Surprise party for McGowan is one for the history books

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Louis McGowan, president of the Johnston Historical Society, had quite a surprise on a recent Sunday morning.

All McGowan knew was that his wife, Bel McGowan, was taking him to a breakfast brunch at Parma Ristorante at 2646 Putnam Pike in Smithfield.

Even when McGowan arrived at the restaurant and saw some of his closest friends and sister, Adrienne McGowan, he still didn’t know what was about to transpire.

“I’m naïve!” he exclaimed with a smile.

Soon thereafter, when he saw Historical Society treasurer Joe Jamroz and Jim and Alice Lombari – who through the years have opened their historic homestead in Johnston for the nonprofit’s Christmas parties – he still didn’t realize it was his birthday bash.

However, once reality hit home, McGowan was “very, very touched.”

“Hey Lou, Bel really knows how to throw a party,” Jamroz said. “You deserve this; we’re all honored to be here and help celebrate your 72nd birthday.”

Warren Lanpher, principal of Circa 1700 Inc., and his wife, Ellen, came from their home in Saunderstown to “salute a close friend through the years and congratulate McGowan for his tireless historical works.”

McGowan has been involved with the Johnston Historical Society for 35 years, serving as president for 27 of them.

Lanpher, who is widely sought after because of his historic home creations, added: “Lou has been an icon throughout Rhode Island when it comes to history. We’re honored to be here and thank him for leading the [Johnston] Historical Society to the summit in our state.”

The soft-spoken McGowan – who is an author, father, husband and dedicated volunteer extraordinaire – simply smiled through it all and issued a heart-warming thank you as he went from table-to-table shaking hands with his grand guests.

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