|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY Obituary: Joey Rowan - September 15, 1993||
ROWAN: FIGHTER, FRIEND
PHOENIXVILLE - In the ring, he was one of the top fighters of his day. In everyday life, he was simply a good person.
Joe Rowan passed away Tuesday after suffering a heart attack. He was 59.
"He was one of the greatest fighters I ever saw," said Schuylkill Police Chief To Marchegiano (a.k.a Tommy Marciano) , whom Rowan introduced to boxing in 1951 and sparred with at the Santa Anna Italian Club in Phoenixville.
Indeed, Rowan was 26-1 as an amateur - losing only to future heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson in the '52 Olympic trials - and 40-16-1 as a professional.
But Rowan was much more than a pugilist, as Marchegiano recalled.
"He was just one heck of a guy," Marchegiano said. "He's going to be missed by a lot of people."
Rowan attended Phoenixville High School, then got into boxing in 1951 at the Italian Club under the watchful eye of Frank Costello. He was the Golden Gloves amateur champion for 1951-52.
Rowan turned professional in 1952. He fought eight times in Madison Square Garden and twice in Yankee Stadium. There were also bouts in Seattle, Portland, New Orleans, Milwaukee and Houston. He is the only Phoenixville boxer ever to be featured in a main event at the Garden.
He fought on national television 11 times, including a bout against Wayne Bethea, during which Rowan broke his right hand and still went on to win a 10-round decision.
Rowan proudly represented Phoenixville throughout the nation, facing the top-10 rated boxers of his time. In 1955-56, he was rated by Ring Magazine in the top 10 as a heavyweight.
"Any fighter out of Phoenixville should look up to what Joe did," said Jim Deoria, whose son, Jimmy, is working his way up through the lightweight ranks. "Joe set the standard."
Rowan battled such boxing luminaries as Patterson, Willie Pastrano and Bert Whitehurst.
"I was knocked down about 11 times in my career,: Rowan once said, proudly. "But I always got back up."
During his career, Rowan fought as a middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight. He retired in 1960 and turned to training. He helped out with the CYO boxing program at St. Ann's School in Phoenixville, brought a boxing program to the Phoenixville Civic Center, and trained fighters at the Valley Forge Christian College.
"He was always there to give me a hand now and then," said Jimmy Deoria, who first encountered Rowan when he got into boxing at age 12. "He would always give me some words of encouragement."
"You have to respect anybody who trains kids how to box," said the elder Deoria. "Boxing was in Joe's blood."
Rowan leaves behind his mother, six children, 11 grandchildren and two brothers.
"He loved his kids, he loved his family, he loved everybody," said Marchegiano. "He was just a good guy."
A viewing will be held at the Devlin-Rosmos-Kepp Funeral Home on Main Street and Fourth Avenue from 7-9 p.m. on Thursday evening. Services for Rowan will be held on Friday morning at 9 o'clock in the ST. Mary of the Assumption Church, St. Mary's Street, Phoenixville.
Phoenixville Columnist Jack Jeffers contributed to this article.