The secret of a long life and a happy marriage

Marlow and Frances Cowan have become YouTube sensations.

Marlow and Frances Cowan have become YouTube sensations.

Hey! I thought this was supposed to be a blog about music! Well, keep reading and you’ll see the connection. Last night Carl and I happened upon a PBS program called “Need to Know” and the segment detailed two couples, one of whom has been married for 63 years and the other 49. The premise of the program, called “Heathily ever after, or why marriage is good for you,” was that a happy marriage is a recipe for living longer. The first couple they interviewed was Frances and Marlow Cowan of Ankeny, Iowa, who have been married for 63 years. You can see a video of the full-length program by clicking here.

“We know them!” Carl exclaimed. They in fact have a connection to LCH because what the program didn’t explain is that Marlow Cowan has a business called CBR Handbell Repair Service, and he and his wife, Frances, have been involved in fixing broken handbells since 1953. We have been sending them our broken handbells for years, in fact, when LCH first purchased its 5-octave set of Petit and Fritsen bells, we immediately sent the entire set to Marlow to replace the original handles which were unusable. He also replaced all the handles for St. Andrew’s Priory’s set of bells when I directed the handbell choirs there, as well as the 2-octave set which Carl and I own. Marlow (at age 91) is still involved in the business and going strong. Both the Cowans are in their 90s.

Marlow and Frances Cowan love handbells.

Marlow and Frances Cowan love handbells.

Here’s some information I found on the Cowans: In 1954, the Cowans founded the “Y.M.C.A. Boys Chorus and Bell Ringers” and “Choral Belles” girls choir, of Des Moines, IA, which they directed for 27 years.  The choirs, which boasted 50+ members in each group, toured the U.S. and abroad regularly, singing and ringing.  Through the years, over 500 children treated audiences, ringing handbells, as well as some highly unusual, novelty instruments such Deagan shaker chimes, Deagan cricket bells, saucer, piccolo, and cow bells.  CBR Handbell Repair, their refurbishing business, has been transforming old bells into new for over 40 years.  About 1500 bells pass through their shop every year. Although retired from the Y.M.C.A. Chorus, the Cowans still actively promote the art of ringing by helping churches and community groups to start handbell choirs.  They provide “loaner sets” for those waiting for their new bells to arrive, and give workshops on ringing, organizing and directing bell choirs.  They direct the youth and adult bell choirs at their church, and the two do 8-10 solo/duet performances per year on handbells and their other novelty instruments.

Something we did not know before watching last night’s program is that Marlow and Frances Cowan have a YouTube video which has gone viral, with over 7 million views! When they visited the Mayo Clinic (for a physical), they happened upon a piano in the waiting room and decided to try it out. The result was a delightful duet which you can see by clicking here. No wonder it has gone viral!

There are several follow-up videos posted by the Mayo Clinic which show the Cowans’ return to play a recital, which you can view here. They even appeared on Good Morning America!

Well, if music is part of what made the Cowans’ marriage happy, then we’re set. On July 15th, Carl and I will celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary, and we too have had many musical memories and adventures. And it all started at LCH.

About Katherine Crosier

In addition to playing the organ I am interested in documenting life's special moments through journaling, scrapbooking, photography and slideshow production. My family just groans.
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One Response to The secret of a long life and a happy marriage

  1. Gordon Black says:

    My wife & I are dropping off the church’s 3-octave set of Whitechapel bells at CBR this morning. We brought them from Wellington OH. After seeing your blog, I am more anxious than ever to meet the Cowans. I have only had phone conversations with them.

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