Richard (“Dick”) Harding Cowles, son of Ellsworth C. and Charlotte Mae Harding Cowles, died July 2, 2023 after a short illness. He was known throughout his long life for his kindness, curiosity, and dedication to family. Born May 15,1924 in Elmira NY, Dick grew up in Corning and graduated from Northside High School.
Dick studied engineering at Iowa State University. He served in the US Army Air Corps during WWII, stationed in India and attaining the rank of Corporal. He met Marcia Crooker on a blind date on New Year’s Eve 1949, and they were married on November 26, 1950. They ended their wedding trip at Koinonia Farm near Americus Georgia, where they planned to make their life as part of this “demonstration plot for the Kingdom of God” on earth. Koinonia Farm continues inspiring good works around the world, including the founding of Habitat for Humanity. Their experience on this interracial religious communal farm informed their values for the rest of their lives.
They returned to Corning after their daughter Charlotte Ruth was born. Their son Curtis Richard was born during these years. Dick graduated with honors in Corning Community College’s first graduating class while working nights full time as a machine operator at Ingersoll Rand and raising his family.
After graduating with an Associate degree, Dick worked as a technician at Westinghouse in Horseheads, where his problem-solving ability quickly earned him an engineer’s rank. His career led the family to Chicago in the mid-1960s. He and Marcia moved to Connecticut for his work in 1985., but returned to the Southern Tier after his retirement in 1989, eventually building a home on land purchased from the Crooker Maple Ridge Farm.
Dick inherited an extensive collection of Native American artifacts from his father, Ellsworth. Dick believed the artifacts should be available to the public, so he helped found the Susquehanna River Archeology Center (SRAC) in Waverly. His enthusiastic presentations about local history at SRAC encouraged the children of Waverly’s interest in local history. He also made many presentations beyond the walls of SRAC around the Southern Tier sharing his knowledge whenever he was invited. He continued to participate in SRAC until a few months before he died.
He led the creation and installation of the Achsinessink Monument in Corning, commemorating a destroyed rock formation along the Chemung River near the site of Achsinessink, a Delaware tribal village at the time of the French and Indian War. Characteristic of Dick’s way, he turned the dedication ceremony into a community building activity. He included representatives from the current neighborhood, including Corning political leaders, and the Delaware people in the dedication. Consistent also with his community mindedness, he was a member of the Caton Seniors, Retired Lions, Sons of the American Revolution, and the Big Flats Unitarian Fellowship in his retirement.
Dick was pre-deceased by his parents, his brother Kenneth, and his wife of 58 years, Marcia J. Crooker Cowles. He will be missed by his daughter Charlotte (Michael Belzer); son Curtis (Barbara), sister Marilyn Overstrom (Frank); his grandchildren Erin Wilson; Neal Wilson (Lacey Wozny); and Kyle Belzer (Hsinhui [Eva] Su); and step-grandsons Robert Jackson (Kyle) and Michael Bernd (Andrea). He left two great-grand children: Caiden Bernd and Sophie Marcia Belzer. Finally, Dick will be missed by his many nephews and nieces especially Diane Furch, Rebecca Olivet and Steve Wilson.
Dick enjoyed living at Woodbrook Assisted Living in Elmira where he had the attention he asked for and made many friends with his stories. The family appreciates the support they received from the staff there. Donations may be made to Susquehanna River Archeology Center (SRAcenter.org); Big Flats Unitarian Fellowship (BigFlatsUU.org) or a charity of your choice. Everyone is invited to join the family at a celebration of Richard Cowles’ life on Friday, July 7 at 5pm in the Caton Fire Hall Community Room. A light supper will follow. A private burial ceremony will be at Elmwood Cemetery in Caton.