Sumpter man among victims of Algeria terrorist attack

By Jayson Jacoby January 21, 2013 09:50 am

By Jayson Jacoby

This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Gordon Rowan was looking forward to retiring this spring and to spending more time with his year-old granddaughter, Leah.

“He always called her ‘Princess Leah’ — she was the light of his life,” said Toni Thompson, a longtime friend of Rowan, the Sumpter man who was one of three Americans killed in a terrorist siege at a natural gas plant in Algeria last week.

Rowan, 58, worked as a petroleum engineer for BP.

“He was just a terrific guy who always watched out for his family and his friends,” Thompson said Monday afternoon from her home in Sumpter.

He had spent Christmas in California with his two sons, Richard and Dan, and with Leah, before returning to his home in Sumpter for the first week of the new year, Thompson said.

Gordon Rowan flew out of Boise on Jan. 8 for Algeria.

He had considered retiring in November, Thompson said.

“But he had a couple of projects he wanted to finish,” she said. “He planned to retire this May.”

Rowan had talked about his work at the Ain Amenas project in the Sahara, and shown her photographs of the desert surrounding the site, Thompson said.

He never expressed any fear about working there.

“He said he had always felt comfortable,” Thompson said.

Rowan grew up in Ontario, where he graduated from high school.

He then enrolled at the University of Oklahoma, where he earned a degree in petroleum engineering, Thompson said.

Rowan’s parents, Jim and MaRee Rowan, lived in Ontario but the couple had owned property in Sumpter, about 28 miles southwest of Baker City, since the late 1960s.

Jim Rowan, who worked for the Ontario Police Department, died in the early 1990s, and MaRee died about three and a half years ago, Thompson said.

Although the couple never lived in Sumpter, MaRee Rowan spent much time there, which is how Thompson, a former Sumpter city recorder, made her acquaintance.

“She was like a second mother to me,” Thompson said.

Gordon’s brother, Gerald Rowan, has lived in Sumpter since the 1980s.

Gordon moved to Sumpter about a year ago, where he lived in a home he inherited from his parents, Thompson said.

His work schedule generally had him on duty for three weeks and then off for three weeks, with one week in between for travel.

Rowan’s work in the oil industry pretty well spanned the globe, with stints in China as well as Algeria, Thompson said.

His travels made for rich conversation fodder — albeit sometimes of a technical nature.

“He was always a good storyteller,” Thompson said. “Of course most of us didn’t understand half of what he was talking about.”

Rowan’s wife, Myong, died within two days of his mother’s death, Thompson said.

In addition to his two sons and his granddaughter in California, Rowan has a niece who lives in Payette, Idaho, and two aunts who live in Idaho’s Treasure Valley.

“He will be missed,” Thompson said. “The world lost a special person.”