Tue 22 Mar 2011
Writer Jonathan Rowe working at an open-air table in the front of Toby’s Coffee Bar in January 2008. I took the photo just after The Columbia Journalism Review published an article he had written about the ongoing faux pas of Robert Plotkin as publisher of The Point Reyes Light. He was now beginning a socio-economics commentary for Harpers.
Point Reyes Station writer Jonathan Rowe, 65, died unexpectedly Sunday morning after being taken to a hospital Saturday.
His was a life of achievements: in writing and editing for major publications; in Washington, DC, politics; and in helping guide civic affairs here in West Marin.
Mr. Rowe was a new member of the board of directors of the Marin Media Institute, which owns The Point Reyes Light.
A 15-year resident of West Marin, he was also known here as the host of KWMR’s America Offline program. Mr. Rowe’s being an on-air interviewer was especially impressive because he had a severe speech impediment while growing up but overcame it as an adult.
In addition, he co-founded the Tomales Bay Institute and its successor, the West Marin Commons project in Point Reyes Station.
He had been a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly and YES! magazines and had been a staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor.
Mr. Rowe also contributed articles to Harper’s, The Atlantic Monthly, Readers Digest, The Columbia Journalism Review, The Point Reyes Light, The West Marin Citizen, and many other publications.
Last year, he contributed a thoughtful essay, Fellow Conservatives, to the Fall 2010 issue of the West Marin Review. In the article, “conservative” is used in the sense of conserving both nature and community traditions.
A 1967 graduate of Harvard University, Mr. Rowe also earned a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1971. In the early 1970s, he was one of Ralph Nader’s “Raiders.”
He served on staffs in the House of Representatives and the Senate, where he was a long-time aide to US Senator Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota). He also served on the staff of the Washington, DC, city council.
Mr. Rowe’s sudden death has shocked many of us. “I am grieving a lot myself like many of you,” wrote Elizabeth Barnet on the West Marin Soapbox website. “He was a mentor, a friend, an editor of my writing, an inspiring writer. We co-founded West Marin Commons.”
Jim Kravets, former editor of The Citizen and before that The Light, wrote that Mr. Rowe’s death is “an incalculable loss, absolutely devastating.”
Linda Petersen, advertising manager of The Citizen, wrote, “I counted Jonathan as a dear friend and mentor with a wonderful sense of humor. I would like to see his dream come true of a united community with one newspaper, which we talked about all the time. I will miss him terribly.”
Already, even before the cause of Mr. Rowe’s death has been made public, townspeople are talking of creating a memorial to him. A more civic-minded member of the community would be hard to find, and many of us are thinking of his family in this painful time.
Those interested in reading any of Mr. Rowe’s writings on a variety of topics can find them by clicking here.