the tricycle handling competition. From there, he went on to excel in hockey and was later inducted into the Potsdam High School Hall of Fame. He was an excellent bowler and played a pretty decent round of golf.

His competitive spirit was most apparent, however, around the card table. Dad told us he learned to play in his father’s lap around their dining room table. Dad loved bridge, pinochle, Philadelphia Rummy, and cribbage. He played for countless hours at the Elks and around homes in Potsdam and with scores of different people. It was intense being his partner because he didn't have a lot of patience. If you were playing cards, you were playing cards. Pay attention to the bid, keep your cards organized, and don’t bid what you can’t support. Dad was often quoted as saying that when God handed out patience, he skipped right over me.

Dad had plenty of other skills. He could simply eyeball a guy and tell him he was a 44 long jacket 32 inch inseam, and wore a 17 ¾ inch neck. No measuring tape necessary!

He was also skilled at making people laugh. He set people at ease through his quick wit and sarcasm and most recently, during his illness, used his humor as a coping mechanism. Even on some of his toughest days, his one-liners were still razor sharp. He enjoyed inside jokes with each of us nine kids.

My dad had many loves: peanut butter, riding his lawn tractor, his favorite cat, Muffin, and making people laugh. None of these loves, however, compare to the love he had for family. Whether he was doing the jitterbug with his sister Kathleen, having family dinners to celebrate holidays and milestones in Pulaski, Norwood, or at Hilltop, taking overnight road trips with his wife, or playing cards with us kids, Dad cherished the opportunity to spend time with those he loved.

He was one of a kind, and we will all miss him terribly.


The Online Tributes:
Saturday, November 1, 2014

Kenny's Potsdam high school hockey photo is in my home: my four-year-old son can name "Kenny the Keeper", "Bapa" (Peter Gilligan), and Conrad Stebner. Gone but not forgotten, in our prayers always: the McGowan family and Potsdam Sandstoners. Love from the Gilligan Family.

~ Tara Gilligan Reimer, Lynden, Washington

Friday, October 17, 2014

I am saddened to hear of the loss of your father. My prayers are and thoughts are with you and your family during these difficult times.

~ Maria Seguinot, Providence, Rhode Island

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

May your hearts soon be filled with wonderful memories of joyful times together as you celebrate a life well lived.

~ Carolanne Pryme

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

I have nothing but good memories of Kenny, He and I were classmates from grade school through college @ Providence College. We played hockey together from age of 5 through HS. Kenny was a great guy, huge heart, he will be missed

~ Peter Gilligan, Sonoma, California

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

It makes me very sad to hear of Ken's passing. He, Doug Pike and Bill Lowe and I grew up on Elm and Grant St. I remember all fun we had growing up playing Hide & seek, kick the can, among other fun kids games we sometime got in trouble for, delivering Sunday papers from the back of his parents Woodie Ford Station Wagon, going to McGowan's Drug Store for many cherry cokes when his Father was not there, then hearing about it later. Playing hockey on the next door Fraternity hockey rink, as well as all through Pee Wees and High School, being a Rink Rate at Clarkson Arena,with and many others. Thank you Ken for being a great friend, neighbor. I am truly sorry for not making contact with him at our 50 year Reunion, You will be truly missed. He loved and was so proud of his family.

~ Butch (Earl) Kidd, Mukilteo, Washington

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Kenny & I spent a lot of our "good" years together playing golf and bridge..they were the best of times and I will never forget them. God speed by good friend.

~ Lee Matott, Bushnell, Florida

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Ken and I were boyhood friends and spent a lot of time together. He was a wonderful person who was full of life and I will miss him

~ Jim Lashomb, East Windsor, New Jersey

Monday, October 06, 2014

So very sorry to hear of Ken's passing. Ken and his family were mainstays of Potsdam. Ken and his dad lived for Potsdam Hockey, and Ken's dad always allowed us to have Coke Floats, and Cherry Cokes after all the games. All great memories!

~ Tony Rishe, Roseville, California

Monday, October 06, 2014

Kenny was a team mate and friend growing up in Potsdam. I only saw him once after graduation and that was at the reunion of our hockey team. I know he made every effort to make life better for those around him and we send our condolences to his family and will light a candle for his good soul.

~ Bill Martin, Boston, Massachusetts

Monday, October 06, 2014

Kenny was a lifetime friend of my fathers and it trickled down to all of my mom/dads's 8 kids. Sad!!! His wings will span large and we will all feel his presence to soothe us all to know he is now in the elite group of heaven! God bless!!

