Folsom Funeral Service

McDowell, Putnam B.

McDowell, Putnam

Putnam Ballou McDowell, age 93, died on Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at his home in Westwood, MA following an extended illness. He is survived by his beloved wife of twenty seven years, Rosamond “Robin” (Brooks) McDowell and by four daughters, and a son from his marriage to Margaret “Retta” Ferguson McDowell, eleven grandchildren, and seven great-grand children; Margaret Putnam Lofberg of Ricketsons Point, South Dartmouth, MA and Cumberland Island, GA and her husband Per, Lucy Karrys of Payson, AZ and her husband, George, Barbara McDowell of Dartmouth, MA and former husband, Bruce Read, Martha Ferguson McDowell and her husband James Sandall of Fernandina Beach, FL and Cumberland Island, GA, and Putnam Ricketson McDowell and his wife, Georgiana “Annie” of New Bedford, MA. Surviving him as well are four step children, four step grandchildren and five step great grandchildren: Timothy Lee and wife Margaret of Brookline, MA, Rosie Lee of Westlake Village, CA, Pamela Jennings and husband John Jennings of Orlando, FLA, and Dr. Ellen Lee of Edgecomb ME. In addition, he is survived by a half brother, Latimer “Tim” Ballou Eddy of Westfield MA and his wife, Barbara, a half sister, Linda “Lindy” Baratta of Brecksville, Ohio, a sister in law, Barbara Swanback Eddy of Pepperell, MA, a first cousin, Renalla “Rennie” Putnam Duncan and her husband, Charles “Chuck”, of Andover, and many beloved nieces, nephews. Preceding him in death are a granddaughter, Anna Ricketson Lofberg, his brother, Robert “Bob” Corwin McDowell, a half brother, Spencer “Si” Deming Eddy Jr. of Pepperell MA., a niece Karin Ballou Eddy, also of Pepperell, , and his parents, Barbara (Gagon) Ballou Eddy, and Putnam McDowell, and a step father, Spencer “Spen” Deming Eddy. A native of the Boston area, Putnam McDowell attended the Charles River School, the Park School, Noble & Greenough School, Harvard College and Harvard Business School. Putnam was the eldest child of Putnam McDowell and Barbara Ballou McDowell. His Ballou, Chilton, White and Winslow ancestors were among the original settlers of the Plymouth Colony, and of Providence Plantation (Rhode Island). The Putnams and the Blakes were early settlers of Salem Village and Boston. Putnam entered Harvard (Class of 1946) in July of 1942. In early 1943 McDowell left Harvard’s Naval Reserve Program for active duty as an Air Force fighter pilot. During the second stage of his flight training he graduated #2 in a class of 600 pilots. In 1944-45 he flew 50 photo reconnaissance missions in unarmed P-38s over New Guinea, Borneo, the China coast, Formosa and Japan from bases in New Guinea, the Philippines and Okinawa. He earned six battle stars, the Air Medal with cluster, The Presidential Unit Citation, and a special commendation for a mission in support of MacArthur’s 1945 American invasion of Luzon at Lingayan Gulf. In the years spanning 1946 to 1950 McDowell completed his work at Harvard (College & Business School) and married Margaret “Retta” Ferguson McDowell. He moved with his growing family to Pittsburgh, PA to work at the Scaife Company, a manufacturer of pressure vessels. In 1955 he joined the Pittsburgh Coke and Chemical Co., currently the Hillman Company, a diversified, privately-owned holding company. In time he became Sr. V.P. and Director of Hillman Co.. He was the CEO of several Hillman subsidiaries, including Marion Power Shovel, a world leader in the manufacture of very large power shovels and drag lines. McDowell took early retirement from Hillman in 1979 and for a time was a consultant to Cordelia Scaife May and her holding company, Roldiva. In 1982 he became CEO of Mesta Machine Co (NYSE) once the world leader in the manufacture of steel rolling mills and large forging presses. When then leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Krushev, visited the U.S., the only company he asked to visit was Mesta, whose ability to cast and machine very large components of its machines and of naval guns was appealing to the Russians. Amidst the 1980’s collapse of its steel industry’s customers, McDowell ran a successful reorganization of Mesta, renaming it Mestek. For this, the Pittsburgh Business Times awarded him its annual Enterprise Award for “Visionary Risk Taking and Superior Business Skills”. In 1986 Mestek was the surviving company in a merger with a profitable private company, Reed National of Westfield, MA. Reed made good use of Mestek’s NYSE listing and of its tax loss carry forwards. McDowell served as the chairman of the merged company until he retired in 1990 at age 66. Throughout his years in Pittsburgh, Mr. McDowell sat on numerous boards including The Western PA School for the Blind, and Magee Women’s Hospital, among others. He served for many years as Head of the Board of Trustees at The Winchester Thurston School where all of his four daughters were students. The school honored him in 2015 for having saved adjacent property from sale during financial difficulties during his tenure. Winchester’s upper school now sits on that property. He was surprised to find this among his most gratifying accomplishments. His commitment to family ran deep and extended to his then wife’s family, his mother and father-in-law of Cumberland Island, Georgia and countless nieces, nephews, and cousins who spent extended time there. From the late 1950s through the early 1970s McDowell, along with two other family members, worked tirelessly to keep the island out of the hands of developers, to insure that his mother-in-law Lucy Ricketson Ferguson, the only full time resident of the island, would be able to live her life out there, that other family members would retain use of their land and homes if they wished, and that the island would be preserved in perpetuity for the public to enjoy without compromising its pristine, natural beauty. Those goals were realized and in October, 1972 the Island was designated a National Seashore. McDowell lived in the Shady Side section of Pittsburgh and owned a farm north of the city from the late 1950’s until after he retired to New England in 1990. He was an avid photographer, gardener, outdoorsman, huntsman, and gentleman farmer, raising chickens, pigs, pheasants, ducks, and a small herd of Hereford cattle. He worked with The Western PA Conservancy and planted thousands of trees to provide habitat for wild life. The farm, with the help of Arthur Kinney, a local teenage boy who came to work and stayed for decades, grew from its original sixty run-down acres to three hundred acres of thriving fields, woodlands, and ponds. On his retirement and return to New England and to a life long summer haunt at Nonquitt in South Dartmouth, MA, Putnam was reacquainted with a college sweetheart, Robin Brooks Lee. They were married in 1990 and settled in Dedham, MA, moving in more recent years to Fox Hill Village in nearby Westwood.  A service in Putnam’s memory will be held at 11:00 AM Saturday, January 13th at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 59 Court Street, Dedham, MA.

Guestbook Entries

  1. John B. Glore
    January 12th, 2018 | 6:57 pm

    Dear Robin,

    I was quite saddened to read the notice of Putty’s death. I had seen him recently in the Fox Hill cafe and hoped that meant he wad recovering.

    We are all diminished when a good man like Putty dies.

    My best regards yo you


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