In loving memory of Michael Rowan

Michael J. Rowan and his wife Marilyn

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Michael Rowan
ROWAN, Michael J., of Clifton, died at home on February 18, 2006. Beloved husband of Marilyn (nee Herdin) Rowan, Loving brother of Joseph A. Rowan, Jeffrey A. Rowan and Mary Singer, Dear cousin to Gerard Ake, Jean Ake, Edwin Ford and Marian Maniates, Dear nephew of the late Jean & H. Worth Ake. Funeral services Wednesday at 9:15 a.m. from the[JU] BIZUB-QUINLAN Funeral Home, 1313 Van Houten Avenue, Clifton and 10:00 am at Sacred Heart R.C.Church, (corner Randolph & Clifton Avenues), Clifton. Interment to take place at Calvary Cemetery, Paterson. Visiting Tuesday 2-4 & 7-9 pm. DONATIONS IN MEMORY OF MICHAEL TO: COMPASSIONATE CARE HOSPICE, 66 Mt. Prospect Avenue, Building C., Clifton, NJ 07013. For online condolences & directions please visit: www.bizub.com.
Published in The Jersey Journal on 2/21/2006.
  
SCOREBOARD
By Jim Hague
A true legendary sportswriter
Journal's Rowan, known as 'Scoop,' dies after long battle with cancer

02/26/2006
LEGENDARY SPORTSWRITER GONE Mike Rowan, who spent the last 35 years covering sports for the Jersey Journal, died last Saturday at the age of 56.

Courage: The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery. That's how Merriam-Webster describes courage in its dictionary.

But those words also ring true in describing a local legend who left us all too soon last weekend.

In my eyes, courage was personified in one special human being - Mike Rowan.

Rowan, who was a fixture in Hudson County sports for the last 35 years, as a hard-working and dedicated sportswriter for the Jersey Journal, died last Saturday afternoon after a long and grueling battle with cancer. At age 56, Mike was too young to leave us. He had columns to write and games to report on. There were track meets to cover and St. Peter's College games to enjoy. He shouldn't have had to die.



Mike Rowan wasn't an athlete. In fact, he wasn't even athletic. But he was far more courageous than any athlete he covered during his storied career.

Athletes who recover from knee surgeries and return to the field of play are considered courageous. They pale in comparison to the courage Mike Rowan showed on a daily basis in recent years.

From the minute he was given a death sentence more than five years ago, when doctors told him that he had inoperable cancer in his spine, Rowan's spirit and determination never wavered an ounce. He was always upbeat, always so sure that he was going to beat that hideous and despicable murderer named cancer, which has snuffed out so many people in my life in the past, including my own father, two beloved aunts, and too many friends to even begin to count.

Sure, the prognosis wasn't rosy and the outlook was certainly bleak, but Mike Rowan never let on. Never. He was always planning ahead, always talking about the next event, the next vacation he was going to take with his loving wife, Marilyn, about getting back to the job he most certainly adored, perhaps even more than his wonderful wife.

And as painful and as invasive as the radiation and chemotherapy was to him, Mike Rowan never once complained. I would speak to him on a fairly regular basis and ask him how he was doing and feeling. He was so remarkably upbeat, telling me he felt fine, saying how much he looked forward to the next event we would cover together.

I marveled at his courage and strength. I know that if I was faced with the same set of horrific circumstances, I could never handle it the same way. I would probably crawl up into a ball and wait for my time to come. Mike Rowan, who was affectionately called "Scoop," for his reporting prowess, never wanted that time to come.

Mike was always worried about getting the work done, making sure that the track meets were covered properly, making sure that his All-County teams were done, his end of the year stories, his in-depth columns. In fact, he started writing a weekly high school football column just last season which included some of his finest work ever.

There were two things in his life that Mike truly loved - his wife and his work.

And anyone who was a friend to Mike Rowan - present company included for the last 27 years or so - knew that meeting Marilyn was the best thing that ever happened to Mike. When they were married seven years ago, after meeting each other via AOL, they were the happiest couple I had ever witnessed. They absolutely glowed, beamed on their wedding day, as they cut a cake that was made into the shape of a computer. It was a wonderful day.

