Barbara ROWELL
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Obituary of Barbara Rand ROWELL

Barbara Rand ROWELL


Barbara Rand Rowell died on December 6, 2019 at the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria BC.  She was 94 years old.  Barbara was born on June 12, 1925 in New Westminster,  BC.  She was the only daughter of Gertrude (Rand) and Keith Campbell Macgowan.  After graduating high school (New Westminster) she went to UBC and then transferred to the University of Manitoba to study architecture.  Barbara’s plans to study architecture later changed when, on May 6, 1947 she married Sheldon MacDonald Rowell, also from New Westminster.  Shortly after that, Barbara’s life took a right turn and she ended up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, embarking on a new life as the wife of a naval pilot and then mother to a growing family of four children.

            Her new life was a huge adjustment but she embraced the challenges with energy and her characteristic sense of humour.  She was responsible for raising her family during our father’s long absences and among so many other things, became an original hockey mom long before the name and role were ever acknowledged.  In addition to being a part-time single mom, Barbara organized the many re-locations that define military life with the constant challenges of getting 4 kids adjusted to new schools, new places and new lives.  She was brilliant at always making a new place become a new home. Barbara never lost her interest in architecture and combined her formal training with her natural artistic talents to design and draw plans for the family home in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.  This home became the heart of our family memories that include the community of  neighbors who became lifelong friends. 

            After a life spent on the east coast, Washington DC, and  a few years in Ottawa, their final military posting returned them to their west coast origins, landing them in Victoria, BC where they eventually retired.  

            As her children grew and left home the spaces were filled with her endless creativity and talent. Spinning, weaving and using natural dyes became her passion. Wherever she went – from the Top of the World Highway in Alaska to the barrens of Newfoundland - she had one eye to the ground in search of exotic plants and lichens to experiment with colours for her homemade dyes. She spun and dyed her own fibres, weaving them into fabrics that have left us with a legacy of gifts rich in colour, texture, design and love. All reflecting her own special and wonderful sense of artistry.

            From the east coast to the west, gardening was her other passion and no matter where she landed she channeled her prodigious energy and creativity into designing and planting her gardens. They were always different, reflecting the nature of place, space, and her own ideas. Her gardening skills and knowledge expanded through her many years of volunteer work at the Government House of BC gardens, especially the pool garden.  Barbara poured all of her skills and talent into her own final, exquisite garden in Victoria, a beautiful and serene retreat. 

            Retirement marked the beginning of an amazing chapter in Barbara and Shel’s  lives. They travelled to many places, some close to home and others more exotic. For their fiftieth wedding anniversary they travelled around the world. Throughout all their travels Barbara carefully and faithfully documented their travels in many journals, making it possible for us to vicariously share their adventures through her words.  The heartland of their travel was time spent in Nepal while our father was setting up a program to train Nepalese pilots on twin otter aircraft.  She loved Nepal and the people and always found time when she was in Nepal to seek out local weavers and explore new ways to expand her own work with textiles.  She and Shel were embraced by so many Nepalese, welcoming a number of them to their home in Victoria. 

            Retired life in Victoria centred around lawn bowling, and both she and Shel had an active social life through the Oak Bay Lawn Bowling Club.  The network of fellow bowlers became a centrepiece of their life in Victoria with a number of them becoming cherished friends.  

            Barbara lived a full life and leaves this world admired and loved by her children whose world has now become smaller. She is survived by her daughters Judy, Janice (John), and sons David and Bruce and her younger brother John Macgowan.  She has five grandchildren – Jason (Andrea), Chelsea (Tim), Jeni (Trent), Erica and Elly Blake and three great grandchildren – Lincoln and Wyatt Cahill and Sophie Rowell and several nieces and nephews.  Barbara is pre-deceased by her husband Sheldon, her mother and father, and her older brother Kenneth Macgowan.


There will be a celebration of her life at a date and location to be confirmed in the new year.

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