"He didn't take his retirement like he intended to," said Woodley. "He told them he would come back 'til the end of this year, or 'til he finished that new job he was on."
His wife and mother died within days of each other about 3 ½ years ago, and about a year ago, Rowan moved from Mesa, Ariz., back to Oregon, taking over his family's A-frame cabin in Sumpter, a town of about 200 people in the Elkhorn Mountains, they said. He had put a new roof on it and was remodeling the interior.
A photo on Facebook shows him standing outside the cabin holding a huge icicle.
Sumpter was settled during the Gold Rush in the 1860s. The story goes that it was named for Fort Sumter, S.C., where the first shots of the Civil War were fired, after someone found a rock as round as a cannonball. There is no traffic light. The school shut down long ago and is now used as a community center. There is a motel, three restaurants, and a gas station. Every summer, big flea markets draw thousands of visitors.
When Rowan was home, City Recorder Julie McKinney would know it by the wood smoke curling out of his chimney.
"Everybody knew Gordon," she said.
Rowan would regularly stop by the Miner's Exchange tavern for a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and to talk with longtime friends, said Woodley, who owns the tavern and a gold mine still operating outside town.
"I was all the time telling him, 'You know, that's not good,'" the security situation in Algeria, Woodley said. "He always said, 'No, it's all secure.' That's all he ever said."