Imogene Rowin Lee
April 13, 1925 – November 11, 2021
Imogene Lee, age 96, died at her home with Janie and Gene at her side. The middle child of 11, she was born in Spur, TX to James Abraham and Alma Elizabeth (Spencer) Rowin. Her family had left Angelina County and begun the share-croppers’ trek across Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas following cotton, wheat, and strawberry harvests. She grew up in the Depression and vividly recalled the 1935 Black Sunday Dust Bowl Storm. In 1938, the family truck broke down on the way to California and the Rowin family ended up picking cotton in Roswell. They lived in a converted chicken coop on West 2nd. Later they moved to the George and Sarah Pirtle place. She graduated number 2 in her class from LFD despite having never finished a complete year of schooling. While at Roswell High, she worked for several families as a nanny and housekeeper. Matt and Dorrell Brand treated her especially kindly and saw to it that she was able to complete an after-school course in advanced stenographic training. When she became a nanny for the Pirtles the following year, Sarah Pirtle treated her like a daughter. Imogene was thankful for all of the opportunities provided to a “poor, naïve, country girl,” (her words).
Following graduation in 1943, she went to work for the War Manpower Agency recruiting workers to build runways at the Roswell Army Airfield. She roomed with Louise Lee of Hope in a small house on South Lea. There she met Ruffus E. Lee when the 804th Tank Destroyer Battalion escorted a group of German POWs from North Africa to Orchard Park. By the time he returned to overseas duty, she was promised to him. In March 1944, Ruffus was severely injured in battle near Gaeta, Italy and sent stateside to Bruns Hospital in Santa Fe for treatment. In December 1944, the hospital gave him a two-weeks pass so he and Imogene could marry. Following his discharge in 1945, they moved to his family farm in Hope.
Just before the birth of their daughter and following the Trinity site atomic bomb testing, they moved into town in Artesia.
Imogene was a dedicated community volunteer and participated in varied activities, often serving in leadership roles. She was Commander of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Donald S. Simons Chapter of the DAV and a lifetime member, Central Elementary School PTA president, Brownie troop leader, Band Aide Club president, a Pink Lady with the Artesia Hospital Auxiliary, officer in the Good Samaritan Helper’s Club for the Artesia nursing home, founder and charter member of the Artesia Genealogical Society, state representative for the Artesia Council on Aging, and a faithful member of First Baptist Churches of Artesia and of Rowell. She was an accomplished seamstress and sewed many Prom dresses, class play, cheerleader, and pep club outfits for Janie and her friends.
At age seventy, she studied oil painting and filled her walls with all of her favorite subjects. She wrote a book Out of the Cotton Patch, The Early Years, the Rowin Family…to 1995. Each siblings’ memories of early life ended with the phrase “and I never picked cotton again.” The book won first place at a Dallas Genealogical Society competition.
On Ruffus’ death, she moved back to Roswell and was office manager of Wilson-Cobb History and Genealogy Research Library until her retirement at age 84. Senior Circle activities such as 42, cards, singing, and book club kept her supplied with lots of friends and fun. She also served as president of Spanish Gate Homeowners Association. A bright spot in her later years was hosting Sandhill Country Band rehearsals in her home. She tapped her toes all night and requested many oldies.
She is survived by her daughter Janie and son-in-law Gene Hammons of Colleyville, TX, grandsons Douglas Edward Hammons, M.D. of Fort Worth, Matthew Austin Hammons, M.D. and wife Elisabeth of Colleyville, and USAF Col. Jacob Lee Hammons and wife Sydney-Ann of Fairfax Station, VA. Eight great-grandchildren also survive her: Emily, David, Natalie, Alexandra, Luke, John, Brennan, and Heidi. Others in her family are brother-in-law T.E. (Gene) Lee and wife JoAnn, daughter-in-law Myrna Joy Lee, nieces Linda Daugherty Newell, Shirley Daugherty Thiel, and Deborah Jean Lee, and numerous members of the extended Bynum and Lee families.
Surviving Rowins are Shirley Rowin Meade of TN, Bob Rowin of AZ, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Special friends include JoAnn Huddle, Rudell Quinn, Mary Jones (Albuquerque), Gloria Cauhape (Fort Worth), Jerry (the mailman) and Marilyn Dahlberg, and the Bridgebuilders Sunday School class.
She is predeceased by her husband of 57 years Ruffus Edward Lee, son Rev. Edward Dean Lee, her parents, brothers Claudell, Marvin, Harve, Lloyd, Jim, and Jack, and sisters Ida Florine and Billie Jo.
Visitation will be on Friday, November 19, 2021 from 3 – 6 PM at Ballard Funeral Home Chapel. Services will be held in the Ballard Funeral Home Chapel on Saturday, November 20, 2021 at 2 PM.
Interment will be Monday, November 22, 2021 at 2 PM at Woodbine Cemetery in Artesia.
Memorials may be made to Wilson-Cobb. Special thanks to Melissa Smith, R.N. Kindred Hospice and Silver Belles Elder Care for being with us during these last months.