A Gift to Protect Acadia Long Into the Future


When I first spoke with John H. McGowin in March of last year, I could hear the deep sadness in his voice. The summer before, he had lost his wife Sylvia McGowin to pancreatic cancer. Sylvia was also his business partner, chief supporter, and best friend.

Now when I hear John’s voice, I can almost sense a smile over the phone as he describes adventures with his Sylvia in Acadia National Park. It’s as if those happy memories of their time in Acadia buoy him.

Sylvia McGowin during a hike in Acadia.

John and Sylvia were friends from Alabama and discovered Acadia National Park on a whim. Someone told them that everyone should visit Maine at least once in their lifetime. So, they packed their car and made the trip! They fell in love with Acadia, returning year after year, visiting mostly in the spring and fall when they could enjoy the park at a more leisurely pace.

Sylvia was a banker and an active supporter of many organizations. Prior to her illness, she was an avid walker, gardener, and fitness buff. When visiting MDI, they hiked the trails and carriage roads, and loved to picnic at Otter Cliffs. They were especially fond of the Jordan Pond area, and it was there, at the Friends of Acadia membership table, that they discovered Friends of Acadia.

John and Sylvia were able to make one last trip to Acadia together, scheduled between Sylvia’s treatments. Sylvia said, “Let’s go to Maine” and they did it in style, renting a BMW convertible, cruising through the park like kids and creating memories of their lifetime.

Because of their deep love for Acadia, John has chosen to remember Sylvia and their shared love of the park with a gift from his estate in memory of Sylvia McGowan to protect Acadia long into the future.

I hope to walk with John this spring when he returns to MDI and look forward to hearing more about Sylvia and those happy times, as we retrace their steps in their beloved Acadia.

LISA HORSCH CLARK is Director of Development and Donor Relations for Friends of Acadia.