Walter G. Gower Sr., 87, passed away Friday, June 28, at his home with his family by his side. Born and raised in Columbus, NJ, he owned and operated Hillsdale Farm in Allentown, NJ.
He was a farmer and owned, trained and drove harness horses. Mr. Gower was well known in the harness Industry.
“He wasn’t big on talking,” Taylor Gower told Ken Weingartner of the USTA said about his grandfather. “He would guide you, but he wasn’t a guy that would sit down and tell you what to do. He never said, ‘This is how things have to be done.’ He would give you some advice, but with anybody, he would say to try your own way, which is nice.
“If you made a mistake, he never said, ‘I told you so.’ And there were a lot of opportunities. That was every lesson, in life and with the horses. The older I get, I see more and more of those lessons. And he was right about all of it.”
Walter Gower became involved with good trotters which have carried the word "Blizzard" in their names, most notably Jersey Blizzard and Another Blizzard.
Keely Jay was Mr. Gower’s first racehorse, which he bought in 1955, the same year he moved to Upper Freehold Township and began dairy farming on his own. He gradually became more involved in harness racing and won his first race as a driver in 1958 at Freehold Raceway.
Much of Mr. Gower’s career as a trainer was prior to formal record keeping. Two of his better-known horses, Jersey Blizzard and Another Blizzard, came with longtime racing partner Paul Minore and combined to earned $1.71 million in lifetime purses. Minore, an active participant on the amateur driving circuit, won the Billings Gold Cup with Another Blizzard in 1999.
Giant Bouncedcheck, also from the “Blizzard” family, was a stakes winner and finished sixth in the 1997 Hambletonian Oaks.
“Believe it or not, I’ve got a descendant of the Blizzards that somebody sent me to break and train out of Mymomsablizzard,” Taylor said. There is still a Blizzard on the farm. It’s amazing how that comes full circle.”
Even after Mr. Gower stepped away from training his own stable, he assisted Taylor on a daily basis. The two worked with future four-time Dan Patch Award winner Anndrovette at ages 2 and 3 as well as millionaires Take My Picture and Melady’s Monet in the early parts of their careers.
Mugshot Jess, owned by Walter and trained by Taylor, has won $621,542 in his career, which continues today at age 12. The gelding finished second by a nose Saturday (June 29) at The Meadowlands.
“The horses that have come through here since I was training, he was on the track with them as much as I was,” Taylor said. “I worked with him my entire life and I never saw him lose patience with a horse one time. He never got angry at a horse.”
Predeceased by his parents Fred and Edith Gower and his beloved son Walter G. Gower Jr., he is survived by his beloved wife of 66 years, Mary Lou Gower (Conrad); two daughters, Susan L. Gower and Sandy E. Gower-Weatherbee; four grandchildren, Kelly Gunther, Taylor Gower and Paige and Ciara Weatherbee; and four great-grandchildren, Luke and Brett Gunther and Avery and Gabe Gower and many dear friends.
Funeral Services will be 11 a.m. Tuesday, July 2, at the Allentown Presbyterian Church, 20 High St., Allentown, NJ. Interment will follow in the church cemetery. Friends may call Monday evening 6 to 8 p.m. at the Peppler Funeral Home, 114 S. Main St, Allentown, NJ. (USTA files)