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Henry Balkcom Dowdell, affectionately known as Bro or Balk was born September 6, 1948, in Americus, Sumter County, Georgia. He departed this life peacefully at age 75 at OSU North Hospital on October 12, 2023. Henry was born to the late William Henry and Ruth Lillian (née Balkcom) Dowdell. Henry was baptized on November 22, 1959, at Fourth Avenue Christian Church.
As part of the Great Migration, Henry moved to Columbus, Ohio in 1951 with his parents and older sister Beverly. He then attended Columbus Public Schools, Pilgram Elementary School, Everett Jr. High and graduated from Central High School, Columbus, Ohio in 1966. During high school, Henry was a member of the Bible Club, Art Club, Hi-Y, Noon Movie, and Wrestling Club.
Small and short in stature, Henry’s presence was always larger than life. With a large booming and deep voice, one always knew when he was in the room. Always the challenger, with his parents’ approval, Henry saved his money and purchased his first motorcycle, a red Honda. He and his cycling friends rode up and down West Fourth Avenue like they owned it. Henry’s young siblings could hear the reaved up motor coming up the street, and their hearts raced in preparation for the cycle show their big brother was about to perform. He did wheelies, spin outs, stood up on his seat with outstretched arms, and rode at high speeds with no hands. It was truly incredible.
Henry was also a natural dancer, and he loved being the first and last person on the dance floor. In his youthful days, he possessed dance moves that rivaled the likes of Jackie Wilson and James Brown.
The Vietnam War loomed large in 1967. At the young age of 19, Henry signed up to be one of the important men in uniform. On August 21, 1967, while serving in the Republic of Vietnam, an AMTRAC military vehicle Henry was riding struck a land mine that exploded the gasoline tank and caught on fire. Henry incurred mixed first and second degree burns of the dorsal surfaces of both forearms and both hands, including flash burns to his face. He was originally treated in the Field Medical Facilities, and then transferred to the Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan. He was later transferred to Alaska, and finally to the Naval Hospital in the Great Lakes Illinois, where he remained another nine months for medical treatment. Henry received an Honorable Discharge, a Purple Heart Medal, National Defense Service Medal, a Vietnam Service Medal with a Bronze star, Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon, a Combat Action Ribbon, a Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, a Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation, and a Good Conduct Medal. Henry was also a highly trained and skilled marksman and was ranked PVT E-3 Rifleman and Sharpshooter.
On June 26, 1971, Henry married the love of his life, his beautiful bride Cecelia Jeanette Smith at Bethany Baptist Church, Columbus, Ohio. He often bragged about the fact that he had been married over forty-three years. This union brought forth two lovely daughters, Nikki, and Raegan Dowdell. Henry adored his daughters and grandchildren, and the word ‘No’ didn’t exist when it came to the needs and desires of his immediate family. He always looked forward to sharing holidays, and especially Thanksgiving with them. Henry was also excited about attending the Dowdell Family Reunions.
Before retiring from AT&T, Henry worked for Ohio Bell Telephone Company. Later, he worked for his friend John Clifton’s company, Central Ohio Communications, which is a phone company service dedicated to installing business phone systems throughout Columbus, Ohio, and surrounding cities and states. Henry’s knowledge and skill set made him the idealserviceman for the White Castle Crew utilizing cellphone technology.
If you knew anything about Henry, you knew of his affinity for his White Castle Morning Crew, which was second only to his love for his family. He was loyal to the daily Castle gatherings that he shared with his lifelong friends. This group of retired gentlemen solved the problems of the world daily. The camaraderie they shared was unmatched. The White Castle Crew was famous for their potluck dinners held at the White Castle, enticing visitors to stop by their table and sample their delicious meals. Their story telling involved life experiences, current events, and sometimes creative embellishment. Each year the White Castle Crew sponsored two annual events – the Martin Luther King Jr., Breakfast, and the Fly Town Reunion Cookout at Goodale Park. Both events were open and free to the public; in addition to fish fries and the other free events they occasionally sponsored.
Believing himself to be a great fisherman, after retirement, Henry also spent many days fishing at Hoover Dam, in Westerville, Ohio, Lake Superior, Michigan and on riverbanks in Fremont, Ohio.