Obituary of Ronald J. Cowan
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Belfast, Maine – Ronald Jarvis Cowan (Ron), 77, passed away in his sleep quietly, peacefully, but unexpectedly, at his home in Belfast, Maine on Monday, September 14. To learn the story of Ron is to reveal the secret behind a life well-lived. A life filled with unbounded optimism. A life that achieved a sense of peace and contentment unknown to many. A life that began with adventure and dreams of being a millionaire, and somewhere along the way resulted in a lesson learned that happiness can be found in smaller circles, and a slower life, surrounded by family where you have the freedom to pick and choose what you do each day. Ron was born March 24, 1943 to Ray and Ruth (Clark) Cowan. He lived his boyhood years in Newport and graduated from Newport High School. Ron served his country honorably in the Army where he was stationed in Germany. Upon returning home he attended New Haven College where he was editor of The News and graduated with a degree in Public and Social Administration. He was also a staff reporter at the New Haven Journal Courier. While in New Haven, Connecticut, he married the love of his life, Cherie – a union that he was later proud to announce lasted 52 years, until his death. Always open to new adventures, they moved to Florida and bought a pizza restaurant, which they ran for 10 years and grew into three locations. During this time, Ron drove convertibles, sailed boats large and small with Cherie, and even competed on an amateur race car circuit. Soon the northeast was beckoning and they moved back to locations in Vermont, Connecticut, and New York City where Ron attempted a variety of business start-ups, and at one time had an office at 30 Rock where Cherie would meet him midday for lunch. After a couple failed business ventures Ron decided that the hustle and bustle was not for him and he needed to take a new tack in life. By this time they had two young boys, Ryan and Ben, and Ron thought his childhood state of Maine might be a good place to raise them. In 1988, on a solo scouting trip he crested Hayford hill entering Belfast and caught a glimpse of the bay. In that moment he knew he was home for good. After all the prior adventure, travel, and moving, he settled in Belfast for the rest of his life, only leaving the state a handful of times over the next 32 years. Ron loved Belfast. The waterfront, Main Street, and the diversity of characters that make up the community made him feel like he fit right in. He was a people person. He was loved for his caring heart, warm smile and sense of humor. He never wanted to say anything that would hurt anyone. Given the option, he always thought the best of someone, and he was so proud of this town and its people. You could see it in his smile wherever he went. Ron’s love of the town meant he was always willing to help out and join in, often too generous with his time. He had a hard time saying no, which is how he lucked into the following experiences. As a parent of kids playing Little League baseball, yet knowing very little about baseball, he got tagged to coach Ben’s team, and wound up winning the City championship and then taking the 9/10-year-old All-Star team on to win the district championship. As a substitute teacher he found he connected well with youth, especially those who didn’t fit the traditional student mold. He was asked to teach full time courses for a variety of middle school and high school subject areas, including art, math, science and alternative education. One particular group of middle school students he taught entered a competition for which they made a mini documentary shining a light on the life of homeless teenagers in Belfast. They were awarded the grand prize, which was a trip for Ron and the students to visit Senator George Mitchell in Washington DC. He was an especially good fit at the BCOPE alternative education program where he taught classes and was also the chef. As an actor with carpentry skills, he found himself building sets and performing in a number of Belfast Maskers productions, a few alongside Ryan and Ben. As a frequent breakfast customer at the local diner, he wound up filling in as a cook whenever they were shorthanded. After signing up as a FEMA inspector surveying local damage caused by the ice storm of ’98, he was subsequently recruited to travel the country for other disasters and wound up exploring Puerto Rico where he made new friends. As an enthusiastic supporter of Belfast high school sports, and the concession stand popcorn that accompanied it, he cheered on teams well outside those his kids played on. He was around so much they signed him up as the clock operator for basketball and wrestling, the videographer for the football team, and a helper at track meets, all of which he ended up doing for eight years or more. Over the years he had jobs selling everything from restaurant supplies, encyclopedias, and newspaper ads, to Electrolux vacuums. And yet none of this myriad of life experience includes his actual legacy and what you may know him as: The Man Who Carves Faces. All around Belfast, from the waterfront to the surrounding towns and beyond, you may notice Ron Cowan carvings, which he called Garden Muses. Tucked in gardens, old stumps, living trees, and old piers in the bay, these wooden spirits present themselves in a style unique to Ron. We estimate that he made over 1000 pieces in his lifetime and was still working on pieces until the day he passed away. More about his sculpture work can be found at www.gardenfaces.com. When it came to family, Ron had endless support, optimism, and love to give. He was a wonderful and loving grandfather, self-dubbed “Grand Pepito.” He was so very proud of his children and grandchildren and you could tell because seeing their accomplishments is when you would see the biggest twinkle in his eyes. Yes, anyone who knows him can confirm his eyes actually did twinkle. Ron was never quick to judge and encouraged thinking something through before acting. He was laid back, contemplative, patient, and of a tender nature. He was a hard worker and always had multiple projects underway. He always said, “inspiration will best find you at work” (adapted from Pablo Picasso). He lived a life much bigger than his own, and yet was one of the humblest people you would ever meet. Ron felt a strong connection to nature and found his spirituality there. In particular, birds, trees, and salt air breeze energized his life force. He has now joined his spirit brothers, the crow, raven, and fox. His mind and spirit had so much more to give, but his body decided it was time to go. He went too soon, but he had a full life and we are proud of him. He didn’t leave us monetary riches, but he left us a life story to be proud of, endless laughter, and enough lifetime lessons and nuggets of wisdom for generations to come. We love him dearly for it, more than any amount of money could ever buy. Over the past several years many of his siblings and nephews followed the path he took decades prior and migrated from up and down the east coast back to Maine to settle in Belfast and the surrounding towns. You could tell that Ron felt a sense of wholeness seeing his life come full circle at the end, both in location and family. Even if he didn’t travel out of state to see them often, he did not take them for granted and it was clear he loved them all very much. Ron is survived by his spouse Cherie; two sons, Ryan (spouse Sarah, daughter Molly, son Wesley) of Hampden and Benjamin (spouse Michele) of Belfast; five siblings, Robert of Apopka, FL, “lovely sister” Myrna (spouse Edward) of Morrill, Linda (spouse Winston) of Lexington, GA, Roger of Apopka, FL, and Carl (spouse Karen) of Belfast; five nephews, James (daughters Violet and Fern) of Washington DC, Daniel (spouse Maryann, sons Jesse and Wesley) of Belfast, Roger (spouse Yoon, sons Gabriel, Xavier and Victor) of Montville, Jeffrey (fiancé Nadine) of Stockton Springs, Jonathan (spouse Melissa) of Altamonte, FL; and two nieces Rachael (spouse Luis, sons Jon and Mario) of Mechanicsville, VA, and Kiki of Alexandria, VA. Ron is preceded in death by his father Ray, and mother, Ruth. The family is holding a private service on the farm prior to burial in Grove Cemetery in Belfast. In deep gratitude to a very generous community, we are able to mark the grave with a stone that will represent Ron well. We could not have done this without you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We know that Ron touched many lives in the community. In lieu of a public gathering, we will be sharing some additional memorial content at his website www.gardenfaces.com. Condolences may be left at www.ripostafh.com.