Pastor Leah Cook McDowell - Peterson

Pastor Leah Cook McDowell died Wednesday morning, March 21, 2012, at her home in rural Peterson.

She was born Oct. 30, 1976, in Winona, to Sonja and Duane Cook. She attended Rushford-Peterson Schools, spending her junior and senior years as a full-time PSEO student at St. Mary’s University. She graduated from St. Olaf College in 1998 with majors in political science and religion. She was a member of the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, serving a year as a public policy advocate in Baltimore, Md. She graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in 2003, serving her internship at Resurrection Church in New Haven, Conn.

She married David McDowell in Philadelphia, on May 17, 2003, and was ordained an ELCA Lutheran pastor on Nov. 16, 2003. She was pastor and director of the day school at Zion Lutheran Church in Philadelphia, remaining there until 2008, when she was called to St. Paul’s UCC/ELCA Church in Lewiston.

Leah spent her teen-age summers with her special boys, Robby and Bradley Ebner, and also worked at Lutheran Social Service’s Camp Knutson during two college summer breaks. Leah developed and shared her musical talents by playing with the Southeastern Minnesota Youth Orchestra and St. Mary’s Concert Band. She sang with the Minnesota All-State Lutheran Choir, St. Mary’s Concert Choir, St. Olaf Manitou Singers, Yale Camerata, Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, Rochester Symphony Chorale, and Rochester Choral Arts Ensemble.

She and Dave shared travel adventures in England, Mexico, France and Italy, and throughout the United States, and enjoyed kayaking, biking, hiking and snowshoeing. They shared their beautiful country home with their precious four-legged "kids," Sydney, Speck, Thor and Gonzo.

In addition to her beloved congregation and treasured friends, Leah is mourned by her husband, Dave; parents, Sonja and Duane Cook; three brothers, Tracy (Kim), Terry and Lester (Kari); two nieces, Lauren and Jada; a nephew, Shae; maternal grandmother, LaVonne Emmons; and aunts, uncles and cousins.

She was preceded in death by her paternal grandmother, Anna Mae "Hon" Cook; paternal grandfather, Cleo Cook; and maternal grandfather, Henry Emmons.

A Celebration of Pastor Leah’s Life will be held at 1:30 p.m. on March 31 at St. Paul’s UCC/ELCA Church in Lewiston, Bishop Harold Usgaard officiating.

Leah and her family have requested no flowers. Memorial gifts may be made to St. Paul’s UCC/ELCA Church.

Though hordes of devils fill the land all threat’ning to devour us, we tremble not, unmoved we stand; they cannot overpow’r us. If they take our house, goods, fame, child, or spouse, wrench our life away, they cannot win the day. The kingdom’s ours forever! Thanks be to God!