Rest in Peace, Rise in Glory: 2/12/2020

The Rev. Andrew Harmon Bro, a playwright and fundraising executive who also served many rural parishes in Illinois and Iowa, died January 16, aged 89. 

A native of Chicago, Andrew Bro was the son of Albin Bro, who had been an Episcopal educational missionary to China, and Marguerite Harmon Bro, a noted author of children’s fiction and religious books. In 1950-1951, he circumnavigated the globe with his mother on a Danish cargo ship, as she gathered material for a book about Asian cultures. He studied at Denison University, the University of Chicago, and Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, and was ordained in 1957. He was canonically resident in the Diocese of Chicago for all 62 years of his ministry.  

After serving as an assistant at St. Augustine’s, Wilmette, Illinois, he became chaplain to Shimer Junior College, a Great Books school that was later incorporated into North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. At Shimer, he expanded the college’s speech and drama programs, and founded a local summer theatre company, the Timber Lake Playhouse. Bro was the artistic and executive director of the company for over two decades, mentoring many young artists, who went on to wider acclaim. 

Bro moved with his family to Iowa City in 1964 to complete a degree in playwriting, and later became active in fundraising for museums, especially those associated with aviation and space travel, a lifelong fascination of his. He is survived by Lu, his wife of 63 years, a daughter and a son.   

The Rev. Dr. Arlen Lowery Fowler, a historian and university administrator who served for several years as rector of St. Philip’s Church in Ardmore, Oklahoma, died January 25, aged 91. 

Fowler was a native of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and a graduate of Oklahoma State University, Princeton Seminary, and Washington State University. He served in the US Army as a lieutenant during the Korean War, and was later Presbyterian chaplain at Texas A & M and Washington State University. In 1964, he obtained a doctorate in Afro-American history, and his dissertation, “The Black Infantry in the West,” was one of the first books written on the Buffalo Soldiers, a famous group of African Americans who served in the Civil War.  

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1972 by Bishop Albert Chambers of Springfield, while serving as associate professor at Eastern Illinois University.  He later became vice-president for student affairs at the University of Tulsa.  In 1983, Fowler set aside his university work to become rector of St. Philip’s Church in Ardmore, Oklahoma. During his time there, he took a sabbatical to study the Shoah, and wrote a book on the subject, “Facing Auschwitz: A Christian Imperative.” In retirement, he was vicar of St. Mark’s Church, Hugo, Oklahoma. 

He and his late wife, Mary Jane, were the parents of four children. He is survived by three of them, seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. 

The Rev. Gene Ramsey Smitherman, a lawyer who became a second-career priest and served parishes in Kingsport and Chattanooga, Tennessee, died on January 22, aged 72. 

Gene was a native Alabaman, and met his wife Suzanne, on the basketball court at Vanderbilt. He studied law at the University of Alabama, and served as counsel to the university before moving to Chattanooga.  

After 19 years of practicing law, Gene and his wife both answered a call to the priesthood, and studied together at Sewanee Theological Seminary. He served as rector of St. Christopher’s Church in Kingsport and Grace Church, Chattanooga.  

Gene was a lover of music and airplanes, and obtained his pilot’s license shortly before his ordination. He endured his final struggle with an aggressive form of ALS with grace, never losing his sense of humor and love of entertaining a crowd. He is survived by his wife, the Rev. Suzanne Smitherman, and by their children and grandchildren.   


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