Longtime lawyer and retired judge Robert E. (Bob) Bowen died on Friday, May 15, 2020. He was 96 years old. He was predeceased by his wife Alexandria (Andy) and a daughter, Hilary. He is survived by sons John Bowen (Vicki Carlson) and James Bowen, and daughters Mary “Missy” Bowen (Camile Baudoin), Anne Bowen LaFianza (Javier LaFianza), and Sarah Bowen, and by grandchildren Jeffrey Bowen, Gregory Bowen, Mariana LaFianza, and Joshua LaFianza.
Bob was born in Minneapolis in 1924, and spent some of his early years with his grandparents in Aitkin, where he developed an early love of the outdoors and of woodcraft. As a teen he was active in music and scouting, and earned the rank of Eagle Scout.
Bob attended Blake School, graduating as valedictorian in 1941. His education was interrupted by three years of army service in World War II, including combat duty in Germany with Patton’s Third Army. After discharge, he went on to the University of Minnesota, where he earned a BA in history (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and a law degree (Law Review, Order of the Coif), and clerked for Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Thomas Gallagher.
Bob’s 23-year career as a lawyer began with a sole practice and concluded as a partner in the firm known most recently as Gray Plant Mooty, now Lathrop GPM, LLP.
In 1973, Bob was appointed to the Hennepin County Municipal Court by Gov. Wendell Anderson. He soon developed a reputation for fairness and knowledge of the law. In 1980 he was appointed to the Minnesota District Court by Gov. Al Quie and was subsequently re-elected to the bench. He also taught trial advocacy at William Mitchell College of Law, and was twice nominated to the Minnesota Supreme Court. He retired in 1988 and in that year received a WCCO Good Neighbor Award.
Bob spent the next 20 years as a court-appointed Special Master and as a mediator and arbitrator in civil cases before finally retiring at age 85.
Bob was first and foremost a family man, but in addition to family and career he most enjoyed fishing. He was an accomplished fly fisherman and spent many hours pursuing the wily trout in Wisconsin and the Rocky Mountain West, and smallmouth bass on the St. Croix River, where the family has a cabin. His extensive knowledge of the fishing world and his activity-appropriate attire prompted fellow jurist Ann Montgomery to once note, “If you ordered a judge from L. L. Bean, you’d get Bob Bowen.”
Bob also loved choral singing and sang in church choirs, the University Chorus, and the Bach Society. He and Andy, who was blessed with a beautiful soprano voice, were charter members of the Minnesota Chorale.
Bob and Andy traveled extensively together in Europe and the Americas, on walking tours and by car, bus, and train. When not traveling they enjoyed their house in Minneapolis and their St. Croix cabin. In 2013 they moved to the Boutwell’s Landing retirement community in Oak Park Heights, where they spent their remaining days in a townhome overlooking a pond and next to a grove of Norway pine.
A memorial service will be held in Stillwater when family, friends, and colleagues can gather safely and celebrate Bob’s life with joy. Memorials may be made to The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, Standing Cedars Community Land Conservancy, or any group that works towards protecting a good trout stream.
Cards and letters may be mailed to:
Robert Bowen Family
2800 Curve Crest Blvd
Stillwater, MN 55082
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Robert E. Bowen, please visit our floral store.