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Columbia Missourian

John M. Nowell III was passionate about the history of Boone County, family

By Hannah Wiese
June 18, 2013 | 7:50 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — John M. Nowell III went out of his way to help others whenever he could, especially his sisters. 

"He would never brag about himself," his sister, Faye Nowell, said. "If he did something nice for somebody, he’d never look for applause.”

Mr. Nowell would think about the other person and what they might be feeling and needing, Faye Nowell said.  

"John was always there to help me, either in person or on the phone," his sister, Mary Nowell Namerow, said. 

She recalled a time while living in Columbia when Mr. Nowell helped her move across town. 

"He carried my furniture and clothes down from the second floor, drove multiple times all the way across town to the new apartment, and unloaded everything," Namerow said. "This took most all night, and he still went to work the next day."

Namerow said that even after she moved to New York, her brother would always be thinking of things she might like to do when she came back for a visit.

John M. Nowell III died Thursday, June 6, 2013, at his home in Columbia. He was 62.

Mr. Nowell was born April 11, 1951, in Columbia to John Nowell Jr. and Ruth Johnson Nowell.

Faye Nowell said she remembered how her brother set up a small stereo for her because he knew she loved music. He even wrote out six pages of instructions and packed up the stereo so she could set it up at a camp she attended one summer when she was 12 or 13.

"My stereo was the hit of the camp that year," Faye Nowell said. 

One of Mr. Nowell's first jobs was an assistant deli manager at Nowell's United Supers on Worley Street, said Namerow.  

“He was proud to be the fourth generation to work in the family business," Faye Nowell said. “He worked hard for those stores, and I know dad was really proud of him."

Throughout his life, Mr. Nowell worked as a night stocker, a courtesy booth manager and the store manager of Nowell's on Keene Street.

"John was very knowledgeable regarding store business and was always helpful to the stores' loyal customers," Namerow said. 

Mr. Nowell retired in 2003, when the family grocery stores, which had been in Columbia since 1876, closed. He began volunteering at the Boone County Historical Society and would help out doing "whatever was needed," Faye Nowell said. 

"He was very active in the history of Columbia, the history of Boone county and the history of family," Faye Nowell said.  "It was his passion." 

Mr. Nowell researched his family's history and maintained the family grave sites at Columbia Cemetery. He made sure the gravestones were accurate and that there were flowers around them, Faye Nowell said. 

“That was one of his traits," Faye Nowell said. "He could tell you history and dates and he got it right. He was the historian for our family."

Another passion of Mr. Nowell's was collecting. He had collections of records, cars, antiques and cats said Faye Nowell.  

Like his sister Faye, Mr. Nowell loved music — particularly that of the '60s British Invasion.

“He could tell you anything about any of those groups – details most people don’t pay attention to,” Faye Nowell said. 

He loved the Beatles and anything they said or wrote. He would sprinkle Beatles phrases into his daily conversation, Faye Nowell said.

He also was a '60s car enthusiast and particularly loved fixing up Chevrolets.

One of Mr. Nowell's favorite memories was of a trip he took to Africa with his father,  Namerow said. 

"They went on a Kenyan safari, then traveled on to Egypt to see the pyramids," Namerow said. "He loved seeing the big cats and other wildlife."

In Egypt, Faye Nowell said her brother was introduced to Abyssinian cats. He began collecting the cats and would have four at a time, one of each color —red, ruddy, blue and fawn.

Over the years, every cat was named after a character from a Beatles' album. There was Lucy, Mr. Kite, Mr. Mustard, Lovely Rita and Penny Lane. 

“He loved his cats dearly," Faye Nowell said. "Those were his family. 

Mr. Nowell is survived by his three sisters, Faye Nowell, Mary Nowell Namerow and Katherine Tindall; and his brother, Jon Lammers. 

Private burial services were held June 11, 2013, at Columbia Cemetery, 30 E. Broadway. 

There will be a memorial and celebration of Mr. Nowell's life at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 29, at the Boone Country Historical Society, 3801 Ponderosa St., with a reception following at the same location. 

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to Columbia No-Kill, P.O. Box 492; Columbia Cemetery, 30 E. Broadway; and Boone County Historical Society, 3801 Ponderosa St. 

Condolences may be sent to the family at

Supervising editor is Katie Moritz.