SALYERSVILLE – The new $2 million bridge on Route 30 was dedicated to the educator who was killed in a tragic accident on the old bridge 28 years ago.
On Friday, September 28, at the Magoffin County Health Department, local and state officials, along with the family, gathered to dedicate the bridge to Paul W. Rowe, who had been the principal of Middle Fork Elementary School for 22 years.
Representative John Blanton said, “People like Paul were iconic figures because they were principals and we looked up to those men. I have never forgotten the time the accident occurred. I’ve worked hundreds of accidents and dozens of fatalities, but every time I ever pass that bridge it’s a trigger mechanism. I think about Paul.”
Mortimer Media Group talked to Rowe’s daughters, Cathy Sparks and Deborah Cain.
“We got there early in the morning before anyone else got there and we had to stay until everyone else was gone,” Sparks remembered about going to school with her dad. “We had to wait for the milkman to make his deliveries and he would bring us chocolate milk because we were little girls running around the school, so we had lots of good memories at home and at school.”
Both Sparks and Cain are retired teachers, noting that their dad had a great impact on their career choices.
“Even though when I was in high school I swore I would never be a teacher because of all the fun things, like prank calls in the middle of the night and those kinds of things, but we ended up being teachers, both of us,” Sparks said. “Enjoying it. Loving it. Loving our kids the way Daddy always loved his kids.”
Rowe’s daughters both remembered countless times former students of his would tell them how he would make sure the poor kids had the same as the rest of the students.
“Dad would make sure even though they were poor kids and didn’t have enough money for snacks, he always made sure they had a snack,” Sparks said. “He would either pay for it out of his pocket or he would give them some little chore at the school to earn their snack.”
Cain remembered, “I’ve had some previous students tell me that they would have never had their school pictures if Daddy hadn’t paid for them.”
Sparks said she thinks the timing for the dedication is right.
“I think being 28 years removed from that day, the timing was right,” Sparks said. “Time does help heal wounds. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t live. It’s nice to be able to memorialize him and to honor him in the way he has been honored today. It’s a big honor for our family.”
The two explained that Rowe was really proud of the Middle Fork Elementary School and proud of the community that rallied around it to make it a successful school, while also noting he would not have wanted any recognition for his part in any of it.
State Senator Brandon Smith said, “Though this was a tragic accident, now this memory and all things he represents will be remembered by many generations going forward. Please accept this small token of appreciation on behalf of all of us at the state Senate, House of Representatives, and state transportation department and God bless your family.”
The Kentucky General Assembly has passed a resolution honoring Paul W. Rowe, noting that the Transportation Cabinet is to designate the bridge as the “Paul W. Rowe Memorial Bridge.”
The entire resolution can be found at http://www.lrc.ky.gov/recorddocuments/bill/18RS/HJ151/bill.pdf.