Richard Cowen
1934 - 2015
Attorney, Republican Secretary/Commissioner of Chicago Election Board, champion of new technologies to serve voters. Died April 19 in California of cancer at age 80. Served 20 yrs. with Chicago Election Board after 15 yrs. as member/chair of State Election Board. Born Nov. 21, 1934 in Chicago to Irwin and Juliette Cowen. Earned business, law degrees at NU. Lived in Arlington Hts. and Barrington before return to Chicago. Lead partner in law firms, most recently Stahl Cowen. Known for warm, sharp sense of humor and passions for family, Lyric Opera, Chicago Bears, Italy and golf. Survived by: loving wife Nadia; sisters Lois Roewade and Cle (Ron) Thompson; children Lisa (Mike) Amantea of Vista, Calif., Susan Cossette of Brisbane, Calif., Scott of Barrington; Steve of San Diego; 11 grandchildren and 1 great-granddaughter. Celebration of life pending. In lieu of flowers, memorials to American Cancer Society.
Published by Chicago Tribune on Apr. 28, 2015.
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24 Entries
Dick was a law school classmate and dear friend. . . We send our deepest sympathies to Nadia and the children.
Mandel and Judy Himelstein
February 4, 2017
Richard was a great friend and attorney to my mother Veva and his loss is a great loss to her. I am sorry to hear of his passing
June 23, 2015
It was a privilege to assist Commissioner Cowen at the Chicago Board of Elections. We have lost a man with a high intellect, a down-to-earth sense of humor, and a strong work ethic. I will miss his knowledge, his great word-smiting ability, and our discussion on operas. Blessings, Richard. And Sympathy to his dear wife and family.

Mary Anne Mupo
May 11, 2015
My memories of your sweet father even so many years ago are of the kindest, most understanding and loving man! He was always happy and very funny when I got to see him and I loved that about him! I wish the entire Cowen family peace and love during this difficult time. Missy
Missy Comfort
May 6, 2015
Richard had such a sharp wit, it was always a pleasure to be around him and to listen to him speak. He was well loved.
Doreen Nelson
May 5, 2015
Stephen Peppa
May 1, 2015
It was a pleasure to read all these wonderful comments from all of Richards co-workers and long time friends. Debbie and I did not work with Richard but enjoyed his company just the same. Richard is the Father or our good friends Scott and Lisa. Years before we met Richard we had the pleasure of growing up with two of his Children. Many of Debbie and my life memories have been with Scott and Lisa. We enjoy every minute with spent with his children and took for granted that their moral and ethical values, their quick Witt and their caring came from some terrific parents. This became apparent when we met Scotts parents.
Over the years we would see Richard when he visited the suburbs. Whether at Taco Tuesday or a backyard barbeque Richard was always warm and welcoming. we knew he had a big career and probably had a lot on his mind, but he always asked questions and listened in earnest. He was quick to offer a funny story and even quicker with an honest laugh after hearing a funny story. He actually enjoyed the diversity of Scott and Lisa's crazy friends. This was a genuine and good man. I trust he will offer great counsel his God and he will be missed. He, as well as his family is in our thoughts and prayers.
Joe & Debbie O'Malley
May 1, 2015
Annika Cowen
April 30, 2015
As a fellow commissioner on the Chicago Board of Elections, Richard was extremely knowledgeable about the election process. He took every comment and recommendation seriously, whether it was from a fellow commissioner or from the public, and always wanted to do what was right and what was in the best interests of Chicago voters. On a personal level, Richard's focus was always on his family and his lovely wife, Nadia. What I will miss most is his wise counsel, his innovative recommendations to improve the Board's processes, his relentless pursuit to maintain the Board's reputation as a first class and cutting edge institution in elections, and his witty humor. May you rest in peace, Richard.
Marisel Hernandez
April 30, 2015
Richard was a clear voice of reason when he served as consultant to our Illinois Township. It was my privilege to work with him. My sincere condolences to you.
Bette Vitale, Social Worker
April 30, 2015
Richard was an outstanding lawyer and friend. As a township Supervisor he taught me what Township govern was; how to handle situations (never steered us wrong; was available ro us , even from Italy one time. He was one of the most caring & compassionate man & made you feel like you were his only client.
He will be sorley missed by those of us who worked with him.
