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Dick Cowen

A Storyteller for the Ages

A tribute to the life of Richard W. Cowen, author of “Papa Raker’s Dream”

The Good Shepherd family lost a beloved member on Tuesday, February 24, 2015, with the passing of Richard Cowen, author of Papa Raker’s Dream, a history of The Good Shepherd Home published in 1988. Dick, as he was known by his byline, died in St. Luke’s Hospice. He was 83.

Dick was an extraordinary reporter, author and historian, who wrote for the Morning Call newspaper in Allentown for 42 years. His passion for history in the Lehigh Valley and beyond, resulted in a weekly column called “Remembering” about newsworthy people from the past. That passion, along with his keen intellect and reporter’s acumen, made him the perfect choice to write Papa Raker’s Dream, which Good Shepherd commissioned him to do.

The book covers the first 80 years of Good Shepherd’s history, beginning in 1908, and captured the pioneering spirit of its founders, The Rev. John “Papa” and D. Estella “Mama” Raker, who devoted their lives to providing a home and so much more to people with disabilities.

The book was a labor of love for Dick who spent a year researching material. Most of the information was culled from decades of back issues of Sweet Charity. After the book was published, The Rev. Dr. Conrad Raker, Papa and Mama’s son who became administrator at Good Shepherd, wrote to Dick saying, “Not many have the joy of knowing what they have done will live after them.”

One of the finest tributes to his writing came at a Good Shepherd event a year or two after the book was published. He overheard a woman in a wheelchair talking about the book and went over and introduced himself. She said, “I’m blind, but I know what you look like. I read your book twice before I went blind.”

Dick’s lifelong wife and helpmate, Connie, worked behind the scenes to help Dick with the book. He acknowledged her contributions as someone who “quietly and efficiently led me through all my emotional storms in the writing of this book when I repeatedly panicked over simple troubles with the computer. Her skill and knowledge of this electronic wizardry and, above all, her calm were invaluable.”

Dick was a generous donor to Good Shepherd and received The Raker Memorial Award in 1995. In addition to his wife, Dick is survived by his children, grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.