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I.E. Celebrates Life of Sonny McDowell

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By Cheryl Brown

Hundreds attended the funeral service for the late Sonny McDowell, a former high school and college athlete. If you didn’t know Sonny when he was alive, it is your loss.

He was strictly the most comical, sensitive, fun loving people loving, husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and friend there was.
Rev. Lenton Lenoir, pastor of Holyland Church of God In Christ in San Bernardino, said more than once that he had never seen a service like this one. McDowell’s service was a "homegoing celebration,” said Pastor Josh Beckley of Ecclesia. His nieces, nephew, sister-in-law, friends and even the Deputy Chief at the sheriff’s department where he was employed, spoke about him.
The speakers established his personality and his love for food, laughter and sports. One niece, who looked to be a size 16, told a story about when she came in his house and he shouted "hide the food" and as she walked out the garage he said tell me this... how did you get out of that little door, "the garage door". The congregation laughed.
Lorraine, his sister-in-law, was very serious when she spoke of how much she would miss him helping her to buy a car. Then she broke up the crowd when she said, "but the supermarket will really miss him".
Known for his cooking, most talked about something always cooking at his house. He was known for his barbecue. One of his sisters told the family that someone better get ready to take his place, "somebody got to learn how to barbecue," she said. His oldest grandson talked about him as a disciplinarian and said, "if we acted up he’d get on us. But one time I was sleeping on his couch, and I began dreaming of waterfalls, when I woke up I saw him pouring water on my face and then he started fussing at me for drooling!
Deputy Chief Mike Stodelle, followed suit when he spoke on behalf of the department. In his capacity of cook at the sheriff’s department he would fix him jalapeno omelets. "I told him I didn’t want no sissy omelet. So one day he fixed me one. The next day, talk about a tender moment," said Stodelle.
Ministers had nothing but good things to say about McDowell. Rev. Josh Beckley had people on their feet. "God left you a legacy of laughter," said Beckley.
From 23 rd Psalms (1-6), Lenton Lenior said that surely goodness and mercy shall follow me." Upright and a person of integrity." Out of the abundance of the heart out the mouth speaketh. Lenoir spoke of how around the church McDowell helped with many of the food projects. His wife Margie is an active 30-year member. If we live, as the Lord would have us to live, then” goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life," said Lenior. "He restoreth my soul, that means he will bring you back into fellowship with him" he said.
Kids loved him. He was at all of their little league games; Pop Warner Football games and children from many generations knew and loved him. “Sonny” was the last child born to the late Ola and Richard McDowell on November 21, 1939 in Riverside, California.
San Bernardino High School graduate Justin Lee said, “he showed great support to the team. It was like losing a family member seeing him at every practice game. We’ll miss him.”
Sonny was baptized at an early age under the supervision of Rev. Freeman Williams. He attended school in San Bernardino and graduated from Pacific High School 1958. He attended San Bernardino Valley College before he volunteered for the Armed Services. Sonny met and married Margie Woods and was happily married for forty-two years. During this time, three children were born, Sherry, Karen, and Rick.
Sonny was employed at A.M. Lewis for eight years. He was employed by the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department for fourteen years as a cook and Sheriff’s Custody Assistant. Sonny was an outstanding athlete as a youngster. He was an all C.B.L. running back at his alma mater Pacific High School, both his junior and senior years. Sonny was Pacific’s M.V.P. in 1957-58, which was the year that he graduated. Before Pacific closed and later re-opened he held all of the school’s rushing records. Later that year for the 1958-59 football season Sonny attended San Bernardino Valley College where he was injured while playing the position of running back.
Later in life Sonny became devoted to the children of San Bernardino’s westside, where he would spend countless hours with Little League, Jr. All American, Track and Field and other sports. He was inducted into the Black Athlete’s Hall of Fame in 1975.
He leaves to cherish his memory a devoted wife Margie Green and Karen Brown, one son Willis Rick McDowell all of San Bernardino; six sisters Arline Henry of Stockton, Leotra Metoyer of Fontana, Betty Jennings of Manteca, Dorothy Ducksworth of San Bernardino; Lillie Thurman of Rialto and Donna Armstead of Tulsa, Oklahoma, four brothers L.V. and Alfred McDowell of Sacramento, Edison and McKinley McDaniels of San Bernardino, one sister-in-law LaVerne Sampson; eight grandchildren and a host of relatives and friends.

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