Before he met Marilyn, Mike was a consummate bachelor, going to work and then going home. He didn't pay too much attention to his wardrobe. His car was littered with empty Coke cans and Diet Snapple bottles. But Marilyn changed him to the point where he actually donned Izod sweaters and khaki slacks. In his later years, he was a thing of beauty - and I told him that every time I saw him. Marilyn Rowan deserves all the credit for the total transformation.

His lone diversion was traveling on vacation to exotic lands, vacation spots that no one ever would dream of. I waited every summer for the postcard from Mike that had him in Russia, China, Egypt, all over the globe.

He also made a habit of getting credentials to cover all the Olympic Games, with the cost of the travel coming out of his own pocket. He spanned the world to bring Hudson County the variety of Olympic spirit, covering at least seven Olympics that I can count. I would get postcards from those places as well. Mike never forgot me when it came to sending those postcards. That's just another sign of his impeccable loyalty.

We never did get a chance to work for the same newspaper and for the last 20 years, we were supposed to be rivals, with Mike at the Jersey Journal and me at first the Hudson Dispatch and now the Hudson Reporter. But we were never rivals. We were always friends.

In fact, I knew of Mike Rowan before he knew of Jim Hague. He had a job, writing sports for the local newspaper, that I craved when I was younger. I always wanted to be a sportswriter and read the sports pages of the Jersey Journal and the Hudson Dispatch like they were the Bible back then. I envied and admired Mike Rowan before I ever knew him.

Then, in 1977, when I was working for the Jersey Indians minor league baseball team, I had the fortune of meeting Mike for the first time, when he came to cover the Indians' games. We've been good friends ever since. When I first became a sportswriter for the Morristown Daily Record in 1983, Mike and I covered many events together, especially the New Jersey Nets games and Rutgers football. It was always a joy, these two guys from Jersey City, working side-by-side.

Proud as a peacock

When I later became the Sports Information Director at St. Peter's College in 1986, Mike covered every single Peacock and Peahen game possible. He would travel with the teams on the road and sometimes even traveled with us on the team buses to help defray the costs. There were many times that he ended up staying with me on the road.

Mike experienced practically every single high moment we enjoyed during my five years at SPC. I can't begin to count how many MAAC Tournaments Rowan covered in places like Albany and Buffalo. He was also there for both SPC appearances in the men's NCAA Tournament (against Texas in Dayton in 1991 and against UMass in Albany in 1995) and traveled with Mike Granelli and the Peahens to several of their NCAA appearances.

I've always said that there has never been a bigger supporter of St. Peter's College athletics than Mike Rowan. Maybe the late Jack Finn and Judge Harry Byrne come close, but Rowan was true blue to his collegiate alma mater and expressed those sentiments many times over the years in his reporting and columns.

"He had a job to do and he had to be fair," SPC athletic director Bill Stein said. "But Mike was always very good to St. Peter's."

St. Peter's showed its appreciation to Mike by inducting him into their Athletic Hall of Fame a few years ago. He was also inducted into the Dickinson High School Hall of Fame, the Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame, and the Hudson County Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Mike was also Hudson County's resident proponent of track and field. No one covered more local track and field and cross country meets. He would stand in the pouring rain, dodging the mud puddles, at cross country meets and chart everyone's times. He would endure the scorching sun at outdoor meets and made sure that every single result was recorded properly.

"His absolute dedication to the profession is what I will remember," long-time Secaucus athletic director and track coach Stan Fryczynski said. "Mike was a true friend to track and field and cross country. There was never anyone who knew the facts that he did. I was very fortunate to become friends with Mike away from track and that was icing on the cake. He was a great guy. Although this was inevitable, it's a sad, sad day."

