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Descendants of Cecil Clyde Cowder
Generation No. 1
1. Cecil Clyde2 Cowder (Grant Edward1) was born March 08, 1914. He married (1) Margaretta Houser 1936, daughter of Lucian Houser and Lena Williams. She was born June 29, 1916 in Bigler Cemetery, Bigler, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, and died May 14, 1974 in Conemaugh Hospital, Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He married (2) Josephine Houser April 24, 1976 in Homestead Ave. United Methodist Church, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, daughter of Lucian Houser and Lena Williams. She was born Abt. 1906.
Notes for Cecil Clyde Cowder:
Margaretta Houser and Josephine Houser Owens was sisters. His brother-in law is Jerry Wychulis.
Clyde and Josephine Cowder (Bigler Newsletter July 1997) spent June 29th and 30th in Seneca, Pennsylvania. Clyde was invited by the congregation of the Heckathorn United Methodist Church in Seneca to be the quest speaker at the Sunday worship service in the absence of their pastor. This church was Clyde's first assignment after his long military career. Many of his former parishioners are still there and the children of course are now grown with children of their own. They stayed with parishioners Norman and Grace Stover on Saturday night. Clyde served this church from 1963 to 1968. After the worship service on Sunday a covered dish dinner was hosted by the parishioners Ron and Barbara Shilk at their lovely new country home with 18 guests attending. I'm sure there was a lot of reminiscing that afternoon.
According to Bigler United Methodist Church Newsletter; "May 7 to 10, finds Clyde and Josephine Cowder traveling to Ashville, North Carolina, to attend the annual reunion of the 73rd Bomb Wing that served in Siapan during Worl War II. Clyde says the W.W. II reunions will soon be a thing of the past. The number of veterans is decreasing and many have infirmities that keep them from traveling."
The Bigler Newsletter October 1998, "On September 13, Clyde and Jo Cowder traveled to Seneca, Pennsylvania, for the 150th anniversary of the Heckathorn Church. Clyde served this church for five years as its first full time pastor. On September 26th, a group from the Bigler church travelled by bus to New Cumberland, Maryland, then to Frostburg, Maryland to see the ark that is being built to biblical specifications. It has been 24 years in the making so far. Those making the trip were Don and Irene Wilkinson, Clyde and Jo Cowder, Maxine Stevens, Eva Sayers, Wanda Rothrock, Shelia Wisor, Bud Mather, Alice McGraw, Dorothy Peters and Frances Kyler."
The Progress Clearfield Newspaper Article July 19th 2003. Bigler man has wealth of memories from military career. Military Chaplains serve many roles, but Rev. Cecil Cowder of Bigler probably served more roles than most. During his 23 year career in the military, Rev Cowder, 89, played the combined roles of parent, brother, friend, and counselor to thousands of soldiers and airmen, and even landed a role in a Ronal Reagon movie. Rev. Cowder first joined the military soon after graduation from Morris township High School in 1932 because the country was in the midst of the Great Depression and jobs were hard to come by. But he would eventually end up loving the military and serving his country form more than 20 years as an Air Force Chaplain. "It is the most rewarding job anybody could ever have, " said Cowder on military life as a chaplain. After serving a two year stint in Hawaii with the 21st Army Infantry, he returned to Pennsylvania to enter Seminary school, and married his wife Margaret in 1936, and was ordained in 1939 at First Methodist Church Altoona. He was assigned to a church in Coalport but re-entered the military in 1943 as a first lieutenant and was sent to Harvard University for eight weeks of chaplain's training "Now I can brag about how I graduated from Harvard,"joked Rev Cowder. While he was at Harvard, the then-Hollywood movie star Ronald Reagan was filming recruitment movies in Cambridge for the military, and Rev. Cowder happened to land a role in one. The movie was shown before regular movies features in theaters across the nation, and Rev. Cowder said his friends back home got quite a kick out of seeing him on the big screen. After he completed his training, Rev. Cowder served at several Air Force bases in the country before he was deployed with the 498 Bomb Group of the 73rd Bomb Wing in the South Pacific to serve in the war effort against Japan. He was first sent to Camp Anza near San Francisco where he and 500 other men boarded the USS Ajoz. The ship was a small, 500 foot long converted cattle ship with few amenities, and Rev Cowder said men were crammed aboard the ship like sardines. After a brief stay in Hawaii, they joined the ship convoy that zigzagged its way across the Pacific to the Japanese Island of Saipan. It took them 23 days to get to Saipan because they had to moor off a small atoll for a week as the battle for the island was still raging. Once the island was deemed secure, the ships were allowed to proceed to the island. According to Rev. Cowder Saipan is only about five miles wide and about 15 miles long, and he said its sub-tropical climate was near perfect. However, when they arrived, Rev. Cowder said, the island was completely devastated by the fighting. Although the major fighting was over, an estimated 10,000 Japanese soldiers wee hiding in caves on the island. Japanese bombers wand fighter planes from island of Iwo Jima also continued to attack until the United States took the island in 1945. Rev. Cowder said as a chaplain he usually wasn't in any danger, but he did have a couple of close calls when bomb fragments landed near him as he lay in his tent and when a Japanese fighter strafed where he was standing. Rev. Cowder and his unit bivouacked with 12,000 other troops on a muddy section of the island near the shore. Rev Cowder said there were absolutely no amenities on the island, and the troops slept in pup tents and bathed out of their helmets and water had to be trucked in. Eventually a crude shower was installed that consisted of a canvas tarp wrapped around a small frame. Soldiers would pour waster into a basin perched on top of the shower and pull a chain to get the water to come out, but they never has hot water the entire time on the island. He would hold church services wherever he could, often In a squash patch