April 29, 2015
Dear Cowen Family, Richard was a great friend and election law guru. I first used his advice and counsel when I first ran for Vernon Township Supervisor in 1977. Later as an Illinois state representative and state senator I conferred with Richard regarding various legislative Bills.. He was always helpful and informative on current election problems. He was one of those rare individuals that loved the law and serving the public.. Richard will be missed by all of us involved in the elective process.
William Peterson, State Senator Ret.
April 29, 2015
My sympathy to the family. Ardel frandsen
April 29, 2015
Richard led with collegiality. Richard was always genuine, thoughtful, and graced us with an amazingly quick wit. Richard promoted and supported the best ideals, but was always quick to share the credit after a mission was accomplished. We've lost a good Commissioner and great friend.
Jim Allen
April 29, 2015
To the Cowen Family, My thoughts and prayers are with you. I worked with Richard for 11 years and he was wonderful to me. He always had legal answers and a laugh or two. His intelligence and genuine caring always showed. He will be missed by so many in Township Government. In condolence, Julie Villarreal
April 28, 2015
My friend Richard inspired the Chicago Election Board's massive focus-group outreach that became the "Voter Engagement Community Forum." Richard also urged the Board to perform long-range, strategic planning.
From these two programs, the Board documented the public's desire for services like online registration, same-day registration, online ballot access for military/overseas voters. The Board then reported these findings to lawmakers, and today, these are all functioning systems under the law.
Richard sought election security and better voter services, which was why he was a leading advocate for Electronic Poll Books. These devices not only flag the records of those who used early or absentee voting to prevent fraud -- but also provide election judges with the ability to help voters who arrive in the wrong polling places. This level of voter service was not possible with the old paper poll books, which only listed the 600 or so records for that precinct. Richard was among those who argued, quite successfully, for Chicago to become the first major jurisdiction in Illinois to deploy this equipment in every precinct.
With growing use of early and absentee voting, Richard sought efficiency in election administration, promoting precinct consolidation so long as those changes would not cause overcrowding.
In Electoral Board cases, Richard asked probing questions and made decisions based on the law. Richard was not guided by partisanship and sided instead with giving candidates access to the ballot whenever possible, regardless of party affiliation. To that end, Richard's most recent 2015 Electoral Board term was marked by the Courts upholding every Chicago case that was challenged.
In sum, throughout Richard's tenure with the Chicago Election Board, he never sought the emblem of reformer. He simply sought reforms.
Above all else, Richard was remarkably effective in using a wonderful and disarming sense of humor whenever appropriate. More than once, Richard's wit even helped defuse tense situations.
Those who had the honor and privilege to work with my friend Richard will always value his vision, dedication, warmth and sincerity.
Langdon Neal
April 28, 2015
He is a great loss to the legal community of township lawyers and be deeply missed by all. Charles Levy
Charles Levy
April 28, 2015
I have argued numerous cases before the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, and each and every time I got fair and honest rulings, thanks in large part to the fact that Richard Cowen would have had it no other way. I'm sure he will be missed by all of us in the Chicago bar of election attorneys.
Adam Lasker
April 28, 2015
Nadia: Anita and I send our deep and sincere condolences
April 28, 2015
My name is David Fishman and I am a court reporter in Chicago. Richard and I worked together since the early '60s. He was an excellent attorney, but most of all a fine man. He will be deeply missed. My deepest condolences to his family.
David Fishman
April 28, 2015
It is with Great sadness that we read of Richards passing. Richard has been our attorney for many years and we will miss his legal mind and sense of humor. There was never a time that when we spoke that a joke or two would work it's way into the conversation. The legal community and numerous Townships have lost a Great attorney and a Great friend!
We will miss him.
Gene Dawson, Supervisor, Board of Trustees, Clerk, Assessor and Staff of Barrington Township.
April 28, 2015
Richard was not only my boss but a very good friend. I most will miss stories and adventures to Italy and other countries. He was a great man and will be missed by all. Gone but never forgotten.
patti battista-adamcik
April 28, 2015
Richard was a very good attorney, a solid professional always, a very good person, and always a friend. Rest in peace Richard as you will be missed but not forgotten. Mike Chmiel
Mike Chmiel
April 28, 2015
To Richard's Family - I worked with Richard for several years at SCCA and he was not only a wonderful boss but a great friend to me. He always took the time to teach me about law, the firm but also we spoke together on life a lot and lessons and how important it was to keep a positive outlook. He was always smiling and bright and a good friend to everyone. Prayers to your family.
Joanne Rhodes
April 28, 2015
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