Marianne P. Gowen

Public memorial services for Marianne P. Gowen, 88, Lawrence, are pending and will be announced by Warren-McElwain Mortuary at a later date. She passed away Friday, April 17, 2020, at Presbyterian Manor.

Marianne was a longtime counselor and therapist in Lawrence, working for 25 years at Catholic Social Services (now Catholic Charities), from 1984 to 2009, serving as director of the agency’s Lawrence office beginning in 1995. After she left that organization, she spent another decade as a counselor in private practice before retiring in June 2019.

Throughout her career, Marianne specialized in couples counseling but helped many people in the community overcome all different kinds of struggles. And she would frequently, randomly strike up conversations in grocery stores and elsewhere in town with people who just seemed to sense that, somehow, she would have some words of wisdom—which she always did.

Marianne was born December 2, 1931, in Duluth, Minn., to Mary Leahey and Leroy Porter. She and her brothers, Roy and Tom, were raised in nearby Cloquet. She graduated from Duluth’s Stanbrook Hall High School in 1949, earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn., in 1953. A Woodrow Wilson Fellowship allowed her to spend a year in England, studying at the University of Bristol, and travel extensively throughout Europe before returning to the states in 1954. From 1954-58, she taught English and art at Academy of the Holy Angels in Minneapolis. And from 1958-59, she taught English at her alma mater, College of St. Catherine. Marianne saved a letter of appreciation one of her students wrote that year, when she taught a class called Modern Novel. The student, Gretchen Schrump, wrote: “I am very young, and I may never write anything worthwhile—yet if I do, it will be because of your teaching more than any other factor.”

In 1959, Marianne was accepted into the English graduate program at Stanford University, in Palo Alto, Calif., and earned her master’s in 1966. While at Stanford, she met and married James “Tony” Gowen, and had their first son, Paul. When Tony accepted a faculty position in the University of Kansas English department in 1965, the family moved to Lawrence, where they welcomed three more children, Anne, Maureen, and Matt. Following Tony’s death in 1981, Marianne went back to school to study counseling psychology at KU, with a practicum at Topeka’s Menninger Clinic, earning a master’s degree in Special Studies (combination of counseling and religious studies) in 1984. One of her favorite subjects was Carl Jung’s theory on dream analysis and what dreams can tell people about what they’re going through, and throughout her career she would frequently tap into the Jungian approach with clients. While taking classes at KU, Marianne, a lifelong devout Catholic who attended St. John the Evangelist church, also worked for St. John Catholic School.

During a lifetime of helping people by listening to their troubles, Marianne loved to unwind by gardening, planting zinnias, marigolds, and many other kinds of flowers every spring and summer. She always had a great fondness for Italian food and made a legendary homemade spaghetti sauce. In earlier days she would hold court at the soda counter or one of the original booths in the old Raney Drugstore.

Marianne was a spiritual person who prayed regularly and enjoyed lively discussions with family and friends about religion and the nature of God. She also loved to paint; to collect stamps and Portmeirion dishes; to listen to Johnny Mathis and Linda Eder CDs; to watch her grandchildren play; to tell stories about her jokester dad; to watch James Garner act in just about anything; to sip a half-burgundy and half-grape juice cocktail while watching Hallmark Christmas movies or The Late Show with David Letterman (then Stephen Colbert); to read the columns of Gail Collins and the poetry of Mary Oliver; to write beautiful poems of her own; to never throw away expired salad dressing; and to get a strong decaf pour-over from the Dillons Starbucks every afternoon. In fact, she was never without a coffee-filled travel mug, which her children playfully referred to as her “woobie.”

A child of the Great Lakes, Marianne loved taking lake trips with her growing family, starting with a 1970 vacation to New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee with her brother Tom, her then sister-in-law Jean, and their children Tommy, Kathy, and Joey Porter. Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, Marianne and her family spent many summers staying in small cabins and big resorts at the Lake of the Ozarks. Along with her student travels in Europe, one of her favorite trips was to Bermuda. She also made frequent trips to St. Louis, Mo., to see her brother Roy, her sister-in-law Rita, and their kids Sean, Michael, Patrick, Mary Lane, and Pamela, and to see her mother, Mary Porter, who lived with Roy and Rita in her later years. Marianne also traveled frequently to Portland, Ore., to visit her son Paul and his family, and to Washington, D.C., to visit Anne, a longtime reporter for The Washington Post.

Her brother Tom moved to Lawrence in the early 1980s and married Marianne’s good friend, Marilyn Laws Porter, giving Marianne a beloved set of step nieces and nephews from Eudora — Karla Cleveland, Julie Stewart, Cord Laws, and Mark Laws. The two families shared many gatherings, holidays, and breakfasts at the Eldridge Hotel over the years.

Late in life, during her years of private practice, Marianne began to experience the effects of macular degeneration and eventually had to stop driving. The need to rely on others for transportation ended up being a blessing in disguise, though, as she spent even more time with family, reconnected with old acquaintances and made all new friendships during weekly errands, trips to prayer and poetry group meetings, and stops at Munchers Bakery, where she would chat with the other regular customers. Despite the increasing difficulty with her eyesight, she managed to live on her own until last June, when she moved to Presbyterian Manor. There, she was affectionately known as a charter member of the Dawdlers Club, for inspiring many long and interesting post-meal conversations in their dining room.

