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by Mark Cheffey
Palmyra’s own Gary Stowe was a surprise recipient of the state’s top senior service award during a gathering at the American Legion Hall Friday.
Stowe is one of 12 individuals from across the state to receive the 2023 Lieutenant Governor’s Senior Service Award from Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe himself in front of a crowd of more than 50 of Stowe’s fellow Legion members, friends and family.
“It was a complete surprise to me. I had no clue,” said Stowe after receiving a framed certificate from Kehoe.
Stowe went on to introduce his family members present, including his wife of 32 years, Ruth, as well as some of his colleagues at American Cyanamid, now BASF, where he worked as an analytical chemist before retiring.
There were also fellow members of the Kiwanis Club and other organizations he’s been active in including First Christian Church.
Upon entering the Legion Hall with his wife, and not knowing what was going on, Stowe was greeted by Nancy Goellner, who had the honor of telling him he would be receiving the award for which she nominated him.
In presenting him the award, Kehoe noted Stowe’s volunteer involvement in numerous ways throughout the community including Honor Flight, the Legion, Kiwanis, his church, the local food pantry and Meals on Wheels.
“What you do in your community, in Palmyra and the county, is second to none, an inspiration,” Kehoe said to Stowe.
According to the Lt. Governor’s website, the award “promotes and highlights the positive accomplishments Missouri’s senior citizens provide their local communities.”
He started accepting nominations for the award in February and received a large number which had to be whittled down to 12 statewide.
Kehoe has since been criss-crossing the state “from Sikeston to Kansas City to Springfield, to Joplin, personnally honoring all of the award winners, which, he said, is one of his favorite tasks in his office.
“It’s an inspiration,” he said, noting Stowe in particular for his extensive volunteer work.
“When you read his resume, you go, ‘how can a guy do all this,’ it’s like three lifetimes of work Gary has done,” Kehoe said. “We’re grateful to people like him. They add so much back to our communities across the state.”
Kehoe noted that, besides their volunteer spirit, the award winners have common threads through their work with non-profits and service to youth, and that many of them are veterans.
It’s been a summer of honor for Stowe, who also served as the grand marshal of Palmyra’s Flag Day Parade June 10
Not only is Stowe an active member of the American Legion, having served in the United States Navy for four years, from 1962-1969, but he still continues his service as the treasurer of the USS Holland Association for crew members. He and his wife, Ruth, regularly attend the annual reunions.
As part of the Legion, he serves as first vice commander where membership and retention are the primary concern of his position.
His position includes many other duties, and he is called upon to conduct meetings at times during the year in the absence of the commander.
Stowe has volunteered to lead numerous parades with the Legion. He also has the honor of playing Taps during many military funerals.
He has been a member of Palmyra First Christian Church since 1972, where he serves as trustee, elder and chairman of the church board.
He has given many hours to serve his church through fundraising, cooking, home visits, overseeing the property, being a member of the Pastoral Committee, making sure the 100 plus year-old organ is maintained properly, and making sure the elevator follows state regulations (which lately has not been an easy task due to new rules).
Stowe’s mission in life seems to be his dedication to the Palmyra Kiwanis and Key Club. He joined the club in 1999 and served as secretary for many years.
For more years than anyone can count, Stowe has served up food at the Kiwanis food stand during the Marion County Fair. He loves helping prepare pancakes at the Kiwanis Daddy/Daughter Dance.
He serves on the scholarship committee for Kiwanis, as well as makes numerous trips to the Key Club National Convention as chaperone for high school students from Palmyra, and could tell entertaining stories about those adventures.
Another highlight is that he gets to take part in delivering dictionaries to local grade school students.
The Palmyra Area Food Pantry has Stowe as a volunteer. He makes copies and organizes the necessary forms to make the sign-in process go smoothly. He is the friendly face that greets people when they come in the door.
For many years Stowe has volunteered for Meals on Wheels in Palmyra, driving to Monroe City to pick up meals and get them back to Palmyra so that residents can get their lunch in a timely manner.
He is an active member of the Jackson Park Golf Course, and facilitates the Senior Golf League. He also serves on the scholarship committee.
Stowe serves on the scholarship committee for the North River Old Iron Club. He has participated in many Honor Flight fundraisers through the club.
Much fun is had at the Marion County Fair where Stowe is a regular announcer for the club’s antique tractor pull.