Adele McDowell

Tuesday, April 23, 2024 3:58 pm

Adele was born to Elsa (Hintzen) and John Schoeneman at their family farm north of Kesley, Iowa. She joined siblings Aurene, Eldon, and Ruth Schoeneman, and sister Joan followed. They grew up on a farm in Butler County. As a child, she developed a love of being outdoors, playing piano, reading, and singing. When she was four, she followed her older sisters’ and brother ‘s tracks in the snow to the one-room school in Bear Grove, sneaked in and sat quietly in the back. Of course, the teacher noticed and played along, but her mother wasn’t so forgiving!

Adele was an eager student, spelling bee champ, and salutatorian at Parkersburg High School, where she met her future husband, Frank McDowell. At age 19, Adele earned an emergency war-time teaching certificate at Iowa State Teachers College (now UNI) and started teaching in a one-room schoolhouse with 18 students. She adored them, and education became a passion which lasted her entire life.

Adele and Frank McDowell married in 1946. They made their first home in Waterloo, where John, Janis, Jane, and Frank were born. They moved to Cresco, where Frank owned the General Motors dealership, McDowell Motors. Soon Betsy was born, and Adele managed the challenges of the growing family, along with their many pets and her garden.

Holidays with her parents, siblings, and many nieces and nephews were a beloved part of life. In 1962, the McDowell family moved to Decorah. Adele graduated from Luther College, cum laude, in 1967, majoring in education, with a Spanish minor. She soon resumed teaching, at Eastside Elementary School. She taught reading and language arts at middle schools in Eagle Grove, Tacoma, Wash., and Des Moines, as Frank’s career evolved, and she earned her Masters of Arts in 1974, at Central Washington University.

Adele was talented and creative in all media, especially fibers/fabric. She explored six continents, loved live classical music and theater. She grew to love volunteering at Salisbury House, CASA, PEO and AAUW. As a member of the First United Methodist Church in Des Moines, she sang in the choir, participated in community outreach programs, and served on missions to Kenya and New Orleans.

She reveled in her children’s and grandchildren’s sports and music events and enjoyed reading with her great grandchildren. She always had the kitchen radio tuned to IPR classical music when you visited or called, catered to the birds in her neighborhood, and loved to eat and cook ‘from scratch,” well into her 90’s.

She was an avid conversationalist and enriched the lives of her five children, their families, and friends, as they enriched hers. John and his wife Christine Ryan McDowell, Rapid City, SD; Frank and wife Marilyn Berge McDowell, Spirit Lake; Janis McDowell (deceased 2005); Jane McCarver, Gulf Shores, Ala.; and Betsy McDowell and John Gussenhoven, Salem, Ore.; grandchildren: Ryan (Amanda) McDowell, Danica (Austin) Graham, Molly McDowell, Andrea McCarver, Daniel McCarver, Anna (Scott Simpson) McDowell, and Alex (Siri) McDowell; and 11 great grandchildren, and her brother in-law Wendall (Joan) Abkes, Parkersburg. Her siblings: Eldon (Virginia) Schoeneman, Aurene (Edward) Bisdorf, Ruth Schoeneman, and Joan (Wendall) Abkes predeceased Adele. Her husband Frank died in 1993.

A celebration of life service is planned for 12:30 on Friday, April 26, in the Event Center at Edgewater Wesley Life, 9225 Cascade Avenue, West Des Moines, IA.

In lieu of flowers, wear bright colors, and live your life to the fullest! Any contributions may be directed to Des Moines Symphony , Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation , the organization of your choice, or write a note on

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