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Joe Charles Gowdey, 85, born 13th of November 1935, died 31st of May 2021. Son of Charles Chauncy Gowdey and Ursle Faye Gowdey. A man of many talents who lived a varied and good life. Born in Tulsa, Okla., he lived with his parents and enjoyed a wonderful childhood. At 15, he moved with his family to Newport News, Va., where he attended Virginia Technical Institute. He spent summers working at Newport News Shipyard getting valuable experience, and after graduating as an electrical engineer, he returned to the shipyard where he worked on the nuclear vessel USS Enterprise and took part in its commissioning and sea trials. From there he was hired by NASA and worked on the Scout Mission and the first Mars Lander, of which he was proud to say had his signature aboard. His years with NASA included moves with his first wife, Anne, to Dallas, Texas and Lompoc, Cal. He had numerous adventures during his time in the rocket industry. It was also during his time at NASA he took leave to become a member of the Godspeed crew on its 1985 voyage across the Atlantic, an engineless sailing vessel sailing from England to Virginia.

As an adventure not to be missed, he jumped at the opportunity and flew to England. Prior to embarking on the voyage, he had the honor to guide a tour of the ship to the late HRH Prince Philip. Joe retired in early 1990s and followed his many passions, one being a HAM Radio Operator covering the Special Olympics and the 2000 computer panic. After 9/11, he realized how fragile life was and followed his dreams and, along with his second wife Penny, purchased a sailboat and spent several years cruising from New England to Florida, the Dry Tortugas, Bahamas, Bermuda as well as being guest crew in Portugal, Turkey and Belize. Later in life when his health began to fail, he and Penny sold their beloved boat and became landlubbers living in Middlesex, Va., close to the water they both loved. Joe was preceded in death by his parents and his first wife, Anne. He is survived by his much-loved second wife, Penny; his two stepchildren, Timothy Powell and Fiona Cathell, their partners, and his adored grandchildren, Anna, Declan and Marley; as well as cousin, Gayle Williams and nieces, Jennifer and Brenda. This does not begin to cover the life of Joe and his many adventures. In the words of his stepson Tim, “It is with tremendous sadness I say goodbye to a legendary man, NASA scientist, sailor of the Godspeed across the Atlantic, a pirate in the wrong century. Joe Gowdey, I am going to miss you.” Joe’s body was cremated and there will be a memorial gathering at their home to be set at a later date.


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