After leaving SPC, I went on to have a host of other jobs, including bartending at the West Side Avenue establishment known as Dohoney's. Every Wednesday night, after putting the sports pages to bed, Mike would call Dohoney's first, see if it was OK for him to stop by. He would then meander in, nurse his one beer and along with fellow sportswriter (and current Ferris baseball coach) Mike Hogan - as well as some unexpected guests from time to time - we'd settle the sports world.

It was a late-night think-tank that sometimes stretched out into the wee hours of the morning. The conversations sometimes got heated and opinionated, but I now wish that someone was videotaping those days, because they were priceless.

Since I joined the Hudson Reporter in 1991 and other publications thereafter, Mike Rowan has been one of my biggest fans. He would compliment me on a job well done and criticize me when he thought I was wrong. He would point out the times that he thought I made a factual error (imagine that!), but he made sure to read every single word. Oh, we had our moments where the conversations and criticisms got intense, but he was always my friend, first and foremost.

Loyalty? No one had more loyalty, to his profession, to his newspaper (which he defended like a soldier defends his country), to his favorite sports, to his friends, to his family, to his loving wife. Mike Rowan was as loyal and as true as they come. He was a true loyal friend to me and that I will never forget.

Four years ago, on the occasion of my 40th birthday, Mike made sure he came to the party, although the agonizing process of the chemotherapy had already begun. He showed up at the party carrying a bag of assorted gifts, all pertaining to my favorite football team, the St. Louis Rams.

I received a Ram mug, pennant, beach towel, pen holder, stationery, you name it. There had to be about 25 Ram-related gifts in this huge bag. That was unbelievable thoughtful generosity, which was typical Mike.

Mike and Marilyn didn't stay long that day. He said he had another party to get to. He probably brought a boat-load of gifts to that party as well.

But the thing I will remember more about my friend Mike "Scoop" Rowan is this. No one had more courage in facing his demise. No one.

Even the last time I spoke to him, which was Super Bowl Sunday, he was talking about his plans for the summer and about getting back to work. It was amazing. He had to know the end was near, but he wasn't ever giving in. One day, during this horrific ordeal that stretched through five years - sending him to several doctors and countless amounts of treatments - Mike told me about his plan.

"I hope that the day before I die, I'm at the paper helping to put the pages out and putting it to bed," Mike said. He didn't get that chance. But he certainly fought off dying longer than anyone could have ever imagined when he was first diagnosed.

A true hero

In that respect, Mike Rowan is a hero. He's more of a hero than the athletes he covered over the last 35 years. He's stronger, he's tougher, he's braver. He may be gone now, but he's a hero to me. And he should be to others.

I don't know if I can walk into Yanitelli Center without thinking Mike is sitting there at press row. When I would see him, I'd bellow, "Scooooop-de-doooooo" at the top of my lungs. He would then roll his eyes, and eventually smile.

This is loss for all of Hudson County. No one will ever pick up the torch and carry it for the sport of track and field ever again. He was a patriot for the sport and he had no peers. To call Mike Rowan irreplaceable when it comes to the sport of track and field is a gross understatement. He was beyond one of a kind.

It's a loss for local sports reporting, because no one was more dedicated to his job. That dedication isn't found often.

And finally, it's a personal loss, because he was my friend and there wasn't a more loyal friend. God forbid anyone ever say a negative thing about me in Mike Rowan's presence, because that would be the last thing the person would say. He might stutter a bit in getting the words out, but he would have lambasted that person, because he was true and loyal to me to the very end.

That end occurred last weekend. His pain and suffering is over, thank God.

However, I found it very fitting that on the day he died, the St. Peter's College Peacocks team defeated UNC-Greensboro, while the Winter Olympics were going on in Italy. It was like the quintessential send-off.

Now, we all suffer the pain that comes when that horrendous killer known as cancer claims another victory. Only this victory didn't come as easy as expected. The courageous Mike Rowan saw to that. He didn't win, but he didn't go down without a major fight. That is what I call courage. That is what Mike Rowan was. Courageous, with no peers, to the very end.

Rest in peace, my friend. I'll try to carry the torch in your memory. It certainly won't be easy.

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