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Obituary Stories

Irwin man was shaped by war, devoted to family

Stephen Huba
| Monday, Oct. 16, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

Robert Mowry's wartime experiences shaped him into the man, father and grandfather he became.

“He was stoic about certain things,” said his son, Robert R. Mowry. “He always told me, ‘You don't cry in front of women.' He was a tough guy.”

Mr. Mowry was one of the last survivors of the USS Turner explosion in New York Harbor on Jan. 3, 1944 — a disaster that sent 136 men to their deaths and that has never been explained. The sailors are still listed as missing.

This year, a World War II researcher began advocating for a proper accounting and a proper memorial after finding evidence that at least four Turner sailors were buried anonymously in a veterans cemetery on Long Island.

Mr. Mowry lived to fight another day. Rescued by a Coast Guard cutter, he was eventually reassigned to the USS Hank and sent to the Pacific. The destroyer participated in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and was subjected to repeated kamikaze attacks.

Robert Ross Mowry of Irwin died Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. He was 91.

Born in Irwin on Nov. 9, 1925, he was a son of the late Glenn and Grace (Bell) Mowry.

Mr. Mowry dropped out of high school at 17 to join the Navy in 1943. He served on the Turner, a destroyer, as it accompanied and protected military supply convoys in the Atlantic. The Turner's sinking occurred after it had returned to its home port of New York in early 1944.

“I heard, ‘Boom!' and was knocked right on my backside,” Mr. Mowry told the Tribune-Review in January . “The whole front of the ship shook.”

Despite being part of the Turner story, Mr. Mowry said he saw more action in the Pacific than in the Atlantic. Upon his return to Irwin, he threw himself into his work. He got a job with the Westinghouse Air Brake Co. in Wilmerding and eventually became a general foreman.

He also devoted himself to his family, partly because he had a “rough childhood,” his son said. “He always made it clear that he was our dad and he was there for us.”

Mr. Mowry supplemented his income by maintaining a machine shop in his basement.

“He had a couple of lathes. My brother and I would do some jobs for him. He was always working,” Robert R. Mowry said.

Mr. Mowry enjoyed time with his family and with his friends, especially other veterans, he said.

He was preceded in death by his first wife, Ruth C. Mowry; two children, John Buck Mowry and Becky Kirsch; and two grandchildren.

He is survived by his wife, Anne S. (Pertzog) Mowry; three children, Bea Airgood and her husband, Tom, of Penn Hills, Robert R. Mowry and his wife, Jerilyn, of Kittanning, and Pam Wise and her husband, Don, of California; seven grandchildren; and several great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the William Snyder Funeral Home, 521 Main St., Irwin, where a blessing service will be held Wednesday. Interment will follow in Penn Lincoln Memorial Park.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280, or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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