Col. Al Rowe, 80, died Tuesday after a long struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, a neurodegenerative condition that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
Cobb GOP Chairman Joe Dendy sent out an announcement about Al Rowe’s death Tuesday.
“The Cobb GOP has just lost a great friend, and America has just lost a true patriot,” Dendy said.
When Al Rowe settled in Cobb in 1983 with his wife Donna, they quickly began campaigning for such leaders as U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, former Congressman Bob Barr and former Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Isakson said he called Donna Rowe to express his condolences.
“Al was a great veteran of the Armed Services, a great patriot for the country, a great Republican. He and Donna are just two of my dearest friends, and he’ll be missed greatly,” Isakson said, noting Rowe had campaigned for him for more than 25 years.
“The whole county will miss him. He’s a great patriot, a great veteran and a great example of someone who has served our country.”
Rose Wing, first vice-chair of the Cobb GOP and past president of the Georgia Federation of Republican Women, said she first met Al and Donna Rowe in the mid-1980s.
From that time through the 1990s, Al Rowe ran many campaigns in Georgia, “which is why those men are where they are today,” Wing said.
Al Rowe was like a “father figure” who was behind the scenes, said Wing, a retired Cobb County assistant district attorney.
“He was a great community leader and an excellent political adviser,” Wing said. “Al was the kind of man you could turn to for calm and rational political guidance.”
A loving, family man
Born in 1933, Al Rowe grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, and earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Iowa and a master’s degree from Iowa State University in structural engineering.
He taught professional engineering and mathematics at the University of Alaska for four years. He served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for more than 29 years.
Al Rowe married Donna in 1967. He has one son from a previous marriage, John. Al and Donna’s son, Richard, attended Wheeler High School.
“He was a man that loved and protected his family,” Wing said.
In his last days, Wing said Al Rowe spent his final conversations with his wife expressing his concern about her wellbeing, even as they planned his funeral.
Rowe was hired by Lockheed as a research engineer, leaving in 1988 to work for Surety and Construction Consultants.
Donna Rowe has had a successful career in real estate, working as an associate broker for Coldwell Banker in east Cobb. She was named Realtor of the Year in 1988, 1992 and 1997 by the Cobb Association of Realtors.
“He was the calming force behind Donna too,” Wing said. “The two of them together were a team that would be hard to beat.”
The veteran, GOP man
Explaining why Al Rowe dedicated so much time to the Cobb Republican Party, Wing said, “This is a man who loved his country.”
As a war hero, Wing said, “He truly felt that the Republican principles were the principles he had fought to protect … the principles that protect our freedom.”
Al Rowe joined the Army in 1956 through Iowa State University’s ROTC program. He was a master parachutist.
In 1965, Rowe was sent with the 82nd Airborne to quell a Communist uprising in the Dominican Republic and he received a Purple Heart after being shot in the head.
His other military medals and decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry and the National Defense Service Medal.
Both Al Rowe and his wife were sent to Vietnam in 1968 and 1969 during the peak of the war. Donna Rowe served as a head nurse of the Third Field Hospital in Saigon, one of the largest shock-trauma-triage emergency rooms in Vietnam.
Al Rowe served as an adviser and equipment supplier to soldiers in the field.
After Vietnam, he went on to serve in the Pentagon, followed by the Army War College in Pennsylvania, before setting up forces command at Fort McPherson.
Al Rowe retired from the Army in 1983 as a colonel and was president of the Georgia Vietnam Veterans Alliance.
Visitation Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m. at H.M. Patterson and Son Canton Hill Chapel, Marietta
Church services Monday at 2 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, Whitlock Avenue
Full military honors burial at Mt. View Park Cemetery, Whitlock Avenue