Virgil Eugene Dowell, 82, of Cedar Falls, died Sunday, May 3, 2009, at the Elizabeth E. Martin Center of Western Home Communities of a heart attack due to complications of Parkinson's disease.
He was born June 3,1926, in Melvern, Kansas, son of Clessant and Jennie Kennedy Dowell. He was preceded in death by his parents, one sister, and two brothers. He is survived by his wife, Anita, their four children, and a brother, Lloyd.
He graduated from Lebo (Kansas) High School and served in the U. S. Army Air Corps during World War II. In 1945 he had gunnery training at Douglas Field, Arizona, and served in France and in the Occupation of Germany. Using the opportunity of the G. I. Bill, he majored in biological sciences and graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1951 from Emporia State at Emporia, Kansas. He continued at Emporia State, receiving a master of science degree in 1952. Virgil was a graduate assistant at the University of Oklahoma while he completed a Ph. D. in zoology. In 1956, he began his teaching career at Iowa State Teachers College, now the University of Northern Iowa.
Virgil loved Iowa, appreciated the teaching opportunity at ISTC, and cherished the friendships of many students he taught for the next thirty-one years. One student he cherished enough to marry. Virgil married Anita L. Pearson on June 7, 1961. They were blessed with four children, Amy (Joe) Smith, Jean (Brian) Gedlinske, and Eric (Karen) Dowell, all of Cedar Falls, and Ellen (David) Wilson of New Milford, Connecticut. There are nine grandchildren, Shane, Jenna, and John Wilson; Mitchell and Kayla Dowell; Gabriel and Anya Gedlinske; and Jonathon and Ethan Smith.
In 1988, Virgil retired from UNI and became a fulltime tree farmer. An eighty acre over-grazed woodland pasture was his work in progress for thirty-nine years. A bur oak pasture was transformed into a beautiful upland woods of walnut and red and white oak trees. Virgil never looked for recognition, but his family is proud that he was recognized as an Iowa Tree Farmer of the Year for his vision, his hard work, and his desire to make one small piece of Iowa better than when he found it. Later he began a new restoration project on another piece of Iowa soil. He had a strong appreciation for all of nature and a phenomenal understanding for how the pieces fit together. We measure his success in how he shared his values and his interests with all family and friends. Those who have memories of hunting and fishing with him are blessed.
His intense love of nature was almost equaled by his love for UNI athletics. Until health issues sidelined him, he was a faithful Panther fan and to the end continued to be a supporter of the Athletic Scholarship Club. He was in a Panther T-shirt for his last breath.
Memorials maybe directed to the UNI Athletic Scholarship Club.
Virgil's family wishes to thank all the Martin Center care-givers. This is truly a labor of love. We thank you for the care you give to all residents. A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, June 16, 2009, at 11 a.m. at the Western Home Chapel, 420 E. 11th Street, Cedar Falls.
Copyright Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier, May 10, 2009, page B6.