CAPE ELIZABETH – Allen Rowe Jr., retired owner of the former Charles S. Chase Co. and a dedicated volunteer for the Cape Elizabeth Fire Department, who generously gave back to the community, died early Thursday. He was 86.

Mr. Rowe was a third generation owner of Charles S. Chase Co., a former building material supply firm in Portland.

His grandfather was business partners with its original owner, Charles Chase. When Chase died in the early 1900s, Mr. Rowe’s grandfather bought the company. It was then passed down through the generations to him in 1948.

Mr. Rowe operated the business for the next 42 years before handing the reigns to his son, James Rowe, of Cape Elizabeth. He then sold the firm in 2008.

His son reflected Thursday afternoon on the years they worked together and the lessons his father had taught him. He said his father was a smart business man, who was well-respected by their vendors and customers.

“He always put customer service (first), which was one of the things that made him so successful,” his son said. “It was good working with him, very good. Working with and for a family business always had its moments, but we got along very well.”

Mr. Rowe was a 1942 graduate of South Portland High School. He went on to the University of Maine at Orono briefly before joining the Army Air Corps in 1943. He served in the 506th Fighter Group, 458th Squadron in the Pacific Theater during World War 2.

He was married to May Rowe for 60 years and lived in Cape Elizabeth, where the couple raised a son and daughter.

Mr. Rowe was remembered by his children Thursday as a loving husband and father, who generously gave his time to help others.

“He was a great dad a dad that taught me by example,” his son said. “He put service above himself. It was a part of him. He was raised that way and he passed that on to us kids as well.”

Mr. Rowe volunteered for the fire department in Cape Elizabeth for nearly 25 years. He served as lieutenant, captain, and secretary-treasurer for Engine One Company. His son also joined the department. Fire Chief Peter Gleeson said on Thursday that he was dedicated to the department and a mentor to young firefighters.

“He was a great guy,” Gleeson said. “He was very enthusiastic about the job and serving the community. It’s sad to see people like him go.”

Mr. Rowe was a charter member of the Rotary Club of South Portland-Cape Elizabeth, which he helped start in 1962. He was also a member of the Hiram Masonic Lodge in South Portland and a 32nd degree mason.

His daughter, Priscilla Rowe, of Scarborough, said she was proud of her father’s service to the community. She said he build adaptive furniture for the Pine Tree Society; scenery for the Portland Players; and book cases for Cape Elizabeth Middle School.

“I was really proud of him in his retirement,” his daughter said. “He volunteered doing so many things.”

At the same time, Mr. Rowe was a caretaker for his wife, who had Alzheimer’s disease. She died in December of 2008.

In June of 2005, he suffered a debilitating stroke and moved to the Maine Veterans Home in Scarborough.

Her daughter said when she heard the phone rang Thursday morning, she knew her father had died.

“I said to my brother this morning, ‘we’re it now,”‘ she said. “My heart is broken. You hate to see them suffer and that’s what was happening. We all know he is in a better place now.”


Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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