While he was working, Chick Cowell was always a busy guy.
He spent 35 years as a teacher in the Buena Regional School District, mostly in physical education and health. And when school ended for the day, Cowell — who was named Charles on his birth certificate but called Chick for 82 years, until he died last month — went back to work as a coach.
“He coached everything — football, basketball, baseball, and track,” says his wife of 55 years, Irene. “And he got his bus driver’s license so he could drive the teams to away games.”
Chick started at Cleary Junior High School, but later switched to Buena’s high school, where he was athletic director for years. Now he’s in the school Hall of Fame.
When he was off from school, Chick ran his own businesses. Over the years, they included restaurants, ice-cream shops and a trophy store.
So when he retired from the school in about 1990, Chick finally had a chance to take life easy.
He didn’t. Instead, he and Irene discovered shuffleboard.
Playing shuffleboard in the sunshine may sound relaxing, until you realize some of the lengths the Cowells went to for the game.
They moved from Buena to Egg Harbor Township when they retired — Irene as a school librarian — so most of their local games over the years were at the Ocean City Shuffleboard Club.
But they also played in Florida, where they liked to go in the winter. And one dramatic length they went to for shuffleboard was 4,700 miles — the rough distance from their home to Rio de Janiero, Brazil, where Chick and Irene played in the 2005 International Shuffleboard Association’s world championships.
They also traveled to “Canada, Norway, Sweden,” Irene says, plus many more cities in this country.
The Cowells got to be shuffleboard pros, playing tournaments for prize money.
“But you'll never retire on what you win from shuffleboard,” says Ed Reed, 82, another member of the Ocean City club. Reed played with Chick for years, and says his buddy was a “gentleman who never got mad if he lost. ... Some people do.”
Sure, there was more to Chick’s life than a game. He was “the best grandfather anyone could ask for,” says Christine Cowell, one of his eight grandchildren.
Chick liked taking the kids crabbing, then cooking up the catch, says Christine, 24, now of Asheboro, N.C., who grew up in Upper Township. And crabs were just one of his food specialties.
But he also liked multi-tasking, playing while he was doing his granddad duties. Christine says Chick used to take take her and her sister to Ocean City to play shuffleboard. Sure, the girls were the youngest ones on the court by far, but the old coach was teaching a new generation to play a great game.
A Life Lived appears Tuesdays and Saturdays.
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