1930 – 2020
John Lee Sowell passed away on June 15, 2020 and went to be with his Lord. I was asked to speak for the family as we prepare to have Dad’s services and wish to thank everyone for all of the kind expressions, thoughts and prayers of support during this time. Due to the circumstances of the COVID-19 Virus that has affected all of us, we have had to make some very tough and sad decisions for the concerns, safety and health of others, especially respecting the concerns of some family members that are in their 80’s and 90’s that are in the at risk category. We take the C-Virus threats very serious and after consulting with our medical and healthcare advisors, and of course, our family, we ask that social distancing be practiced by all in attendance to ensure that everyone will be comfortable about their health.
Services will be under the direction of Nobles Funeral Chapel with burial at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Carlos. The services will be officiated by the Chaplain of the Grimes County Sheriff’s Office, Reverend Mac Vaughn. An open viewing was held Thursday, June 18, 2020 at Nobles Funeral Chapel from 1 to 5 p.m. Services were held 10:30 a.m. Friday, June 19, 2020, at Nobles Funeral Chapel. These times are very un precedented and not the norm that we are all used to. To make all of this sadder and heartbreaking for us, due to the C-Virus quarantine, we haven’t been able to see our Dad since March and were unable to be with him in his final moments. As Mom and Dana are both in quarantine due to their high risk of C-Virus exposure, they will not be able to attend Dad’s funeral. We have made alternative arrangements for their safe viewing of the services. Our family would like to thank and acknowledge the support and excellent care he received from the staff members at the Navasota Nursing and Rehab, Traditions Hospice and his long-time physician Dr. Luke Scamardo.
Dad was born on January 21, 1930 in Houston, Texas to Sam Orland and Alvah Dickey Sowell. Raised on a farm in Phelps, Texas, he was the youngest of five children, and proud to be a Huntsville Hornet, Class of 1947. Dad joined the United States Air Force in 1950 serving until 1953 as an Air Policeman and K-9 Handler during the Korean War while stationed at Naha Air Base, Okinawa. He was a faithful member of the American Legion, McClusky Post 640 in Anderson, Texas, always remaining a proud Veteran of the U.S. Air Force. After his Honorable Discharge, he began working for Mrs. Baird’s Bakery as a route salesman for the next 45 years; the majority of those years serving customers throughout mostly Grimes, Leon and Montgomery Counties. One of the stores on his route was Hoffart’s Grocery in Dobbin. That is where I first met Gail as every Saturday I rode the route with my dad from the age of 5 until the age of 18 when I joined the U.S.A.F. following in his footsteps.
Upon his retirement, he spent the remainder of his years at his home in Anderson tending to his garden and working the ranch with his old 8-N Ford tractor my Grandfather gave him. He later upgraded to a used Ford diesel tractor he bought from Thomas Finke that still had the Mallard Tractor Company decal on it. His passion was taking care of his beloved Texas Longhorns as well as visiting with the many lifelong friends and customers from his long tenure with Mrs. Baird’s. He and Mom always looked forward to their trips to Branson, Missouri enjoying the country music shows. Dad married JoAnn Brennen on June 17, 1950 and together raised three children: Donnie, Denise and Dana. Mom, known to so many as Aunt Jo, Granny Jo and Nana, took in ironing and operated a day care in their home in Navasota to bring in extra income.
For over 30 years she “raised” scores of local kids and then their kids as time went on. Throughout the years the kids always looked forward to Dad coming home in the afternoon in the Mrs. Baird’s bread truck because he always opened it up and passed out honey buns, powdered donuts and cinnamon rolls as their treats. It is always humorous, even today, to hear grownups reflect to me about being “raised” at Mrs. Sowell’s Day Care and looking forward to going out to Mr. Sowell’s bread truck for some Mrs. Baird’s treats. Heaven only knows how many treats he gave away to so many, all out of his own pocket!!
During my tenure as Sheriff of Grimes County, Dad served as a volunteer at the Sheriff’s Office in a variety of ways. For several years, until his health began to fail, he tended to an acre garden that he built next to the Sheriff’s Office. With inmate labor to help, all of the produce went into the jail kitchen for use. He also served as my “unofficial” Campaign Manager putting out election signs with Thomas Finke and the late Glenn Curtiss and Clyde Schaffer. For the life of me I could never figure out how that group could only manage to put out 10 or 12 signs in a day when I could, by myself, put out 25 or more. I guess the frequent stops of visiting and gossiping with people, coffee shop and lunch breaks was the reason for their low productivity, but they always had a grand time.
Dad is preceded in death by his parents; his brother Donald Sowell; brother and sister-in-law Morris and Lou Nell Sowell; his sister and brother-in-law Sammie and Mabry Hall; and several nieces and nephews.
He is survived by his wife JoAnn; son Don and daughter-in-law Gail; daughter Denise and son-in-law Joe Shead and son Dana. Grandchildren Holly Bankston and husband Robert, Clint Branch and wife Diana, Brandi Waitz and husband Dave, Ashleigh Krause and husband Tanner, Jason Sowell, Krysten Sowell, and Justin Sowell and wife Tiffany. Great-grandchildren Kaytryn and Audrey Bankston, Abbygail and Brooklyn Branch, Luke and Colton Waitz, Payton, Garett, Hudson and Everleigh Sowell, and Parker and Tucker Sowell. He is also survived by his brother, Lon Ed Sowell and wife Bobbie, brother-in-law and sister-in-law Harry and Flo Brennen and a host of nieces and nephews.
Grandchildren, Jason, Justin, Holly, Clint, Brandi and Ashleigh will serve as pallbearers. The flag folding ceremony will be conducted by the Grimes County Sheriff’s Office. Military honors and presentation of the U.S. flag to the family and playing of taps will be conducted by the members of the American Legion McClusky Post 640, Anderson, Texas.
In earlier discussions I had with Dad as he began to plan for his affairs, he had requested in lieu of flowers, that if anyone chose to, donations could be made to the Grimes County Senior Center, P.O. Box 591, Anderson, TX 77830.
Photos can be viewed and kind words and fond memories may be expressed at www.noblesfuneral.com.
Obituary written by Donald G. Sowell