Lee Pownell, 73, passed away peacefully – surrounded by family and toe tappin’ to Johnny Cash – on Feb. 24, 2022, in Newton. Lee was born the first (and rowdiest) of three boys to Milton and Mary Pownell on Aug. 10, 1948, at Halstead Hospital in Halstead. Lee attended Halstead High School in Halstead, but, like any good rebel, he made sure to get kicked out. (Luckily for his family, although he never did learn to ask for permission, he eventually learned to ask for forgiveness.) Lee went on to obtain an Associate of Science degree from Hutchinson Junior College in Hutchinson, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Wichita State University in Wichita.
Lee was a true-blue country boy who was blessed with a genius-level IQ and a stubborn but tenacious spirit. Lee enjoyed Kansas fall weather, the Kansas Jayhawks, the mountains in the west, chopping firewood, building or repairing anything, big red barns, wildlife (especially wolves), classic country music, Westerns and – especially – his own (many) garages. Lee looked forward to the Kansas autumn auction season every year, and, even if he bought a little too much, it was always astonishingly organized in the incredible double-decker garage that he designed himself.
Notwithstanding his enjoyment of the outdoors, as a young man, Lee had the vision to see that computers were the future. Using his ability to teach himself anything, Lee became an early computer programmer in the 1980s. His computer-programming career spanned for decades and he worked at both Farmland Industries in Hutchinson, and his alma mater, Wichita State University. Lee also taught himself auto mechanics, much to the dismay of his daughters (as there was never an excuse to buy a new car).
Lee had the good fortune to meet the beautiful Barbara – his wife of more than 50 years – while draggin’ Main Street in Newton in the 1960s. Lee spotted Barbara in the moonlight, hard at work sweeping the lot at A&W Drive-In, and he took a chance and asked her for a date. She agreed to one date, but Lee knew he had to double down (and he also knew there was no way he could show up to take Otto’s daughter out on a date on a motorcycle), and so he made sure to buy a brand-new Oldsmobile the next day. Lee and Barbara were blessed with two spunky daughters, Jessy and Katie, who traveled the world but would always take the dirt roads back home to see his newest additions to the garagestead.
Lee is survived by wife, Barbara Dalke Pownell, of Newton; daughter, Jessica Leigh (Camilo), of Tampa, Fla.; daughter, Katherine Michelle (Kartheek), of San Francisco, Calif.; brother David (Helene), of Manhattan; sister-in-law, Pamela (Victor) Garcia, of Newton and sister-in-law, Ruth Jacob of Halstead.
Lee was preceded in death by father Milton Pownell, mother Mary Clupny Pownell, brother John Pownell, father- and mother-in-law Otto Dalke and Wilma Welty Dalke, and brother-in-law Michael Dalke.
Funeral service was at 2 p.m., Tuesday, March 1, at Petersen Funeral Home Chapel 215 North Main Newton, with Pastor Chip Bungard presiding. Visitation was 5-9 p.m., Monday, at the funeral home. Burial will be in the Greenwood Cemetery, Newton.
Memorials may be made to First Baptist Church Newton, Kansas
“So I fiddle when I can, work when I should. Thank God, I’m a country boy.”
– John Denver