This summer a private gathering in New York City will be held to remember a former local newspaper owner.
Gardner “Pat” Cowles III died Jan. 25 in Naples, Florida, at the age of 82. A throat cancer survivor, Cowles was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer six weeks before his death.
Cowles owned The Three Village Herald for decades before he sold it to Robert Hendriks. The latter owned it for a short time before selling it in 2001 to The Village Times owner and publisher Leah Dunaief. The merger of the publications created The Village Times Herald as it is known today.
The Three Village Herald office was once attached to the Carriage Museum on Route 25A in Stony Brook, and Cowles also ran a printing business from the office.
Gloria Rocchio, president of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, remembered Cowles and said he contributed to the restoration at the Brewster House in East Setauket.
“The one thing I remember about Pat Cowles is he was rarely sitting behind a desk,” she said. “You would find him in the press room tinkering with the typesetting or printing press. The years he spent in Stony Brook are still evident in the business community and the historic properties he helped support.”
Cowles was also the former owner of The Sag Harbor Express. Bryan Boyhan, publisher emeritus of the Express, said that Cowles bought the East End paper in 1988. At that point, it had been owned by only two families since it was founded in 1859. When Cowles purchased the business, the owner, Victoria Gardner, was bedridden. Boyhan said she would lay out the paper on a lap board with a can of rubber cement and scissors. At the time, the paper’s staff was small, and content was sparse.
Boyhan said Gardner believed that Sag Harbor should have a paper or its own.
“She was determined until she found somebody that she felt comfortable turning the paper over and that was Pat Cowles,” he said. “They met a number of times and negotiated the purchase, and she thought the world of him.”
Cowles turned the paper around, and it went on to win numerous awards from the New York Press Association. In 2000 Boyhan became publisher and part owner when he said Cowles “wanted to step back a bit from his role at the paper.” In 2012, Boyhan became full owner. Despite moving to Florida, Cowles would come to The Sag Harbor Express office every day when he was in town.
“He enjoyed being around people in the business,” Boyhan said.
Born in Des Moines, Iowa, March 6, 1936, Cowles was born into a publishing family. His father, Gardner “Mike” Cowles II was a newspaper publisher and the founder and publisher of Look magazine. When his family business Cowles Communication created the Suffolk Sun, a six-day-a-week daily, on Long Island in the mid-1960s, Cowles was made publisher.
During his career, Cowles also owned the Riverhead News-Review and the Shelter Island Reporter. He was a trustee of The Cowles Charitable Trust, which was established by his father to promote education, social justice, health and the arts. Among the organizations he contributed to was Fighting Chance, a free cancer counseling center on the East End of Long Island.
Cowles is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; step-daughter, Bonnie Hoye; sisters Katie Nichols and Virgina Cowles and several nieces, nephews and cousins.