One man cannot summon the future. But one man can change the present.
Michael "Mike" Philip Roewe, beloved family patriarch, passed away May 16, 2021, in Chehalis, Wash. He was 74 years old. Born in East Saint Louis, Ill., Dec. 14, 1946, Mike was the first of Philip and Vivian Roewe’s seven children. In something akin to Lewis & Clark’s expedition to the Pacific Ocean, the family packed up and departed for the West in January of 1956. They landed briefly in Portland before finally settling in Chehalis in 1957. As the eldest of the seven, he shared in many of the siblings’ adventures, occasionally as leader, sometimes as co-conspirator, but more often than not as hall monitor.
After graduating from W.F. West High School in 1964, Mike earned an associate degree from Centralia College in 1966, his bachelor’s from the University of Washington in 1968, and ultimately his Juris Doctor from Gonzaga University School of Law in 1974.
He passed the Washington State Bar Exam in 1974, and went into private practice until 1990. As a genuine small town lawyer, he accepted trade as a form of payment: cords of firewood, Christmas trees, and steer manure for his prolific rose bushes, perhaps to the occasional consternation of his wife.
After a four year stint as a municipal “night court” judge for the City of Chehalis, Mike was elected in 1990 as a Lewis County District Court Judge. He served six consecutive terms until retiring in 2015. Perhaps the only thing he failed at was retirement, as he lasted a mere nine months before returning to private practice.
Mike loved the law. He was drawn to the intellectual engagement of the work, the opportunity to solve problems, and the chance to help others. A litigator from birth, he also loved a good argument, which helped. But he understood the law to be a human institution and thus inherently flawed. In his years on the bench, he sought to temper the law with solid reasoning, good common sense, and empathy for the people involved. He worked hard to make the law just and fair for everyone who he represented as attorney and who came before him as judge.
On St. Patrick’s Day of 1973, Mike met the love of his life at a friend’s wedding, and thus began a nearly 40 year romance with Karen Gauley. They were married June 7, 1975, and raised their family in Chehalis. Karen and Mike shared a life rich in love and devotion to each other until Karen’s passing in 2012. There was little doubt they were truly meant for each other.
Community service was a cornerstone of Mike’s life. He was active for many years in Scouting BSA and particularly proud of the number of Eagle Scouts Troop 373 produced under his leadership. He gave his time and talent to a number of service clubs and the boards of community organizations whose work he believed in, and was a mentor to many in the community he called home.
A man of devout faith, he served God both in his community and in his parish of St. Joseph Catholic Church for over 40 years. He took particular joy in singing in the choir and coordinating altar servers.
Mike carried many titles throughout his life, including attorney, judge, scoutmaster, friend, uncle, son, and brother. But the titles for which he is best loved and most dearly remembered are Dad and Papa. He looked forward to annual summer trips to Long Beach, Wash., and was fastidious in collecting the custom donut orders for the morning run to the Cottage Bakery.
Through every age and stage of our lives, he was always there to offer words of encouragement, sage counsel, and, when needed, the fear of God when that sonorous voice of his thundered both our first and middle names in summoning. But most of all, he never missed the opportunity to tell us that he loved us and was proud of us.
He is survived by his children, Kate and David Cherrington of Napavine, Patrick and Elizabeth Roewe of Spokane, Philip Roewe and Cindy Messey of Normandy Park, and Lance and Heather Loewenstein of Parkville, Mo.; and his grandchildren, Owen, Emmett, Camilla, Vivienne, Leo, Marcus, Ciaran, Olivia, and Bryce. Mike loved and was loved by the expansive Roewe family, especially his siblings, Kristina and Brian Rogers, Jan and Ed Fleming, Juli Isaacson, David Roewe and Pam Howard, Susan Roewe and Chris Fawcett, and Matt Roewe and Amy Grotefendt; and all his nieces and nephews, from whom he rightfully earned the nickname “Uncle No Fun.”
He was a good and decent man. He was our North Star. May you boldly go, Dad.
A funeral Mass will be held at St. Joseph’s Church, Thursday, June 17, 2021, at 11 a.m., followed by a private burial service. A celebration of life will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., at The Barn on Jackson.
Memorial donations may be sent to Hope Alliance, P.O. Box 337, Chehalis, WA 98532, the Housing Resource Center of Lewis County, 621 S. Diamond St., Centralia, WA 98531, or St. Joseph’s Church, 157 SW 6th St, Chehalis, WA 98532.