Richard Melvin Rowley was born March 3, 1919 to GeorgeSamuel and Cora May Morris Rowley in Parowan, Utah. He was the third in a family of five. He struggled to come into the world, but a prayerful family and a persistent nurse pulled him through. He was having a hard time breathing, and his nurse had to dunk him alternately into warm and then cold water until he gasped and began crying (The Roots and Branches of the Rowley-Morris Union, by Leonard Rowley).
He was named after his grandfather, Richard Rowley, who had traveled from England to Utah at the age of twelve. Grandfather Richard was a proper Englishman, and his grandson tried to emulate that. Richard was bright, talented and full of energy as a child. He grew up in a humble home where he learned the value of hard work and education, the joy of family time and most of all, the importance of the Gospel.
As a child, Richard was known as Melvin or Mel. As an adult, he was known to most as Dick.
When Richard was a toddler, his mother found him scribbling on the table with a pencil. When she took the pencil away from him, he protested, “Wite a set a mustoo. Surley Melvy can!” Apparently a “set” was the table and “mustoo” was the pencil, or a list of what he “must do.” His mother gave him a fresh sheet of paper and said, “You surely can!” He grew to be a writer and teacher (The Roots and Branches…, by Leonard Rowley).
1927 at the age of 8.
Richard was also an artist, actor, journalist, comedian and inventor. As a young man, he acted and directed plays put on by the Mutual Improvement Association (MIA, the youth program of the LDS church during that time). He also learned to paint and taught himself to sculpt using iron-rich, red clay from the Parowan Valley. He made vases, urns and lifelike busts. According to his brother, Leonard, Richard had a good singing voice with a large range. He would surprise his family by alternately singing either bass, tenor or alto. (The Roots and Branches…, by Leonard Rowley).
Richard was very smart and did well in school. When he was a young man, he learned to type and bought his own portable typewriter. In 1937, Richard graduated from high school with honors and a scholarship to BAC (now SUU). While in high school and college, he served as the local correspondent for The Deseret News. Richard worked his way through college as well as expecting perfect grades.
Turkey farming in 1939 with nephew Roger.
He was called into military service during World War II. He passed his initial physical exam and was sent to basic training. After a few days, he had another exam and was rejected for health reasons. He had Rheumatic Fever as a child which affected his heart.
Instead he decided to serve a mission. Although the doctors were reluctant to agree, after a long series of examinations and tests, the papers were signed and he was called to the California Mission. He left in November 1941 at the age of 22. His brother, Leonard, wrote: “It was not easy to wear the uniform of a missionary when it was considered unpatriotic for any young man not to be in military uniform. Painful as this was, he rose above it, and was an effective and honorable missionary” (The Roots and Branches…, by Leonard Rowley).
Elder Rowley, 1942.
On his mission. 1943.
It was during his mission that Richard decided to go by his first name instead of Melvin. He finished his mission in the fall of 1943. He continued his education at BAC, working to earn his own way. One of his jobs during college was working as a DJ at the local radio station, KSUB. In the fall of 1945, Richard attended BYU. During this time he worked at the BYU News Bureau, sending news releases about campus events to major papers. He also worked for KOVO, Provo’s radio station.
Although he was busy with his education, Richard spearheaded the remodeling and painting of his parents’ home in Parowan as well as the landscaping.
Family home, before...
At BYU he studied journalism as part of a composite major. In 1946, he met Lois Pearl Robison who was majoring in Home Economics. Lois wrote in her life history: “I was attending a Delta Phi dinner dance with Harold Call and at the dinner he introduced me to Dick. I’m afraid I did more conversing with Dick that evening than with my date” (The Life History of Lois Robison Rowley, pg. 8). During the next few months, the couple spent time together and during the summer they exchanged letters. Also during this summer (1946), Lois traveled to Parowan to meet Richard’s family and he traveled to the Robison’s home in Nevada to meet her parents.
Lois Robison, about 1944.
Lois wrote: “In the fall of my senior year , I again returned to BYU and Dick invited me to attend his missionary reunion and General Conference with him in Salt Lake. It was after the missionary reunion that Dick proposed and I accepted his Delta Phi pin” (The Life History of Lois Robison Rowley, pg. 8).
On 4 June 1947, both received their bachelor’s degrees and on 27 June, they were married in the St. George Temple. He was 28 and she was 22.
The picture of their wedding cake is the only photographic evidence of the wedding.
The couple wanted to keep the event “simple.” The couple also decided not to hold a reception, but they did have a wedding breakfast at the Escalante Hotel in Cedar City. The couple honeymooned in Cedar Canyon, staying at the Navajo Lake Lodge and at the Cedar Breaks Lodge.
Richard and Lois in the summer of 1947.
That summer, the couple lived in Provo where Richard was still working for the BYU News Bureau and KOVO.
In September 1947, they moved to Cedar City where he had taken a teaching position at BAC as well as publicity for the school. They lived in Cedar the rest of their lives. Richard taught many subjects at BAC such as drama, photography, journalism, English, speech, and debate. He would retire from then SUSC in 1983.
Richard was also involved at Church. Lois wrote: “Through the years Dick was Sunday School Superintendent, Gospel Doctrine teacher – three different times – in a bishopric, Ward Clerk, Teacher Development teacher and always a Home Teacher” (The Life History of Lois Robison Rowley, pg. 14).
Even with his busy teaching career, Richard found time to take his family on outings in the mountains near their home, many camping trips and several vacations throughout the years.
In the early 1950s, Richard occasionally wrote for The Deseret News. During these years there was atomic testing in Nevada and Richard would often be seen with his Geiger counter, which calculated radiation and he would report the readings to the paper.
During his teaching years, Richard wrote and published one textbook and collaborated with other facility members on another. He also wrote, produced and directed a play, “Beyond the Typha.”
Richard built a home, which was completed in May 1951, for the family which eventually included four boys: Dennis, Don, Glenn and Mark. Richard also landscaped the yard and began a garden, which would provide hard work and delicious food for the family for decades.
Richard Rowley family, early 1960s.
In the fall of 1953, the family moved for a year to California where Richard worked on his master’s degree, which he received in October 1954. Several times throughout the next years, Richard returned to Stanford in the summers to continue his graduate studies.
Richard and Lois, 1987
In the early 1980s the family began their annual Rowley Campout. During these retirement years, Richard and Lois spent two days a week in St. George where they served as ordinance workers at the temple for 6 years (1984-1990). During this time, Richard’s mother Cora lived in St. George so they would help her with any chores she needed.
In 1990, Richard was not feeling well and in May went to Las Vegas, NV for tests. He had a cancerous brain tumor. He went through treatment for the cancer, but it was ineffective.
Leonard wrote of an experience their sister Ramona had with him when he was sick. “Ramona told of a day when she came to be with Dick while Lois ran some urgent errands. His ability to speak was very limited, but he took her hand, smiled and said, “Good morning.” For some time, he sat and listened as she talked. Then, he walked to the window and stood watching for Lois to come home. Ramona said she realized how much he depended on Lois- how much she meant to him” (Leonard).
On 4 August 1990, Richard died of cancer in his home in Cedar City. His entire family, including grandchildren were in town and had been able to see him and hug him before he passed.