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James Benjamin Rowe Jr.

February 21, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back -- through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others -- at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about James Benjamin Rowe Jr., who died Feb. 8 at the age of 66. His obituary was published in the Feb. 10 edition of The Herald-Mail.

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Shena Daniels said she was 14 years old when James Rowe first came into her mother's life. And though she liked him right away, Shena and her three sisters had a secret meeting about him.

After some discussion, they agreed he was the one for their mother.

Betty Rowe needed some more convincing.

Hesitant about embarking on another relationship, Betty said she finally weakened in the face of James' determination. She never regretted her decision.

"James will always be in my heart," Betty said from the home she shared with James in Martinsburg.

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Betty and James met in 1985 at a dinner dance she was attending with a girlfriend.

"I wasn't really into socializing, but James was persistent," she said.

The girlfriend suggested to Betty that maybe if she danced with him once, he would go away. But he didn't go away.

Toward the end of that first evening, James told Betty she was the woman he was going to marry.

"I thought he was crazy," Betty said.

James was stationed at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., with the U.S. Army at the time, and he called Betty the next day.

"It was Valentine's Day and he sent me a dozen roses," she said.

Betty was 32 years old and coming out of a bad situation. She said James took her on picnics and to dinners at nice restaurants.

"He saw a beautiful person where I only saw the bad things," Betty said. "James built up my self-esteem."

Two years after they met, James proposed to Betty at a stoplight.

James was a communications specialist, and he soon got orders to go to Georgia, so marriage plans were put on hold.

"We wrote to each other every day," Betty said. "I always made sure I had a roll of quarters so I could call him, too."

They married in 1987.

A veteran of two tours in Vietnam, James spent about 18 months at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg in the mid-1990s because of post-traumatic stress.

While a patient, he started a Bible study -- a move Betty said was therapeutic for him.

Shortly after his release from the hospital in 1997, Betty and James renewed their wedding vows and went into the ministry together.

The ministry specifically was targeted at veterans who needed help making the transition from the VA hospital back into the community, Betty said.

"James and David Ross formed Men of Valor and Vision about four years ago," Betty said. At James' funeral service, she was presented with a plaque acknowledging his contributions to veterans.

Contacted by telephone, Ross said James was an inspiration to him and to the veterans they encountered.

"He had a vision to help veterans, so we brought these men together," Ross said. "James came in even when he was sick."

The Men of Valor and Vision maintains an office at 732 W. King St. in Martinsburg.

In the early days, Shena recalled how she and her sisters would look forward to seeing James pull up to their mother's house in Frederick in his big green station wagon.

"He had this smile on his face ... he knew he'd met a happy family and a perfect woman," Shena said of those days in 1985.

After the marriage, Betty said James never used the term stepdaughters.

"They were his daughters," she said. "He had a heart that always wanted to give what they needed."

Shena said James showed them how to go out and get what they wanted, telling them life is what you make it.

James took his own advice when he left the VA hospital in 1997.

"He didn't have a program when he got out," Betty said. "For 12 years, that was his mission."

Many times, James would tell Betty and David he would go if he had to go by himself when he knew there was a veteran who needed help.

"James had two kinds of cancer, and that didn't stop him," Betty said. "He even had his laptop at the hospital so he could see what was happening at Men of Valor and Vision."

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