Albert John Rowell
Albert J. (Bert) Rowell was born in the cathedral city of Ely, a few miles from Cambridge, England on July 19th, 1929. He died at home on September 28th in Lawrence, Kansas at the age of 94.
His father was a signals engineer in the railway system. Bert’s formative years were spent in Cambridgeshire and later further north in Yorkshire where he attended the University of Leeds obtaining a B.Sc. in Mining Engineering and, after appropriate ‘retreading’ a PhD. in geology in 1953. The most significant event of his time in Leeds, however, was meeting the girl who he would eventually marry, Margery Brown, in October 1950 at a meeting of the Leeds University Climbing Club.
Subsequent to finishing doctoral studies Bert had to complete two years of National Service obligations. He was sent to the Royal Corps of Engineers and as an enlisted man he was trained in the basics of combat engineering. He was subsequently selected as an officer cadet and spent several months at the School of Military Survey before being commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. He and Margery Brown were married in 1954 and enjoyed their new status for a few weeks prior to a year of separation after Bert was posted to Kenya as a Troop Commander.
On returning to England in July 1955 he obtained a position as an assistant lecturer in Geology at the University of Nottingham and eventually was appointed to an ad hominem readership in Geology in 1963, shortly before taking a sabbatical year at the University of Kansas in 1964. By that date, the Rowells had expanded to include four children, Ian 1956, Alison 1958, Gareth 1960 and Colin 1962.
The Rowells enjoyed their year in Kansas and had a wonderful vacation camping in many of the major western National Parks before returning home by ship from Montreal. Once back in Britain they faced a difficult decision as to whether to accept a permanent position at the University of Kansas as a Professor of Geology, which to us involved a commitment to eventually take out American citizenship, or whether to settle down again in Britain. They decided on the former and two years later they were back on a ship sailing for New York with all their possessions in four large wooden crates!
To clear any obstacles, Bert had by this time resigned his commission as an Army Captain (A captain, not The Captain as his Navy friends liked to remind him) and the family settled back down to academic life in Lawrence at the University of Kansas.
Kind colleagues quickly taught him the art of writing successful grant proposals and he was able to undertake funded work on some of the small fossils that can be recovered from acid residues in rocks of Late Cambrian age (around 500 million years old) in the Great Basin of Nevada and Utah. Subsequent opportunities for similar studies were offered by New Zealand colleagues in northern Victoria Land, Antarctica. The remoteness of these mountains and lack of understanding of their geology led him to seek funding from the United States Antarctic Program to study fossils and rocks of slightly older Cambrian age in the Transantarctic Mountains from the Byrd Glacier to the termination of these mountains near the Weddell Sea. Bert’s last and eighth visit to the continent was as a paleontologist with a party from Ohio State University the semester after he had retired; he claimed it was a novel excuse to miss his own official retirement dinner and see something of the Shackleton Glacier geology-Cambrian everywhere you looked!
During the active phases of his career Bert was a member of many geological and paleontological societies but in retirement he was associated professionally with only two, he was a senior Fellow of the Geological Society of London and a Fellow of the Geological Society of America.
During retirement he served two terms as a member of the Lawrence Douglas County Health Board. Rather unusually for a scientist he was an active Catholic: when pressed he would say, “All I really know is that God is Love and that to me Jesus is the human personification of that love. Life can be desperately hard to understand; I have been blessed by relatives and very dear friends who helped me grasp these elements. I am grateful to them all.”
Bert is survived by his wife, Marge, of 69 years; his daughter, Alison Jane Nye (Jim) of Lawrence; son, Gareth Alwyn Rowell (Milissa) of Clever, Missouri; daughter in law Rhonda Rowell of Lawrence and daughter in law Marie Rowell of El Dorado, Kansas. He is also survived by his granddaughters Katie Huff (Dustin) Lawrence, Hanna Williams (Kyle) Wichita, Kansas and Shelby Rowell (Jaiden Soupene) Topeka, Kansas. Also surviving are his grandsons Derek Nye (Andie) Greenwood Village, Colorado and Andrew Rowell (Kristen) Springfield, Missouri. His great grandchildren include Charlie, Oliver, Maxwell and Hazel Huff all of Lawrence. Emerson and Crosby Nye of Greenwood Village, Colorado. Bert is also survived by his brother Jack Alan Rowell, Hallet Cove, South Australia.
Bert was preceded in death by his sons Ian James Rowell and Colin Peter Rowell and by his granddaughters Sally Rowell and Mhari Rowell.
The family would like to thank the staff of Interim Health Care for all their help.
Private graveside services will be held at a later date.
Suggested memorials: Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Clyde, Missouri in care of Warren Mc Elwain Mortuary, 120 W 13th St., Lawrence
Note for Warren McElwain:
31970 State Hwy P