near their encampment. His unit was a B-29 bomber group that made bombing runs over Tokyo. Each plane carried 10 remembers, and typically about 50 planes went out on each run. His commanding officer refused to let the chaplains accompany the men on bombing runs, so he and the Catholic Chaplain would see the me off, pray for them and greet them when they returned. At first, his group only made high altitude runs over Tokyo to keep the planes out of the range of Japanese anti-air-craft fire. However, at such altitudes their bombs proved to be largely inaccurate and ineffective, so the commanding officer switched to low altitude bombing. The switch increased the effectiveness of their bombs but it also made the runs much more dangerous. Causalities increased dramatically. It was not unusual for four or five planes to be lost during a mission. The missions were also grueling. It was 3,000-mile round trip to Tokyo with 12-15 hours of flight time, and the men came back mentally and physically exhausted. During his one year stay on Saipan, Rev Cowder estimates that his 500 man unit had 350 men killed. Rev Cowder said the missions became so dangerous that the men began counting the days until their next mission thinking they would never return. "It was heartbreaking times," said Rev. Cowder. Even if they survived the bombing run, the fight crews were not all out of danger. The planes barely had enough fuel to make the trip, and when they returned they were often damaged and had causalities on board. Crashes were not unusual. "it was usually pretty touch and go when they came back," he said. Rev. Cowder still gets choked up when he talks about picking up the broken bodies of his friends and comrades out of the plane wrecks. "Memories can be hard sometimes', he says. But not all his memories on Saipan are sad. He recounted how once one of his soldiers fell in love with one of the nurses who sang in the choir and wanted to get married. Rev. Cowder wrote his commanding officer for permission to marry them and after he received it, he married the couple in the hospital. For the wedding they decorated the hospitals best they could with what ever they could scrounge up. They used a round Plexiglas windshield for B-29 as a punch bowl. After the wedding, their friends decorated and Army jeep and the couple's honeymoon trip was a drive around the island. Because the military had no place in the quarters for the newlyweds to stay in their friends found an old concrete Japanese fortification called a pill box, cleaned it up as best they could and furnished it with whatever furnitures they could find. Several years ago, Rev. Cowder said he received an invitation from the couple to attend their 50th wedding anniversary in Virginia. They were to recreate their wedding ceremony and asked him if they could attend. Not only did he perform the ceremony again, but he also surprised them by reading the orginal letter his commanding officer sent him giving him permission to marry them, to the delight of their family and friends. He said one of his most important duties as chaplain was to keep up the morale of the troops. At Christmastime he staged a program at an outdoor theater for the troops. One day when he was a lone on the stage, he was up on a ladder decorating the Christmas tree when he saw a Japanese soldier sitting behind him on a hill with his rifle lying on his lap less than 100 yards away. Although he could have easily killed him, the soldier made no move against him. "I kind of felt he must have been a Christian. He just sat there, watching me put up all the decorations. He must have been thinking how much he wished he was back home." He continued with his decorating and the soldier eventually disappeared. Another one of his pet projects was the construction of an interdenominational chapel for the troops. The military wouldn't officially give supplies for the construction of the chapel so he scrounged up the materials whenever he could. Scrounging was a bit of an art. He went around to the various Supply depots and the soldiers once they knew what the materials were for, gave him all that they could spare. He was able to acquire two pieces of airplane aluminum the soldiers made into a steeple. They used a crane normally used to hoist the tall sections of the B-29's to place it on the new chapel. He also salvaged all that he could from abandoned Japanese buildings, and what he couldn't get on the island he would barter with the Navy. The chapel became an island wide project with all the troops from all over the island chipping in to help out. Many of the flight crews would come help build the chapel after finishing their bombing despite their exhaustion. Rev. Cowder said building the chapel seemed to help many of the men unwind and cope with the strain of warfare. "It seemed to relax them," he said. Once completed, the chapel was an impressive structure that could hold 300 people. The Air Force even gave him commendation for his work on building the chapel for "acquiring supplies where none were available." After the war, he went on reserve status, but was recalled for the Korean War and remained on active duty until 1963, when he retired for the military and returned to central Pennsylvania, where he served several churches until he retired in 1976 and returned to Bigler. His wife Margaret died from brain tumor on Valentine's Day in 1974, and in 1976 he married his current wife, Josephine. Mr. Cowder has two children; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
Notes for Josephine Houser:
Josephine and Margaret are sisters. According to the Biler United Methodist Newsletter "the Houser Clan had an annual 4th of July picnic at the home of Fred and Alice Houser at West Decatur. Family members traveled from near and far to enjoy a festive celebration."
In September 15th, 2000 Newsletter it states that son John took Clyde and Jo to visit his home in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Children of Cecil Cowder and Margaretta Houser are:
i. ANN MARIE3 COWDER, b. 1938; d. October 25, 1982, Houston, Texas; Adopted child; m. FRED B. PLUMMER, JR., June 11, 1960; b. Abt. 1936.
ii. JOHN CECIL COWDER, b. 1947; m. LINDA KARNS, Abt. 1970; b. 1948.
Notes for JOHN CECIL COWDER:
He is mentioned in the Bigler United Methodist Newsletter,Wandering News from Bigler, December 1998 when Clyde and Jo Cowder went to their hoome for a visit.
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