Richard Sowell

Obituary of Richard Henry Sowell

We lost a kind hearted man Richard (Dick) Henry Sowell, 99, on February 11, 2022. Richard was born March 23, 1922 to Richard and Eugenia Mabel Sowell in Birmingham, Alabama. At the age of 18 he served in WWII army 389 AAA Battalion, on Morotai Island in Indonesia. He was the scout photographer that would search the area for possible areas where the enemy could enter. He served his country proud for 5 years.

He continued his love of photography and later took classes from Ansel Adams. In 1951 he married Leona (Sherry) Nelson and from that union came first born Charlene. In 1962 he met and married Ethel Branaugh. He became a dad to two boys, Bill and Paul and in 1963 a daughter Jane was born.

Dick was the head photographer at South Dakota State University and with a colleague retraced General Cluster’s Expedition in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The book titled Yellow Ore, Yellow Hair and Yellow Pine. The book took three summers in the hills to locate the exact photo spots from Custer’s writings. It was published in July 1974, 100 years after Custer’s expedition. He took many beautiful nature photos and received blue ribbons. He had a hard work ethic up to his retiring and beyond. Always energetic with a smile on his face. He always had a “to go” duffle bag and jumper cables ready.

After his loving wife Ethel passed in 2009, Dick decided to pack up his van and move to Portland, Oregon to explore the Pacific Northwest. He moved into an independent living community and they became a part of his family over the years. He’d go on weekly outings, taking pictures everywhere they went. He had scoped out the nature and bird sanctuaries in both Oregon and Washington and visited them often. The Oregon Coast and the surroundings became his back yard. He embraced the outdoors. Dick continued his wood carving/burning, star gazing with his huge telescopes and of course fishing. When it came to anything on the computer, he was a wizard and an electronic genius. At 99 he knew photoshop and enjoyed his iPhone.

Dick became a world traveler. He obtained his first passport in 2015 and headed off to Baja, Mexico for a visit. He traveled to Hawaii to see the Arizona at Pearl Harbor and shared his story with WWII veterans at the facility. He visited the Grand Canyon, Redwoods, Tetons, Yosemite and always with a camera in his hands. He took many driving trips back to South Dakota to visit with family and old friends. There were many stops along the way for pictures to capture. In 2016 he was part of the WWII Veterans Honor Flight of Oregon that was honored in Washington, D.C. for their exemplary dedication and service for this country. He received a flag that had flown over the US Capital and a handmade “quilt of valor” as an expression of gratitude. He was voted by the group as lead photographer. Dick always had a smile and was very humble about his service to his country and about his livelihood accomplishments.

Dad had grace and direction in his days, a sense of humor always, and such a peaceful rhythm to his life. He maintained all his medical care. Dick left an impression on everyone’s heart he touched. He would keep $100.00 bills in his wallet handy to give someone he came upon he thought needed a little help. His loving moto was “Live Life to the Max” and he did until the very end.

Richard is survived by his daughter Charlene (Wayde) Yates of Oregon, son William (Laura) Sowell of Washington, son Paul (Pam) Sowell and daughter Jane (the late Gerald) Asmus of South Dakota. He so enjoyed sharing and always much laughter with his seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

He shared the strength of his spirit, kindness in his smile, wisdom in his words and always would sit and listen without judgement or criticism. He will truly be missed.

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