CLOQUET — Eugene “Gene” V. Stowell, age 85, of Cloquet, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, at Essentia Health in Duluth with his family by his side. He was born Aug. 19, 1926, in Browerville to Clyde and Lila (Johnson) Stowell. He grew up on a small farm south of Brainerd and attended a one-room schoolhouse through 7th grade. Because of his achievements, he was allowed to skip 8th grade and graduated from Brainerd High School in 1943 at the age of 16. He worked for Northern Pacific Railroad before enlisting in the Merchant Marines in 1944 serving his country until the end of World War II. He rented a truck to haul cattle and worked in a sporting goods store before becoming a meat cutter for National Tea Company in 1947. Gene enjoyed a 14-year career with National Tea managing meat departments in Brainerd, Appleton, Little Falls, Ironwood, Mich., and Duluth, before moving to Minneapolis to supervise 27 supermarkets, eventually being placed in charge of produce for 143 stores.
In 1961 he purchased his first grocery store in Sparta, Wis. On Aug. 1, 1962, 50 years to the day of his passing, he purchased Disco Foods, a Super Valu store in Cloquet; and made his home in Scanlon and Cloquet for the remainder of his life. Cloquet was the family’s 17th move in 16 years of marriage. Throughout his career, he owned grocery stores in Sparta, Cloquet (three different stores), Shawano, Wis., Pine City, Hibbing, Gilbert, Hoyt Lakes and Duluth. He was a very well respected grocer and received numerous awards, including being named Grocer of the Year by a national publication in both Minnesota and Wisconsin in the same year. Though grocery stores and meat markets were his true passion, he also owned Stowell’s Furniture, The Cloquet Pine Knot, The Cloquet Billboard, Golden Token Gas Station, Floodwood Bank, The Lumberjack Mall, and The Premiere Center. A true businessman and entrepreneur, he served as a director on many boards in each town in which he had a business.
From nothing, he became something. Coming from nothing, he was a philanthropist throughout his life. Along with many other contributions, he started the Stowell Family Scholarship, given annually to the Cloquet High School Business Student of the Year. Being modest, he preferred to remain anonymous with much of his philanthropy. Being an entrepreneur, he was inspired by others seeking to get into business and he helped many new businesses in the area become realities, most with just a handshake.
His hobbies included golfing at Cloquet Country Club, hunting and fishing (his wife Shirley joked that he took 19 once-in-a-lifetime hunting and fishing trips), his 15 grandkids, the coffee group and playing cards. Gene was an avid bridge and poker player and played his last poker game the day before entering the hospital. He was very happy to have been able to celebrate his 65th wedding anniversary with his wife, Shirley, and most of his children and grandchildren two months before his passing.
Gene was preceded in death by his parents, Clyde and Lila; and his sisters, Donna and Charlotte. He is survived by his wife, Shirley (DeRosier); daughter, Linda Boyer (Frankfort, Ill.); sons, Randy, Gary (Candi), Rick (Dana), all of Cloquet, and Dan (Lynn), of Savage, Minn.; 15 grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and brothers, Eldon (Indiana), Robert (Rosemount, Minn.), and James (Cloquet).
Services will be held Monday, Aug. 6, 2012, at Queen of Peace Catholic Church with a 10 a.m. visitation followed by the 11 a.m. Mass of Christian Burial. Military honors presented by Cloquet Combined Honor Guard. A luncheon and time of fellowship will follow in the church social hall. Inurnment will be at New Calvary Cemetery. Arrangements are with Nelson Funeral Care of Cloquet.