Grandfather says he has seen most of his friends buried in recent years. Here is a eulogy that Grandfather delivered for a very dear friend at his memorial service, shortly after the attack on the World Trade Center in NYC:
Wayne Cowder leaves behind two sisters, Lila and Shirley, a brother, Irvin, and his wife of
36 years, Jean.
Jean and Wayne came to Monroe County 25 years ago, during the wettest summer ever seen, and promptly took the roof off a one-story house they had bought, built a second story atop the first, and put the roof back on.
How characteristic of these two — resolute — determined to reach their goals! And we always thought of them together, didn’t we? Wayne and Jean; Jean and Wayne.
As the bible says: “one flesh.”
There were foibles, of course.
Edwin Bradley loves to tell how he came upon them, paddling about their pond, teaching ducklings how to swim.
And one day their pottery kiln blew up.
Wayne took up weaving; Jean took up painting.
Wayne first came to public attention as Director of the Monroe County Public School’s Gifted Program. He loved theatre, and he directed the Union High School Senior Play, in those days.
I asked a boy who played in the stage band how he remembered Wayne.
He said: “Amusing — I was amused — by his posture, his gestures, his speech, his facial expressions.”
Another boy (as a matter of fact, the young man who spoke to us at the concert last night) said he remembered Wayne and Jean’s elegant hospitality. Their home was open to Wayne’s students.
A woman who knew Jean And Wayne from their earliest days here said that if she were to characterize Wayne in one word, it would be “gracious”.
Gracious, indeed, he was.
All the world’s great religions contain the idea that God is Grace.
From the Koran, Medina Suras, The Chapter of the Congregation: “God (gives his) Grace to Whom He Will.”
And God blessed Wayne Cowder with grace, in abundance.
So it was that grace took Wayne through what Christians call “A Time of Testing.”
He discovered, as all of us transplants to Monroe County do, that, while we may be God’s Gift to Monroe County, Monroe Countians will be the judge of that.
The light from afar sometimes penetrates slowly here.
He was thwarted in his work, and became bitter and angry for a time, withdrawn.
After awhile, he became speech therapist for the school system, a position for which he had been formally trained. During that time he helped a girl who had a cleft palate. It had been surgically repaired in infancy, but left her with a speech impediment.
Imagine a teen-age girl in that condition:
It crushed her soul.
She was shy — timid — spoke softly.
One day, she got angry at something, and bellowed like a bull.
Wayne was astonished — you remember how he looked (imitation: mouth agape, eyes wide) — then, head back, and that honest, open laugh of his.
Wayne said “(Child), I didn’t know you could yell!”
Well, that liberated that girl for awhile, and was a lesson for Wayne, who tucked it back in the comer of his mind, for use in therapy later.
That girl is now 40, an RN, and has children of her own.
During his “time of testing,” Wayne had left the library board, but his grace brought him back, and he served there again, until he died.
He developed the skills of adaptation and accommodation, and his public service grew, as he grew in grace.
He has been in the leadership of about a dozen of our most important civic associations.
But his last; a complex, difficult undertaking, extending for a long time — Chairmanship of the Monroe County Bicentennial Celebration — required all of his character.
Wayne brought the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra to Monroe County four times. In their concert last night, Grieg — Edvard Grieg — was played.
Thus does Wayne’s grace bring the light from afar, expanding its beam here.
And he successfully involved native Monroe Countians in much of what he did.
Country women contributed a large display of quilts; quilt making is, of course, an old family tradition here.
The play Women of Monroe (written by Jean) attracted a large audience of native Monroe folks, who wanted to see something of their family histories.
And, the most inclusive of all: The Monroe County Veteran’s Monument.
There are some 6000 names on a list in that monument.
We got letters from farthest back — Glace, War Ridge, Creamery, Wikle.
Mostly, they came from old women, with a list of their veterans.
They said: “don’t forget mine.”
Wayne’s name is on that list, too, of course:
Air Force, time of the Korean War.
Well, now he’s gone — have we lost it all? No!
Shakespeare gave us a wonderful phrase: “past is prologue.”
Wayne’s grace is prologue, in the minds of us all, but particularly in the minds of his students, who are now coming of age to lead the country.
And we are especially concerned, just now, for the future of our country, aren’t we?
For example, that boy who found him amusing is now capable of being amused, and amusing others.
And Wayne Cowder’s grace now spreads afar, like ripples on a pond.
About the Author: RD Blakeslee is an octogenarian in West Virginia who built his net worth by only investing in that which can be enjoyed during acquisition and throughout life, as opposed to papers in a drawer, like stocks and bonds. You can read more about him here.
Photos: Courtesy of the Blakeslee Family