Serving the Loup Valley for 137 Years
Stowell: Farm Kid, Family Man, Philanthropist
Kate Wolf photo
Bob Stowell and granddaughter, Melani Flynn, review the scrapbook kept by former Ord resident, Zola Griffith, which was the inspiration for this story. Griffith kept track of the Ord High Class of 1961 in great detail.
By Kate Wolf
Local attorney Bob Stowell is a friendly, familiar face around Valley County and it’s no mystery why. Born and raised on a 234-acre farm just east of Ord, he grew up milking cows by hand, haying and helping his folks just like most farm boys. Humble, hard-working and comfortable with hometown life, he never considered himself to be extraordinary. But life would find a way to disprove that assumption because the cream always rises to the top.
Stowell graduated first in his class in 1961 from Ord High School and was a Boys State representative, band member, football and track athlete, involved in church and 4-H activities, as well as being Valedictorian and senior class president. At the age of only 17, he received a Congressional Nomination to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and graduated in 1965, after intense academic and leadership training, with the rank of Lieutenant. He also completed Airborne School, Jump Master School, Ranger School and 13 weeks of continuous field training. It seemed a career in the military would be his destiny.
On Aug. 1, 1965, Stowell married Jean Geweke, the cherished only daughter of Lloyd and Naomi Geweke of Ord. He remembers the first time he ever saw her as “this cute little third grade girl sitting on a fence” during a 4-H livestock show. She was just a kid then, but she would grow into a lovely young girl who really captured his attention. He fondly remembers their first date at the North Loup Drive-In Theatre. They showed “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” with Audrey Hepburn and that’s when “Moon River” became their special song. You wouldn’t think a tough, savvy attorney like Bob Stowell would be a romantic but he unashamedly is and credits his wife of nearly 56 years for the greatest portion of his success. The couple would go on to have four children, 12 grandchildren and one greatgrandchild but there were some difficult times to get through first. Very shortly after they were married, Stowell would be sent to Vietnam.
There he served as platoon leader, battalion adjutant and operations officer of the 173rd Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol. It was a war zone. Stowell suffered a leg and shoulder injury and later was shot in the chest in March of 1967 as he led a six man recon mission into an extremely hot zone where they were vastly outnumbered. The fighting was fierce and deadly but young Lt. Stowell would lead his men to safety and eventual extraction by helicopter. In addition to a Purple Heart, he would be awarded a Bronze Star for heroism in connection with military operations against a hostile force, a Distinguished Service Cross, and three air medals.
Before resigning from the military in 1971, he taught company tactics at the Infantry School at Ft. Benning, GA and company tactics and leadership at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln(UNL) ROTC. By this time, Bob and Jean had started a family and he did not want to be the kind of father his children only saw between deployments, as a stranger at the dinner table. So it was there, at UNL, that his life would go in a different direction.
In 1972 Stowell graduated from the University of Nebraska College of Law and he and Jean would bring their young family home at last to Ord, the community they had missed for so long. Both respected the values, hometown atmosphere, the promise the community held for the future and the wonderful environment it offered in which to raise their children: Dahn Marie, Kristen Jean, William Lloyd and Bobbi Lyn.
Here is where you might say: “And the rest is history ...”, for Stowell began his own legal practice in Ord which grew and evolved over the years to become what it is today: A legal landmark widely recognized around the downtown square and elsewhere, a practice that now includes family members to carry on the Stowell legacy. Attorneys, Barry Geweke, a nephew, and granddaughter, Melani Flynn, are both important partners in the firm, in addition to Jessica Piskorski, whom Bob would “gladly adopt” if he could.
“It’s a thrill for me to be able to transition my clients,” Stowell remarked, thinking of the future, as always.
But Bob Stowell’s story isn’t over, not by a long shot. You might imagine, after all of his accomplishments, and they are many – such as serving as County Attorney, as well as on the School Board, the Rural Development Commission, the Nebraska Community Foundation Board of Directors, VCHS Board of Directors, the United Methodist Foundation Board, various Nebraska Bar Association Committees and Delegations, being named Small Business Advocate of the Year and numerous others – that a man like Stowell would be content to rest on his laurels. But you would be wrong.
He burns with a passion for community development, local improvement and the desire to help Valley County become the best that it can possibly be. It literally lights him up from the inside out when he talks about the potential for our area. You can’t help but be inspired by his drive and his vision for the future.
“My husband is the most disciplined, generous, self-sacrificing, caring, family and community oriented person I know,” states his wife, Jean. “He’s very committed to personal excellence and Christian values.”
Both Bob and Jean Stowell are currently serving on the Advisory Committee for the Valley County Community Foundation Fund, along with granddaughter Melani, as Chairman. Together with his wife and daughter, Dahn Hagge, Stowell is also President of Valley Performing Arts Theatre, Inc., also known as The Golden Husk, which serves as the area’s cultural arts center. He is also closely involved with the Kauffman Foundation, a national fund-based company in Kansas, which promotes entrepreneurial development. A Valley County Rural Entrepreneurs Academy is currently in the developmental stage where skills and confidence can be fostered. The five pillars of the community development model in Valley County are Youth Engagement, Leadership Development, Entrepreneurship, Local Philanthropy and Arts and Culture.
“These five pillars, along with creatively connecting people and resources, exemplifies my Dad’s vision for rural community development,” explained Hagge.
“We need to be aware that it takes money to do things,” Stowell added. “You have to cultivate your assets. If you use it wisely, you can really grow your community.”
When asked to describe her grandfather in one word, heir-apparent to the Stowell legal legacy Melani Flynn did not hesitate. “Dedicated,” Flynn responded. “Dedicated to family, clients, and community. You can always count on him. In everything I do, I want to honor my grandfather’s legacy.”
It just doesn’t get any better than that.