RANCHO SANTA FE — The Sanctuary at the Village Church in Rancho Santa Fe was filled to capacity March 31 for the memorial service for Dr. R. Roger Rowe, who died last month.It was not only a memorial service, but a reunion of sorts because it brought together Rowe’s family and friends, former students and employees and many people who had not seen each other in years. Hugs were exchanged and moments were taken by attendees catching up on each others lives.The service was at times emotional and tearful and at other times had people laughing and smiling at the memories of Rowe.
As guests entered the church, which seats 1,400 people, there was a slideshow of Rowe’s life. Extra chairs were added in every spot that could hold one. Every spot was filled.
Rowe, a Rancho Santa Fe icon and the R. roger Rowe School’s namesake, spent more than 40 years at the school district, first as a teacher and principal and then as superintendent.
Longtime friend Rea Mowery was first to speak. He recalled his relationship with Rowe and how they became fast friends when he came on staff at the school. The relationship lasted until Rowe’s death. Even after Mowery retired to the Pacific Northwest, about once a month, a “care package” would arrive from Rowe filled with books, newspapers, candy and other goodies.
Mowery said Rowe had the habit of using the phrase of “I am mindful of … ”
In his honor, Mowery used the phrase in his remembrance of Rowe. “Losing a friend as the years go by, I am mindful that kind, understanding friends are precious assets. Hold them tightly,” Mowery said.
Another longtime friend and employee, Glenda Sumida, spoke about Rowe’s affection for chocolate, which he ordered in large amounts, and his legendary letters of recommendation.
“If you didn’t get into the college of your choice or the job you wanted, it was not because of the letter of recommendation,” she said. “I’m sure there are some around as keepsakes.”
She said Rowe was a natural leader who led by example.
“He was humble about himself and spotlighted the achievements of others. He loved the small town feeling (of Rancho Santa Fe) and working together to meet a goal,” she said.
Superintendent of Schools Lindy Delaney said she considered Rowe a friend and her mentor.
“Everyone has a Roger Rowe story. A hundred or a thousand stories,” she said.
She said he referred to the school as “his favorite place on earth” and that he had a way of making everyone feel special.
“Everyone thought they were one of Dr. Rowe’s favorites,” she said. And that was not far from the truth.
“Once a student was enrolled in his school, they were enrolled in his life,” she said.
She said he had high standards, but never asked of his staff more than he would do himself.
“He always said the best thing in life is to be remembered. I think he would be pleased at the turnout today,” she said.
Rowe’s son Carl spoke on behalf of the family.
“I always knew my father was well-respected, but I didn’t know how well- respected he was until he passed,” he said.
Carl fondly recalled growing up in Rancho Santa Fe and cross-country trips with five in the family’s Volkswagen Beetle.
He also recalled visiting the Rancho Santa Fe Library and realizing how much his father read.
It was back in the day when the name of the person who checked out the book was on the card inside the book.
“His name was on every book, sometimes twice. My dad had read every book in the library,” he said. “He loved hunting. He loved fishing and he loved books.”
The service concluded with full military honors and a 21-gun salute.
Rowe was in the United States Navy from 1952 to 1981 in active duty and the reserves. He retired as a captain.
Outside of the church were memorial tables, each with memorabilia from a part of Rowe’s life.