~ Eric/Stephanie Matott, Potsdam, New York

Monday, October 06, 2014

We were saddened to hear of Kenny's passing. Dave and Kenny grew up playing hockey together and were high school classmates. We have wonderful memories of those years. Our sincerest condolences to Kenny's family.

~ Dave and Diane Jarrett Snyder, Alfred, Maine

Monday, October 06, 2014

Bob and I send love and support to all of you. We know this has been a tough battle for Ken and the family. Please let us know if we can help in any way.

~ Love and Prayers, Bob & Gloria Williams

Monday, October 06, 2014

Linda and I send our most sincere condolences to the McGowan family. Ken was a very good friend and golf partner. Our hearts are sad as he will be missed.

~ Al and Linda Albrecht, Russell, New York

Monday, October 06, 2014

I knew Kenny during high school and after, such a wonderful man. My condolences go out to his entire family. He will be missed but left many wonderful memories.

~ Carol Warner, Massena, New York

Monday, October 06, 2014

David and I send our condolences to all of you. I know that this has been a tough battle for all of you and I am praying for your strength. If I were there I would hug you all. The next few days will be like a whirl-wind but be there for each other. Your dad was a special man and you all have wonderful memories of him. God is there now and will always be there. I love you all.

~ Valerie Attell, Atlanta, Georgia

Monday, October 06, 2014

Our condolences to the McGowan family. We didn't know Kenneth but in 1963 we lived next to Charlie and Suki McGowan on outer Elm St.. They became good friends. We'd enjoy hearing from anyone in the family concerning Charlie and Suki. We moved to Lowville in 1967.

~ Liz and Gordon Allen


One of the higher profile tributes came from Lou Lamoriello, President and General Manager of the New Jersey Devils hockey team. As mentioned above, my father-in-law played hockey in college at Providence, which is where he got to know Mr. Lamoriello and his brother, who were playing there at the same time.

Over the years, my father-in-law always spoke highly of the Lamoriellos and was a Devils fan because of them. Earlier this year, my sister-in-law contacted him and mentioned that it would mean a lot to her father to be able to hear from him.

So Lou Lamoriello gave my father-in-law a call this summer and offered his personal cell number and email address in case there was anything he could do for him. It was a simple gesture, and it truly made my father-in-law's day.

When he passed away, Sarah again contacted Mr. Lamoriello and sent him a link to the obituary. He emailed her back and said that he was so sorry to hear about Ken's passing and to remember the good times they had together. He also sent flowers to the McGowan home.

Incredibly classy.


In addition to the above tributes, my husband and his siblings were also regaled with numerous anecdotes about their father, some of which I've been urging my husband to write down so that they're never forgotten.

For instance, during the calling hours, one of Potsdam's prominent lawyers came to my husband and shared that Ken sold him his first suits when he moved to town, and he just really made him feel welcome.

This sort of interaction is indicative of small town living, and I think it's important that our kids are exposed to that sort of neighbourly environment as they grow.

Speaking of which, I'm told that the Amish family living across the road from my father-in-law also attended the funeral, having parked their horse and carriage in town amongst the motorized vehicles that were present.

Had I been there, I definitely would have taken a photo of that, as it's reminiscent of the olden Little House on the Prairie-type scenes I have running through my head.

Again, this is also something I want my kids to know about and to appreciate, as this was the environment in which their grandfather lived.

But the scene that I think my husband will remember forever is the flag-folding ceremony at the end of the funeral.

My father-in-law had a Full Honors Military Funeral, and, at the end, my husband was to fold the American flag that had been on his father's casket.

There are precise instructions on how this is to be done without error, but, of course, a huge gust of wind began blowing at the exact moment he was to perform this task. And he was beyond frustrated by this.

Naturally, everyone had a good chuckle after the fact, with many commenting that "Kenny would have been laughing his ass off at that, watching you struggle."


And this is the man who was my children's grandfather. Such a shame that all they'll really have for which to remember him by are these words and their father's memories.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Horn tootin'

For those who don't know, I graduated from the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry (now known as Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences... or ALES) at the University of Alberta way back in the year 2000.

The faculty will be celebrating its centennial in the next year, so a number of festivities are now underway to help commemorate the last 100 years. And at the heart of these festivities is the Centennial website, which is currently featuring an anecdote written by yours truly.

I'm told that a number of submissions were received, but only four stories will be featured at a time on the site. This link will take you to a list of these first four (with mine leading the pack!) as well as a very brief note about me and my daughter.

Given that the stories will be rotated throughout the next year, it's unknown as to how long mine will be featured...... so go and check it out while the link is still active!