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, macular.org. or may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.