Sounding more like a college student than a retired law enforcement officer whose resume includes working in a steel mill, serving as mayor of Chester, West Virginia, a few terms as deputy sheriff there, a stint as a city police officer and, no surprise, time on the bench as the judge, 81-year-old Rex Cowey said peer pressure led him to his grey shirt.
“I joined Team Rubicon because my friend Loretta did—she bosses me around some— then I learned more about them and I’ll tell you what, it’s great—it’s exactly what I’ve always loved doing. I get to go out in the community and help others,” said the stout, boisterous man in a brief solemn moment amidst an endless torrent of one-liners and anecdotes that started with “did I tell you about the time…”
He said his time in the Army, two years posted in Germany from ’57-’59, was something on his resume but not a focal point in his life before joining Team Rubicon in February.
“Almost 60 years later and I’m surrounded by veterans,” he said while guarding a truck full of gear in Butler, PA, a natural job for the seasoned cop on the strike team. “It’s like I’m right back where I was; like I never left off. I just love it.”
Op Sullivan’s Run is his first deployment –he’s got several service projects under his belt—and he said seeing people after a disaster in their community was humbling.
“It really makes you stop and appreciate what you have in life, when you show up and see people’s homes devastated, see what their families are facing.”
Asked what his family thought of him driving 100 miles from home to support flood recovery efforts for strangers, he laughed. “They know there ain’t no stoppin’ me, so they were excited for me,” he said of his family’s response to his decision to sign-up for the deployment.
The mischievous grin back on his face, Cowey said “Do the research, find an organization that fits your bill, get involved. There’s something out there for everyone and remember, age is only a number.”