Rudy Rowell,aka RK Rowell, aka Vigoboom
This is a tribute to our friend Rudy Rowell, RK Rowell, Vigoboom. Many of you have known our beloved Rudy his whole life, some during school and others in his later years where he reinvented himself as an artist. I would say he has been an artist his whole life- the art of making and being a friend to others.
I only knew Rudy for 3 years. We met at an art market and instantly became friends. I would gradually find that Rudy had this ability to make and keep friends for decades because of his endearing charm and grace of making everyone else feel special.We would set our tents next to each other and through the corner of my eye would watch as he nodded heads with each new person, making them smile. They always left with one of his paintings- not just because he was a fantastic painter, but because he was a truly special person and they bought into that- literally.
I never knew Rudy as a young man growing up in Mississippi, or as a teacher and bandleader. But over the three short years I knew him, I met the lives he touched as they came by during events or as he spoke of them. He often stayed connected with people he had to let go when he worked with for a Casino.I believe he commented that it was a perfect job for him because he understood people and appreciated them even when they could not do their jobs right. This is so true.
As we became closer friends he shared his family and the illness of his family members with us . I witnessed the courage and compassion and sense of humor that had brought him to where he was to that day. Rudy’s grief and sentimentality for his grandmother was evident. He often spoke of her, the things she cooked and the way certain scents reminded him of her. He missed her dearly and lamented her passing.
Rudy’s sense of kindness was also present with the extended illness and inevitable passing of his stepmother Jeanie and his father Joe. Rudy was the patriarch of his family and took responsibility for their care and comfort. His brother’s Len’s death had left him the oldest brother and it was a burden but he took it on, knowing he was strong enough to do so.
Rudy’s strong sense of fairness and community came from his mother Sherry. I had never met a family where the ex wives were friends and the son called his mother by her first name.Both Brett, Sherry and Rudy bantered about with each other like best friends- bound in grief, they uttered out one-liners with an abundance and easy confidence of family members who knew each other truly well. And they did.
Rudy’s fairness and ability to make others feel special was no more apparent when he and his brother bonded together after the death of their father, Joe. Rudy remarked several times how grateful he was that he and Brett became closer after their father’s passing. He was enamored of Brett’s talent as a musician which only became known to the world after his death.
Rudy’s ability to share his grief over his father, stepmother,grandmother and brothers Len and Brett his kindness and his ability to make us smile were no more apparent than with his friends. Rudy was torn over moving back to Bay St. Louis to be with his best friend Bryan or move closer to New Orleans where his business was. He often said his heart was at the coast. Bryan was a significant part of that.
Rudy had the uncanny generosity of spirit to encourage and spark the best in what he called, his “tribe” of friends. Whether bonded by disappointment,creativity or a sense of fun, Rudy made you feel like he was your biggest fan. Because he was.
He loved his friend Christie for her take charge attitude and his doll-face Heather because of her work ethic among myriad of qualities he appreciated. He commiserated in late night phone calls with Sherry Dole, another talented artist looking for her breakthrough. Justyn was like his own son. He was your biggest fan.
There are so many people I’d like to mention that Rudy spoke of and spoke of often-Paula, Valerie,so many people, he loved you, thought of you and wished only the best for you. I know there are others I cannot recall in grief, but you were adored. Each one.
Rudy took so many of us in, last but not least his dog Finn and reluctant newcomer Don Draper. Finn was his heart and only got the best that Rudy had to share. He was lucky to have had such a good daddy. Don Draper the cat was going to come around. Any day now.
Rudy was appreciative of his success and wanted to share it with us all in his new gallery in Covington. He wanted to “get off of the streets” and was tired of the relentless circuit and politics of art markets. Everyone wanted his work but what they really wanted was a piece of his love. He had so much love to give and gave it freely, with a bit of sarcasm and home truths thrown in.You cant talk about Rudy without thinking of his wit and ability to poke fun at our own shortcomings. We needed it, we needed him and we will miss him dearly.
One of Rudy’s favorite movies was Steel Magnolias. a quote” I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.” We’ve had 46 years of wonderful. We are so grateful.