“He really embodied the history and the body of west Cobb,” state Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) said of Howren, who died Tuesday at 71. “He was there from the beginning, and he was there for the changes and he represented them well.”
Ehrhart and Howren were both Republicans elected in 1988, at a time when Democrats dominated the Gold Dome, with 144 Democrats and 36 Republicans in the House. But that year in Cobb, Republicans went from six to nine House members.
“The message was that Cobb was changing, there were a lot of people living in west Cobb and they wanted to see a different type of legislator,” said Ehrhart, who recalled days when the local GOP met around a table at a hotel.
While he only served one term before losing his bid for re-election in 1990, Howren was able to make an impression on fellow legislators. Former Republican state Sen. Chuck Clay of Marietta called him decent and fair.
“In the world of sometimes constant politics in the raw, he was a consummate gentleman, a great listener and the kind of guy who was always trying to get the deal done,” Clay said. “He was the kind of guy who made the legislative system work. In the state of Georgia, we could use a lot more Gresh Howrens right now.”
Outside of politics, Howren and his wife, Lydia, started Crowne Office Suites Inc., a “virtual” office supplier, operating the company for 32 years. It is now run by their daughter and son-in-law, Katy and Todd Brumbelow.
Running the business allowed the Howrens to travel the United States, Canada and Europe, Lydia Howren said.
“He enjoyed travelling,” she said. “We were hoping to do more of it.”
After graduating from Marietta High School, Gresh Howren attended Georgia State University, where he met Lydia and married her in 1963. He was involved in the Metro Marietta Kiwanis Club for more than 40 years.
He also enjoyed playing golf and visiting the home the couple had at Hilton Head Island, Lydia Howren said.
When he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer three-and-a-half years ago, Gresh Howren was determined not to slow down, his wife said. For his fighting the disease, the American Cancer Society honored him at its 2011 Swordsman’s Ball.
“He never ever let that slow him down,” Lydia Howren said. “He never complained. He was always fine. He never gave up, and he was not really sick for a long time.”
But his health took a turn for the worse about a week before he died, Lydia Howren said.
“He just made people want to be better,” his wife said. “He was always thinking of other people.”
Gresh Howren is also survived by son Chris and daughter-in-law Laurie. The Howrens had five grandchildren, Sara Kathryne Brumbelow, 14; Olivia Brumbelow, 11; Griffin Howren, 9; Eli Howren, 7, and Sam Howren, 5.
Gresh Howren’s funeral service will be at 2 p.m. today at McEachern United Methodist Church, 4075 Macland Road. A “celebration of life” luncheon will take place from noon until 1:45 p.m. at the church.