Gordon Mowrer remembered
He was a politician, a businessman and a pastor in the Moravian Church.
He was called “The Main Street Mayor,” “The Comeback Kid,” and “Gordy.”
He was many things to many people in his 80 years, but Gordon Mowrer was, above all else, a family man and a friend to anybody who needed one.
Indeed, he was considered a confidant and mentor by a generation that today fills leadership roles throughout the area, from city hall to Northampton County Courthouse and everywhere in between.
“In all the years I sat and had lunch with him I never heard him speak ill of anybody,” said current Mayor Bob Dochez. “He always looked for the good in people, enjoyed serving people. He really loved his family, his faith and the city.”
Longtime friend and business partner Bill Kreitz said Mowrer led by example and developed the model for associates at Hampson Mowrer Kreitz Insurance that’s remained integral since the early 70s.
“Those of us who worked for him really benefitted from his leadership,” Kreitz said, in pursuing corporate citizenship in time, talent and the organizations the company supports.
“He believed strongly in building leadership in everybody. He had high moral and ethical standards, always doing what was right for the customer. Giving back was part of who he was.
“I owe him a lot.”
Former Mayor Ken Smith met Mowrer when he moved to the area from Atlanta in 1971, and they remained close while serving on boards and the public despite their political affiliations.
“I was kind of an enigma, a Republican in Bethlehem, but it had no effect on our relationship. I don’t think party mattered to Gordon. He was bipartisan.
“People expect mayors to be above the fray, aloof. That wasn’t Gordy. He was a part of things.”
Smith said the history of the city and Main Street in particular meant a lot to Mowrer, and his work to reinforce its Victorian character and his vision of its potential when downtowns were largely suffering have been a great benefit to Bethlehem.
“I think to Gordon’s credit he saw the key to the district’s historic character. He was right – now [Main Street] is kind of the envy of the Lehigh Valley.”
Smith said Mowrer had a friendly nature and was always positive, always looking to connect. “He liked people and they liked him back.
“He was a wonderful guy.”
Donchez said he and county District Attorney John Morganelli met Mowrer as young teenage volunteers working in his 1969 mayoral campaign, and in that failed effort and others he was always gracious and patient. He was a man who always thought of the community first and set aside disagreements when a path forward became clear. Following another lost campaign in 1977, Mowrer told him amiably, “Bob, that defeat made me a better person.”
Morganelli said Mowrer was an incredibly gifted person who made his community a better place to live.
“Through the years, my admiration for him grew. He was an honest public servant and a compassionate person.”
He said Mowrer was there for at the passing of his father at St. Luke’s Hospital in 2004.
“Gordon happened to be there at 1 a.m. helping folks and he spent hours with me, consoling me and helping me through a tough night. I will never forget that - I will never forget the man who was one of my mentors in life - a role model for honest public service.”
Donchez had similar example of Mowrer being at his side, when his mother died four years ago and long before that.
“We spent a lot of time on the phone. I lost my father when I was 18, and he was there. He was comforting and he was always listening. I had a lot of respect for my friend and mentor.
“I was very lucky that I had a good friend for a good many years.”