Reverend E. Floyd McDowell left us in body peacefully on July 9th 2019 at the wonderful age of 91 while at the Olney Memory Care Home in Maryland. He was known as dad, granddaddy or “dodaddy”, Uncle Floyd, Pastor McDowell and to many as Pilot McDowell. Floyd embraced the joys of the 5 F’s. Faith, Family, Friends, Flying and Financial Planning. He did all these with a passion. He loved the outdoors, the beautiful world around us and the country’s national parks. He was an avid photographer and had his own darkroom.
As many know, he had suffered from severe memory loss for several years and to his immense credit he designed manners of adaptation to that loss that allowed him to live independently in his own home that he shared with his beloved wife Lois Elaine (Miller) McDowell for many years before her passing, and for years thereafter. He managed with perseverance, a regular routine, frequent written reminders to himself and with the extraordinary assistance of his friends, church and neighbors as well as his immediate and extended family. His family will be forever grateful for that help.
Floyd was a man who was a community, ecumenical and neighborhood leader, well organized, articulate, compulsive and detail oriented. He was thrifty, having grown up in the depression. His family had to move out of their home in Johnstown due to foreclosure by Bethlehem Steel where his dad was an overhead crane worker in tough times. He lived on a shoestring, but he worked hard and also saved and invested as an adult. He budgeted his expenses in advance monthly and stuck to his budgeter. He kept impeccable records, the detail of which would astound most.
As the youngest he loved his brothers and sister, studied drafting in Johnstown and almost didn’t go to college. He found a passion for air flight, shared by his brothers, one of whom went on to be a cockpit engineer with Boeing. The boys recovered airplane parts from the mountains around Johnstown as a child and assembled a homebuilt craft that crashed with Uncle Wendell aboard who went to the hospital by virtue of a broken leg. He really learned to fly in earnest in college, having once landed in inclement weather safely on Route 22 near Cresson, taking off the next morning with stopped traffic. He became very focused on perfecting and pursuing his passion for flight, using his skills thereafter for both business and pleasure. This passion served to inspire and sustain him through his life. He owned 3 Beechcraft V-Tail Bonanzas, and flew into his late 80’s.
He married the love of his life Lois, on June 29th 1952. Lois attended Juniata with him. She came from a family with deep commitments to the ministry and open acceptance of and respect for all denominations. Mom was always upbeat and positive, singing and whistling while she worked, instrumental in dad’s health and happiness and finding balance in his life. He began his adult life in the ministry at the Palmyra Church of the Brethren where he was the director of Christian Education from 1953-1955. He continued his ministry with the Lititz Church of the Brethren where he was pastor from 1955-1959. He very much enjoyed working with both the adults and youth at these congregations but was called to Bethany Theological Seminary in Chicago as their Director of Development in 1959 while the denomination built a beautiful new campus in Oakbrook IL, collaborating with The Northern Baptist Theological Seminary on portions of their campus and program development that were shared. His retirement was to Pennsylvania, his home and alma mater, to the mountain house at Bunn’s Mountain above the Raystown Reservoir and to Clair Drive in Huntingdon, surrounded by friends and family.
Floyd was born Sept 5th, 1927 in Johnstown PA to parents Campbell Sheridan McDowell and Jessie Phyllis Boyer. He attended Beahm and Oakhurst Elementary and Garfield Jr High in Johnstown and graduated from Central High School there in 1945. He received a BS in Sociology from Juniata College in 1949. He graduated from Bethany Theological Seminary in 1953 with a Bachelor of Divinity. He was ordained in 1952. He is preceded in death by Lois Elaine McDowell (wife), Lester Paul McDowell, Wendell Verdi and Mary McDowell, Frances and Glen Campbell McDowell, Robert James McDowell and Marion Ruth and Harold Baer. His children Kimberly Anne McDowell, Hooker Monroe, Gregory Scott and Martha Terraciano McDowell, and David Alan and Piyuthai McDowell survive him and loved him. He will also be greatly missed by Panalee, Veejida and Kaneera McDowell, Hannah and Katie Monroe as well as Nicholas, Jessie, Kelsie and Terra McDowell. In addition, many nieces and nephews, first and second generation, will dearly miss Uncle Floyd.
The members of the Churches he served in Palmyra and Lititz PA and the connections he made as a member at the York Center Church of the Brethren, and at the Stone Church of the Brethren were very important to him and mom. He was a man of faith but he was not afraid to question his own assumptions and worldviews. He tremendously enjoyed his ongoing connection and commitment to both Juniata and to Bethany Theological Seminary. He served on boards for the Morrison’s Cove Home and also for Conference Point Camp in Wisconsin where his family held a wonderful family reunion every 3 years beginning in 1959.
Dad inspired us all by overcoming and adapting to his growing memory problem. He remained positive and cheerful in the face of this adversity that might otherwise frustrate and anger many. He cheerfully would state “the only thing that’s wrong with me is what’s between my ears”. He enjoyed living in the moment, could smile and wonder. He was able to forget the past, realize that the future is a mystery and that today is a gift.
Please consider a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association, Bethany Theological Seminary, and Stone Church of the Brethren or Juniata College in lieu of other remembrances.
A memorial service celebrating Floyd's life will be held on Saturday, September 14 at 1:30 pm at the Stone Church of the Brethren, Huntingdon, PA.