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Story Last modified at 5:41 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Johnnie Billy Eugene "Gene" McGowen


Billy E. "Gene" McGowen

Billy E. "Gene" McGowen

March 24, 1936-April 23, 2011

Johnnie Billy Eugene "Gene" McGowen, 75, of Las Vegas, died April 23, 2011.

He was born March 24, 1936, in Kansas City, Kan., the oldest son of Clifford and Syrena McGowen.

He grew up in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. Like most of his boyhood friends, McGowen loved hunting, fishing, baseball and girls. Growing up poor meant an eighth-grade education before having to quit school to provide for the family. It's a work ethic he espoused his entire life.

McGowen came to Alaska in 1956 with his future bride Lynn Cox, and members of her family. In the mid-1960s, he and his then father-in-law started Porta-Can Toilet Co. After a number of successful years, McGowen struck out on his own and started Rent-A-Can. His hard work paid off during the Trans-Alaska Pipeline with toilets from Anchorage to Fairbanks to Valdez in every pipeline camp and contractors yard.

McGowen retired to Las Vegas with his wife of 34 years, Patricia. Every summer he returned to Alaska to fish, play golf, spend time with his children and play poker with longtime friends. His family said," To say he will be missed is a huge understatement."

McGowen is survived by his wife, Patricia, of Las Vegas; sister Sharon and brother Lonnie Dean, and their families, all of Missouri; sons Lonnie of Chugiak and Gerald (Lonea) and grandsons Jordan, Dawson, and Wyatt of Big Lake; daughter, Krystal Rogers and grandsons Thomas and Trevor of Wasilla; and daughter Syrena Rheault (Jim) and grandson James and grandaughters, Danielle and Amanda from Anchorage. He also leaves numerous cousins, nephews, nieces and other kin as well as many friends. A semi-impromptu gathering of family and close friends will take place later this summer. Condolences may be sent to Krystal Rogers 135 Ravenview Drive, Wasilla, AK 99654

This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, May 11, 2011.