Thelma Alice Van Duzee Rowe, age 93, passed away peacefully on February 5th, 2020. She was preceded in death by her parents, Merrill Sanford and Evelyn Leith Van Duzee, her brother, Ralph Millard Van Duzee and her husband, Harold Frederick Rowe. She is survived by her daughters Pamela Rowe and her husband, Gary Hickerson, of Houston, Texas and
Sharon Rowe and her husband, John Zippel, of Saint Paul, Minnesota and Belgium, Wisconsin.
Thelma was born in Buffalo, New York where she lived in her family’s home built by her grandfather. Her grandfather, an entomologist by avocation, lived with her family. As a child, she would sit on the front porch steps waiting for his return from visiting fellow scientists, and she considered it a treat when he allowed her to view insects from his collection through his microscope. She attended Milwaukee Downer Women’s College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she obtained a degree as an Occupational Therapist. In addition to her studies and clinical work, she lettered in archery and was a member of the competitive Downer rowing crew team on the Milwaukee River. After returning to Buffalo, she spotted a handsome new choir member in her home church, where she and Harold, the new choir member, were married in 1950. They lived in New York State and in Avon, Connecticut before moving to Houston in 1970.
Thelma worked as an occupational therapist for Goodwill Industries and at the Cerebral Palsy Diagnostic and Treatment Center on Long Island (the first of its kind in the U.S.) where her innovative educational techniques were publicized in syndicated newspaper articles. Later, she taught special education children in Elmira, New York and in West Hartford, Connecticut and managed the gift department of the downtown Sakowitz department store in Houston.
She had a life-long sense of adventure that led her to attend public sessions of the United Nations during its early years, send her daughters on international home-stay programs, participate with Harold in Porsche Club of America road rallies in New York and Connecticut, travel internationally and enthusiastically participate in the next adventure when it arose.
Thelma pursued many interests. At a young age, she learned dressmaking from her mother, then taught herself knitting, crocheting and crewel embroidery. As a teenager, she won honorable mention in a nationwide dressmaking competition sponsored by Singer Corporation (sewing machine manufacturer). She made her wedding dress and veil and regularly made dresses for herself and her daughters. She walked the runway showcasing one of her own creations in a dress show sponsored by Sakowitz. With each move to a new state, she created an herb garden outside the kitchen door, and shared her love of gardening and the culinary use of herbs with friends and family. For over 25 years she was a dedicated member of the Herb Society of America – South Texas Unit where she held nearly every major office. For ten years, Thelma chaired the Wedding Guild at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church for which she made a practice train for brides to use during wedding rehearsals. She was an enthusiastic appreciator of the music program at St. Paul’s, attending many evensong services and concerts, traveling with the choir for residencies in York Minster and Ely Cathedral and arranging for the Choral Scholars to sing at Brookdale West University, her independent living home where she spent her last years.
A memorial service will be held at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 5501 Main Street, Houston, TX 77004, on Saturday, February 22nd, 2020 at 4:00 p.m.
Memorials may be sent to St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 5501 Main Street, Houston, TX 77004, with a notation in the memo line to either “St. Paul’s Choir” or “Choral Scholars”.