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William A. Stowe

February 18, 2016
Lake Placid News

William Arthur Stowe, Olympic gold medalist, died suddenly of a heart attack in his home in Lake Placid on Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. He was 75.

Born March 23, 1940, in Oak Park, Illinois to William Pearson and Darleen (Allen) Stowe, he spent his childhood in Bronxville and summers with family in his beloved Adirondacks. He matriculated in 1954 at the Kent School, where he began a long and distinguished career in rowing. After his first taste of international rowing at the Henley Regatta in 1958, Bill went on to the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, where he stroked and captained an undefeated 1959 freshman heavyweight crew that went on to win the 1962 IRA Championships, a victory memorialized on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He was a member of Psi Upsilon fraternity and the Sphinx Head Society.

As a lieutenant in the United States Navy, Bill rowed for the Club Nautique in Saigon, Vietnam, while running the Naval Officers Club before returning stateside to join the Vesper Boat Club, where he trained for the 1964 Olympic Games. He stroked the crew to victory at trials and then to the gold medal in Tokyo, Japan. The row to victory of the Vesper Eight is the subject of Bill's book, "All Together: The Formidable Journey to the Gold with the 1964 Crew," written and published in 2005.

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Following the Olympics, Bill continued his rowing career as rowing coach at St. Joseph's University and in 1967 accepted the head coach position at Columbia University. He went on to introduce rowing to the United States Coast Guard Academy as head coach from 1971 to 1985. In addition to a short stint as Sports information director, he coached the Cadets in defeating Yale University and winning the Dad Vails the following year. He also coached the Litchfield Rowing Association to numerous youth national championships from 1968 through 1971 as well as the maverick Blood Street Sculls in the 1970s. Bill was selected as the ABC television rowing commentator for the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games alongside Howard Cosell. He served on the board of directors of the National Association of Amateur Oarsmen (NAAO), USRowing's predecessor. He was chairman of the publicity committee and is remembered for his work on the rowing safety committee which established standard procedures demonstrated in a video required for rowing organizations to follow. Bill married Ann Parsons in 1983 and together they had a son, William Parsons Stowe. In 1986 he completed an MBA at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and continued to work for the Coast Guard Academy fundraising for the CGA Foundation. Bill's development career continued when he moved the family to Lake Placid in 1990 to work first for the Olympic Regional Development Association (ORDA), followed by Hospice and then St. Joseph's Rehabilitation Center. On Jan. 1, 2000, at midnight, he married Barbara Kellogg on the frozen surface of Big Wolf Lake.

In his "retirement," Bill devoted his time and leadership to multiple community organizations, serving as president of the Ledyard, Connecticut, Rotary Club from 1989 to 1990 and co-founding the Lake Placid Rotary Club in 1994, where he twice served as president. An avid Rotarian, he spearheaded the Great Adirondack Outdoor Rendez-vous weekend that served as an antecedent to numerous antique shows, as well as Potato Gleaning, and he supported Polio Plus awareness and fundraising with the Iron Lung, bike-athons and walk-athons, including his own personal journey on foot from Lake Placid to Tupper Lake. He originated the River Road Ironman aid station, where for over a decade runners could touch the 1964 Olympic Gold Medal. Fellow Rotarians describe Bill as someone who was "always smiling, and stressed having fun." Those who participated in his annual Christmas Day soccer game and bonfire might agree.

A devoted member of the Church of St. Luke the Beloved Physician, he regularly attended the 7:45 a.m. service and served on the Vestry. An avid supporter of Northwood School, he organized the donation of a shell that restored the rowing program, and he enjoyed leading Wednesdays Are for Hiking, a North Country after-school program.

Bill was a larger-than-life presence for many and lived a varied and interesting life, including having led law enforcement through the tunnels under Low Library at Columbia University to end the 1968 occupation of the building by SDS.

He has written and published countless articles about the sport of rowing, comparing his experiences in the sport to mountain climbing. He traveled the globe summiting Mount Rainier, Kilimanjaro and the 46 major peaks of the Adirondacks, and hiking the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Trail, the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska, Death Valley, part of the Pacific Coast Trail, and from Miami to Key West in memory of Admiral Hayes.

Bill is a member of the athletic hall of fame at Kent School, Cornell University and the United States Coast Guard Academy, the Helms Hall Hall of Fame, National Rowing Hall of Fame, and the International Rowing Hall of Fame. He served as the president of the National Rowing Foundation where he was a trustee, and he was a director of Philadelphia's annual Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta where he served as regatta ombudsman for many years. In 2011, he was the inaugural recipient of the Jack Kelly Golden Oars Award for superior achievements in rowing, service to amateur athletics, and success in a chosen profession.

He is survived by wife Barbara Kellogg Stowe; son William P. Stowe of Hudson; brothers Denby Stowe of Buffalo and Michael Stowe of Jupiter, Florida; and stepchildren Susanne H. Frensley (Chip) of Nashville, Tennessee and Jack Herndon (Nina) of Millbrae, California. He also has six grandchildren: Paige Seals, Eliza Frensley and Katherine Frensley, Caroline Herndon, Ian Herndon and Alexandra Herndon.

His brother, the late Allen Stowe (Wendy) of Vero Beach, Florida, predeceased him.

Calling hours will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19 at M.B. Clark Inc. Funeral Home in Lake Placid with an American Legion prayer service at 5:45 p.m. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 20 with a reception to follow at Church of St. Luke the Beloved Physician, 136 Church St., Saranac Lake. The M.B. Clark Inc. Funeral Home in Lake Placid is in charge of arrangements.

Donations may be made in memory of William A. Stowe to Church of St. Luke, 136 Main St., Saranac Lake, NY 12983; the Rotary Foundation Polio Plus Fund, C/O Lake Placid Rotary Club, P.O. Box 1425, Lake Placid, NY 12946; or Nashville Rowing, 73 White Bridge Road, Suite 103-311, Nashville, TN 37205.

Relatives and friends are invited to share a story or prayer, order flowers, upload a photo or leave online condolences at www.mbclarkfuneralhome.com.

A special thanks to Ed Hewitt and especially to Allison Frederick, whose article, "Bill Stowe Awarded 2011 USRowing Jack Kelly Award, Oct. 28, 2011," proved invaluable for this writing.

 
 

 

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