Ann Gowen Combs

April 29, 1935 – October 15, 2019

Ann Gowen Combs

Longtime resident of Bainbridge Island, Ann Gowen Combs died October 15 at age 84. She was born in the Philippines and spent her childhood with her brother and parents in the mountain village of Besao, where her father was an Episcopalian missionary.

In April 1942, during World War II, the village was invaded by Japanese troops and civilians were taken prisoner. They were held for three years in dire conditions, until February 4, 1945, when they were liberated by the American Army. Ann was nine.

The family settled on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Ann enrolled for school at Annie Wright Seminary in Tacoma, and then attended Smith College, where she graduated with a degree in English. Soon after, she met Joseph R. Combs, Jr., who was on leave from the Air Force. They wed in 1957 in Wichita Falls, Texas. Together – and with a growing family – they traveled to his assignments until Joe’s retirement from 20 years the military, in 1970.

With their six children, Ann and Joe returned to live on Bainbridge Island, where they raised the kids, remodeled their house, and embraced island life. Once, Ann even joined the quirky Scotch Broom Parade: In long johns, sunglasses, and a scotch-broom crown, she let her hair down, rode the neighbor’s horse, and went as Lady Godiva. No one knew who it was. The kids all stayed home that year.

Too soon, in early 1988, Joe died of cancer. Ann carried on. It took almost thirty-two years for them to be together again.

A humor columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Ann also published three memoirs and a children’s book. She loved reading, and shared her enthusiasm with others as a bookseller for more than 20 years at the island’s Eagle Harbor Book Company, where she retired less than a week before she died. She always had a good book to recommend.

Ann enjoyed playing solitaire at the kitchen table, solving the New York Times crossword, and telling bawdy jokes. In her free time, she volunteered at the History Museum, joined her weekly walking group, and cheered for the Seahawks and the Mariners. All of her children learned: Don’t ever call during Jeopardy.

Ann was preceded in death by her husband Joe, and her parents Frances Olin Gowen and the Reverend Vincent H. Gowen. She is survived by her brother Geoffrey, her six children, and multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 11am on Saturday, November 16th, at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, 1187 Wyatt Way NW, Bainbridge Island, with reception to follow. Friends are invited to share memories in the family’s online guestbook at

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