By CAMEO WATERS
A man known for his genuine friendliness and uplifting sense of humor, one who was a talker as well as one who had a listening ear, one who was concerned about people’s needs — this is the life W.C. Rowe lived.
He also lived a life of a Washington County Commissioner, a Jonesborough resident, an esteemed banker, a father, a husband, a lover of Jesus Christ and a man who lived by the Motto of “to serve, not to be served”.
Rowe began his story in Jonesborough in the winter of 1938 when his family moved to Jonesborough and opened Mayberry Grocery.
“W.C’s childhood was full of memories of old-timers coming and trading at the store and also an abundant amount of socializing on that ‘famous’ corner,” Elaine Rowe, W.C Rowe’s wife at the time of his death, said.
“He grew up listening to the men and women talk about farming, the times in general, especially about the depression and about their loved ones who were serving in the war.”
Spending most days at the country store or working the family farm laid the foundation for his knowledge in business and hospitality while also providing him with an appreciation for the value of a dollar.
Rowe married Kathryn Ford in 1950 and they lived in the Chester Inn for a time. They had two children, Jill and Bill Jr.
“W.C. reflected upon times he prayed that the Lord would grant he and Kathryn children,” Elaine Rowe said.
“He said that one dark night he looked up into the stars and prayed as he stood on Main Street in front of the Chester Inn. Nine months later, Kathryn gave birth to Jill. Eleven years later, his second miracle was born.”
In Rowe’s eyes, both children were miracles from God and Jonesborough was a sanctuary to raise children.
Kathryn and W.C. had a beautiful marriage of 43 years until she passed away in 1993 from breast cancer.
Before Kathryn passed away, she told W.C. that his heart was so full of love that she wanted him to marry again. In 1995, W.C. Rowe married Elaine.
“I have learned so much by his example,” Elaine Rowe said. “I am eternally grateful for our shared love and faith.”
Rowe’s career took a leap in 1970 when we went to work for Home Federal Savings and Loan. Rowe’s sense of humility, enthusiasm and work ethic paved the way for his successful career in banking and for community and political service.
In 1990, he was elected Washington County Commissioner and then reelected in 1994, 1998 and 2002. Rowe was serving his fourth term at the time of his death.
“I had a lot of respect for C,” Pat Wolfe, who was a Washington County Commissioner alongside Rowe, said “He was just a genuine person who loved other people.”
Rowe helped with a number of county building projects, including the Washington County Justice Center and Detention Facility.
Throughout his time as a Commissioner, he never lost sight of the positive impact his position allowed him to have on his community.
“He was a very excellent person and a fine commissioner,” former County Executive, George Jaynes said. “I miss him more than anybody.”
Rowe’s inspiration came from his grandfather, George Swartz, who was a farmer and a preacher.
And above that, Rowe drew inspiration on how to live life from the Lord.
“He was unashamed of his love for his God and Savior Jesus Christ,” Elaine Rowe said. “People were drawn to him because his faith was transparently sincere.”
Those who were lucky enough to spend time with Rowe were not left untouched by his upbeat nature and loving heart.
“My life is so much richer because I experienced his love and optimism every day,” Elaine Rowe said.
“W.C. was an example and role model to so many of us. His legacy is that he loved people and in return, he was loved.”
Rowe was a man whose story is not to be forgotten and, most recently, the Town of Jonesborough recently remembered W.C. Rowe at a the ribbon cutting for W.C. Rowe Park and the Chuckey Depot Museum on Monday, Oct. 2.