Celebration of Life ~ Elizabeth Lee Sowa
October 11, 1933 ~ October 13, 2017
Elizabeth “Betsy” Sowa, MD, of Livermore, CA, and a leading pediatric eye surgeon, community leader and loving mother, died at the age of 84 on October 13, 2017, surrounded by family, due to complications associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Born in 1933 in Flint, MI, to George Eldred Clark and Leadelle (Gray) Clark, Elizabeth was the youngest of two daughters. She excelled in school, attending the Edison Institute in Greenfield Village before earning her BS in Medical Technology from Michigan State University in 1955. An early pioneer for women in medicine, she earned her MD in 1963 from Washington University Medical School, St. Louis, MO, at a time when it was rare for women to become doctors. She completed her Ophthalmology Residency at the Kresge Eye Institute in Detroit, MI, specializing in pediatric ophthalmology.
Establishing her Evansville, IN, medical practice in 1970, she served as pediatric ophthalmologist for several generations of children in the Evansville Tri-State region, performing thousands of strabismus surgeries to correct eye misalignment in her young patients. She was a Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at the Indiana University Medical School from 1987-1998 and served as President on the Board of the Evansville Association for the Blind during the 1980s. Elizabeth also served in leadership positions with the Vanderburgh County Medical Society and provided free school clinic eye exams in the Vanderburgh County public school system for decades. Elizabeth retired to Incline Village, NV, in 1999.
Elizabeth, known to her friends and family as Betsy, raised her family in Newburgh, IN, where she was elected and served as president to the Newburgh Town Board and was Newburgh’s Street Commissioner and Fire Commissioner. She was an active volunteer with Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, the local NPR and PBS stations, and the Newburgh History Club. She was always looking for ways to help others and was known for her intelligence, sharp wit and sense of humor. A world-traveler who eagerly explored all seven continents, Elizabeth was an avid study of different cultures and an advocate for improving people’s welfare throughout the world.
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Elizabeth loved music, especially classical music, and sang and performed with the University of Evansville Savoyards, the Evansville Choral Artists, the Musicians Club of Evansville Chorus, and the Evansville Philharmonic Chorus. After retiring, she continued to sing with the Reno Philharmonic Chorus and various choral groups in Incline Village, NV. In 2011, Elizabeth moved to Livermore, CA, where she truly enjoyed being with her family, making friends in her new community, and attending music concerts.
Elizabeth leaves her three sons and their families, Erik Sowa & Genevieve Getman-Sowa of Livermore, CA; Kurt & Carrie Sowa of Shingle Springs, CA; and Karl Sowa & Tom Rieber of Salt Lake City, UT; and ex-husband Ronald W. Sowa of Maui, HI. She is survived by grandchildren Karen and Rachel Sowa; Katerina (Sowa) & Anton Neff; and Kraig Sowa. She was predeceased by her father and mother, George and Leadelle Clark, and sister, Diane (Clark) Venman.
A celebration of her life is planned for January 20, 2018, in Livermore, CA. All friends & family are invited to attend. In lieu of flowers, donations in her name can be made to Washington University School of Medicine at medicine.wustl.edu.
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