reprinted from The Shoreline News June 14, 2017
A man of kindness and character
Unexpected death of David Rowe leaves family and friends marvelling at the person they lost
By Shannon Duff, The Shoreline
While friends and family gathered at the chapel inside Carnell’s funeral home in St. John’s on June 8th to say good-bye to one of the longest standing members of the CBS Music School and Concert Band, another group of people gathered thousands of miles away in Zimbabwe, Africa in the community of Tshelanyemba, to do the same. Each in their own way, paying tribute with memories, music and stories about a man who was many things to many people; father, husband, brother, musician, friend, and volunteer.
When David Rowe passed away on May 26 it was a horrific shock to all who knew and loved him, especially his friends and family and his colleagues with the Conception Bay South Music School where he was a member for more than 45 years. Rowe first became a member when he was just 7 years old, playing trumpet in the beginner ensemble section under the direction of the music school’s founder, Herbert Hellen.
Jeff Stentaford, the current Director of the Conception Bay South Music School was just a little boy learning how to play the trumpet in the junior ensemble section when he first met Rowe. Stentaford took over the band five years ago when Rowe’s sister Margaret Rowe retired after 28 years with the school. “It’s hard to believe just a few short weeks ago Dave and I were at Queen Elizabeth High School having a chat and a laugh while setting up for the band’s annual fund raiser,” Stentaford said. “Dave could have been home getting ready for his flight to Zimbabwe, but no; he, Emily (Dave’s daughter) and Linda (Dave’s wife) were at the school making sure the details were sorted.”
Stentaford said Rowe was one of a kind. “When you know someone like Dave who has had such an impact, the whole community feels the loss.”
Stentaford said Rowe played an integral role in maintaining the vision of the CBS Music School.
Rowe’s brother Alan reflected on Rowe’s childhood and his early interest in music. “David was artistic. His musical roots go way back before the CBS Music School. As a three-year-old he took up piano playing, pulling a loose wooden arm off a chair and swinging it against the piano, banging out a few notes,” said Alan. “We are reminded of this every time we look at the plastic keys which replaced the original ivory.”
Unbeknownst to many, Alan noted, David was also a talented poet.
Rowe played trumpet in both the Concert and Jazz Bands and volunteered as treasurer. His favourite artist was Paul Simon and according to his friends and family, Rowe believed Simon was the greatest poet of the twentieth century and as a fan made every effort to see him perform as often as possible.
Greg Peddle, leader of the NL-Tshelanyemba Hospital project, had known Rowe for 10 years. “The moment we met David we immediately sensed he had a passion for helping others,” said Peddle.
In 2009 Rowe travelled to the Salvation Army Hospital in Tshelanyemba to assist and work with the people in that community. “He accepted any challenge and would do anything to help out. David was a team player and brought so much to our team,” Peddle said, adding that two weeks after returning from his first humanitarian mission, Rowe was eager to return to begin helping once again.
On May 10th, one day after helping with the CBS Concert Band’s Annual performance, Rowe returned to Africa for the fifth and final time to help out in the African community. “David’s can-do attitude saw him on rooftops, laying down pipes, laying brick and installing fences, and on the list goes. He was a helping hand to whoever needed it. No task was too small or too difficult,” said Peddle who marvelled at his easy-going nature and helpful personality.
Just a few days before he passed away on May 26, Rowe fell ill and was brought to a hospital in Johannesburg where it was discovered he had pancreatic cancer. His death came just three days after his 54th birthday.
David’s lifelong friend Dave Carver said when we lose someone it is often difficult to navigate through the emotions of pain and anguish, sadness and heartbreak but it can also offer a chance to reflect on the laughter and memories of a person who by all accounts was selfless.
“As any of us who know David can tell you, when you got to know him you did it in layers,” Carver said, paying tribute to Rowe’s sharp and dry sense of humour. “I’ve seen him make professional stand-up comedians who have seen it all and laugh at nothing, fall to the floor howling at his creativity and his delivery.”
Carver said few people displayed the level of character, integrity, honesty and kindness and class the way Rowe did. “Dave was one of those men, he was someone to look up to.”
Rowe leaves to mourn his wife Linda, daughters Emily and Kate and stepdaughter Sarah.
The David Rowe Memorial Band Scholarship has been established to honour and remember David’s dedication to the CBS Band.