Kelli M. Rowe

August 27, 2011|By JANET HEIM |
  • Tim, Ben and Kelli Rowe pose for this picture taken in July 2008 near Estes Park, Colo.
Submitted photo

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs "A Life Remembered." Each story in 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 Kelli M. Rowe, who died Aug. 12 at the age of 44. Her obituary was published in the Aug. 14 edition of The Herald-Mail.

As a teenager in search of a summer job, Kelli Deal applied to be a camp counselor at Camp Greentop in Thurmont, Md. She was hired, even though she had no previous experience and had to miss training.

After a week at the sleep-away summer camp for youths and adults with disabilities, Kelli called home in tears and told her parents she couldn't do the job anymore. She feared she wasn't meeting the needs of the campers.

Her mother, Mary Deal, a nurse, encouraged her to stick with it, and by the third week, Kelli was hooked.

"She was attached. We couldn't have budged her then," Mary said. "That became her career path. She really grew that year."

Kelli graduated from Smithsburg High School in 1984, and then-Hagerstown Junior College, now Hagerstown Community College, two years later with an associate degree in early childhood education.

Two weeks after her college graduation, she married Tim Rowe, whom she had met when both were students in the Smithsburg High School band. He was three years older than Kelli and played trombone, while Kelli was a flute and piccolo player.

Their son, Ben, was born in November 1994.

Tim and Kelli had been looking for months for property on which to build a home, without success.

A chance conversation, meant more in jest, at a family Thanksgiving gathering changed their luck, enabling them in 1997 to build on Edgemont Road in Smithsburg on the property of Kelli's grandmother.

"Kelli and I designed this log home," Tim said.

Kelli is remembered for her creativity and love of Longaberger baskets and antiques. She also was a Green Bay Packers fan, but her favorite sport was whatever Ben was playing.

"She was very creative," Mary said. "I don't know where got that from. Must be from her father."

Kelli grew up in the Smithsburg area, living 100 yards down the hill from the log home in the original homestead for most of her childhood.  

"Ben's the fourth generation to grow up on this property," Tim said. "That's how rooted the family is here."

He added that Kelli's grandfather had owned the Blue Mountain Grocery and Filling Station in the area.

Kelli was the oldest child in her family, followed by siblings Karen and Kris. With two younger cousins living nearby, Kelli was considered the "matriarch" of the bunch.

"She was grown up from the time she was born," Mary said.

"We've always been a close family," said Kris Deal, Kelli's brother. "We took vacations together, had Sunday dinners and holidays together."  

Kelli's career focused on working with people with disabilities. She worked at Potomac Center, Arc of Washington County and United Cerebral Palsy in Frederick, Md., before her most recent job at Star Community, where she was director of the Ventures Day Program.

Kelli worked at Star Community for more than 10 years. During that time, one of her many accomplishments was securing grants to get a greenhouse built on the property.

"She was an advocate," Mary said. "She could advocate for these folks and enrich their lives so they could be prosperous in the community."

The Rowes enjoyed camping at Deep Creek Lake and Rocky Gap. They always had dreamed of owning property at Deep Creek Lake, and that dream came true in April 2010.

Kelli finished decorating the house and enjoyed supervising Tim and Ben from the swing on the deck. She also was fond of the motorboat that she and Tim had purchased used and refurbished, named the Kelli Marie.

"She loved her boat," Ben said.

Ben has a smaller boat and Tim has a canoe.

"That shows the rank in the family," Tim said with a laugh.

Tim and Kelli celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary May 31 at their Deep Creek Lake house with Ben. Instead of a formal celebration, they went to the Motor Vehicle Administration in Cumberland, Md., so Ben could take his driving test on the first day he could get his license, just as Kelli wanted.

The family had owned the lake house for only a short time when Kelli felt a lump in her stomach in May 2010. In early June 2010, she was diagnosed with Stage 1 ovarian cancer.

Despite two surgeries and more than two rounds of chemotherapy, the cancer quickly advanced to Stage 4.

"It was very aggressive," Mary said.

Kelli felt well enough for a family vacation during the first round of chemotherapy. At first, she was upset about losing her hair, but then was proud of her bald head, Kris said.

"She looked good," Mary said.

"She and I had the same hairstyle," said Tim, as he brushed his hand over his closely cropped head.

Kelli continued to work until February. Her co-workers put together a Relay for Life team, named Team Kelli, with her as team captain, and raised $7,000. Kelli was able to go for several hours to the June event before she got too tired, Tim said.

Team Kelli will continue in her memory, and Ben has started his own Team Kelli on Facebook and already has more than 200 people on his team.

Ben, 16, just started his senior year at Smithsburg High School and plays trombone in the school's jazz band. He plans to go to Garrett Community College after graduation, with the goal of working for the Department of Natural Resources.

For senior pictures, Ben chose his favorite things — hunting, lacrosse, band and a pose of him sitting with his Mom's photograph, urn and one of many angels from her collection, the one from her desk at Star Community.

Ben put together two videos set to music for his mother's memorial service — one of Kelli's life and one with pictures of her working at Star Community.

"He worked night and day on that last week," Kris said.

Kelli died days before her 45th birthday.

"Tim promised her we would count all 45 years of her life," Kris said.

Tim said he and Kelli worked together to plan her memorial service, write the obituary and pick out the urn.

"She was a very strong woman," Kris said. "She didn't want us to cry. She wanted us to be happy."

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