Marianne was preceded in death by her parents, husband Tony Gowen, and brother Roy Porter. She is survived by her brother Tom Porter of Eudora, Kan.; her children Paul (Diana) Gowen, Tualatin, Ore., Annie Gowen, Alexandria Va., Maureen Urness, Overland Park, Kan., and Matt (Sarah) Gowen, Prairie Village, Kan.; grandchildren Toni Gowen, Alex Gowen, Josie Gowen, and Marshall Gowen; step-grandchildren Jake and Marie Urness; and several nieces and nephews and their families.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations for the American Macular Degeneration Foundation, P.O. Box 515, Northampton, Massachusetts 01061-0515, or may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.

14 Condolences

  1. Lisa Clark on April 20, 2020 at 6:06 pm

    She will be missed by so many. I thought the world of her. Marianne was always there to listen to anyone who wanted or needed to talk. The love of her kids and grandchildren where her life. Prayers for her love ones.

  2. John Schwartz on April 23, 2020 at 10:27 am

    Marianne was such a good friend through the years to my mom, Dianne Schwartz. You’ll be missed, Marianne.

  3. Allegra Dalton on April 23, 2020 at 5:47 pm

    We will miss Marianne at our family gatherings – she was with us for so many special times, and brought her wit and intelligence to them all. I know how much she loved Paul, Maureen, Annie, and Matt, and how much you will all miss her. Much love from Allegra, James, and Sylvia

  4. Kelly Schmidt on April 24, 2020 at 2:39 pm

    I loved Marianne. She was a joy to know. She was my therapist and became a friend. Marianne inspired me in so many ways and I give thanks for her. A one of a kind woman who will be missed by many.

  5. Cord on April 24, 2020 at 4:05 pm

    To the entire Gowen gang. So sorry for your/our loss. I miss you all and the times we had together. You are all in my prayers.

  6. Mark Laws on April 24, 2020 at 4:25 pm

    God Bless Marianne and her family. She and Marilyn are probably sharing a lot of good stories.

  7. Karla on April 24, 2020 at 4:38 pm

    What a lovely tribute to a dear woman! Marianne was a kind hearted person that was there for me many times, always willing to listen and offered great advise. She will be missed by so many. God bless her family!

  8. Linda Hoopes on April 24, 2020 at 8:38 pm

    I so enjoyed knowing, spending time with and working with Marianne! I couldn’t have asked for a better person to have as a co-worker, mentor and a friend. I will miss her stories, her wisdom and her kindness.

  9. Mylee Kraft on April 27, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    Blessings to you and you’re family Maureen. Your mom was such a sweet, kind woman with a giving heart. I remember meeting with her for one of psychology courses at Benedictine. She was so welcoming and so smart. I’ll keep you all in my prayers. Much love, Mylee and Tom

  10. Dawn Trent on April 28, 2020 at 7:19 pm

    My mother and I got to know Marianne at Lawrence Presbyterian Manor. She impressed me by always appearing with a smile on her face and a calm presence.
    God bless Marianne’s family with many happy memories.

  11. John Esau on April 29, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    Marianne helped me through a particularly difficult time in my life. Her wise counsel and listening ear were exactly what I needed at that moment. Years later I saw her at a local restaurant and introduced her to a friend I was helping through a tough time as the person who save my life. I’m sure she helped many other people along the way, too. I will always remember her calm and reassuring manner. Peace and Blessings to all who knew and loved her.

  12. Curt Georgeson on May 1, 2020 at 9:07 pm

    Dear Gowen Family, Sorry to Hear for your loss of your Mom. Very fond memories of hanging out and having sleepovers at the house on Bellehaven. AppleJacks cereal in the morning and play all day. Wont forget the swimming at Helga’s Pool (i think that was her name) and having your Mom watch every dive off the diving board. I’m sure she had a superwoman cape somewhere!! I know my Mom enjoyed working with her at C.S.S. for years. God Bless your entire Family. I’m sure Tony and Marianne are having a blast. Take care!!!

  13. Bob and Joleen Bechtel on May 3, 2020 at 9:39 am

    To the Gowen Family, We express our sadness and grief that Marianne has left our world. Her family must be experiencing deep sadness, along with many memories of happiness they have during Marianne’s life.
    We came to know Marianne, her brother Tom, and wife Marilyn, all though Lois and Bob Dillon when we moved to Lawrence in 1993. The 7 of us would meet for breakfast, monthly, at the 6th Street HyVee or the Eldridge Hotel for a Sunday brunch/breakfast. Many memories of laughter and joy fill our hearts when we think of those happy days. I also worked with Marianne for several years at the Catholic Social Service office on Maine Street.
    Marianne will be sorely missed by many.

  14. millie Dosh on May 17, 2020 at 1:43 pm

    Dear Matt and family, I am one of the many students that Marianne taught at Holy Angels from 1954-1958. She was the best teacher I ever had. I had 2 English literature classes and one art history class from her. She treated us as adults and tested us in the style of a college course. She used literature to teach philosophy, ethics, social justice. She would sit at the front edge of her desk and pose questions while looking out the window, twirling a pencil and nurturing a reflective dialogue. She would sing a ballad she was teaching. She created a poetry club. She invented a course in Art Appreciation which served me for years in appreciating museums throughout the world. I am very sad to hear of her passing. She visited me twice in Minneapolis, and never wrote letters to me, but I always felt inspired and supported throughout my life because of her.
    I extend my love and sympathy and prayer to all of you who mourn her loss. it is hard to lose someone so precious, but it is very difficult at this time.

    Millie Adams Dosh, AHA class of 1957

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