Ossie Rowe believed it: the people are the city

Each person who knew Ossie Rowe had a story about him. George Taylor, winding down his own law career these days, remembers as a new graduate from Osgoode Law School, perusing the journals in search of employment. And there is was! An ad from the firm of Boys, Seagram & Rowe… “wanted, junior lawyer for active firm in Barrie, Ontario. Must be Progressive Conservative.”

George felt he fit the ticket, applied and got the job, went on to represent the Progressive Conservatives at Queen¹s Park, ultimately serving as Attorney General before returning to Barrie to continue his practice of law.

W.A. Boys was delighted to find Charlie Seagram and Osmond J. Rowe… W.A. was ready to retire. The two young lawyers built their practice in a deep, limestone building on Owen St. While it¹s now a private parking lot, that building was home for many years to Ossie Rowe. And at the end of the day, he would walk up the hill to 88 Owen to the house he and his bride Jessie bought in 1946. He would walk to the court house. He would walk to City Hall (the old City Hall, the one under the Arch). In fact, Ossie’s legal world occurred within a four block radius.

Ossie came to Barrie at the end of the second World War, where he had served in the Royal Canadian Navy. He¹d graduated as a lawyer the year before the war started, and spent much of the war in convoy duty in the North Atlantic.

When Ossie arrived, he was one of a number of Rowe¹s in town, all unrelated, but all Progressive Conservative. Earl Rowe, Lucretia Rowe… there was lots of confusion about which Rowe Ossie was.

He represents a diverse practice of law not seen by today¹s specialists… often simultaneously he would serve as a corporate lawyer, a family law and civil litigator, a real estate lawyer, and crown attorney. He was especially effective in Estate Accounting, thriving on detail. to Barrie’s good fortune, Ossie was adept as municipal law and estates, and became renown for his expertise.

In fact, he practiced law for 58 years! He served as Barrie’s City Solicitor for 49 of them.

Ossie¹s passion, though, was genealogy and heraldry. He traced his own family back to the 1700’s and brought this interest into the Heraldry Society of Canada. He designed both the City of Barrie and Simcoe County Law Association Coats of Arms.

I well remember the City Council meeting when Ossie appeared to present the Coat of Arms for the City of Barrie. After much research and application of historical facts, Alderman Janice Laking received officially Barrie¹s coat of arms from Ossie Rowe in 1977.

Ossie drew from our association with Base Borden, our affinity to rural life, our emerging industry, blue waves to represent our water influence, and five interlacing lines to mark our locataion at the intersection of five highways.

The people are the city. That is the Oslogan¹ that accompanies the crest.

Ossie Rowe was a methodical, careful, insightful man. Small of stature, he never seemed to age. A head of curly hair, grey in the 70¹s and white when I last saw him, his round face was usually deep in thought. The immediacy of today’s world, demanding information without thought, would have been difficult for him.

He had many interests and it would take at least double this space to just name the projects he involved himself in on behalf of Barrie. Collier Place, the Yacht Club, our waterfront, Navy League, Collier St United Church, Children’s Aid Society, Simcoe County Legal Aid Committee, City of
Barrie Harbour Committee, Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee, Barrie Lions Club, Progressive Conservative Party member, president, campaign manager etc, etc. Ossie’s friends have almost all gone ahead of him… Maurice MacLaren, Heber Smith, Dr. Harold Smith. Today, Charlie Seagram, Bert Cook and Harris Steele are among the surviving friends that are missing their stalwart fellow.

Ossie was 83 in 1996 when he retired from his firm, then located on Collier St. When the mother of his three sons passed away in 1978, Ossie was lost and a few years later married Ann Rowe whose devotion allowed him to live out his life at the same house he bought in 1946.

Ossie died here March 3. And 26 days later, his sister passed away, as if to catch up to her brother.

It’s difficult in a few words to credit the impact of one person on our community. Ossie has left us in the physical sense. But in spirit, he represents exactly what he wrote beneath our crest… the people are the city. Ossie was good people. He contributed greatly to make a good city.

Thanks, Ossie.