Janesville33.2°

Hard work defined Janesville businessman

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Catherine W. Idzerda
July 27, 2011
— Robert Mowris' formula for life had three parts: Hard work, good ideas and then more hard work.

It was a formula that carried him a long way.


On Saturday, Mowris, a former Janesville businessman and entrepreneur, died at his home in Madison.


Mowris, along with Ray Johnson, Al Phillips and Charles Schaff, started Accudyne in 1971. At the height of its success, the business, which specialized in military ordinance parts, provided about 500 jobs. Alliant Techsystems later acquired it.


Part of his "nose-to-the-grindstone" work ethic was practical, said his son, Gerald Mowris.


"He had nine kids to support," Gerald Mowris said.


But more than that, he had a mind full of ideas, and wasn't afraid to try them out, his son said.


For a while, Mowris and a friend tried a tire-retreading business, but it wasn't as successful as he hoped.


While working at Gibbs Corporation in Janesville, he founded and operated "51 Fairways," a golf driving range on the site that is now home to Pick 'n Save, 1717 Center Ave., Janesville.


His kids remember working every morning, May to October, picking up golf balls. Their pay? Six-ounce bottles of soda.


Mowris, a 1950 graduate of the University of North Dakota College of Engineering, came to Janesville in 1952 to work at Gibbs Corporation. He started as a project engineer, and by 1968, he was vice president and general manager of the company.


Despite dedication to his work, Mowris was willing to leave his work behind when he was at home.


Anthony Grant of Clinton worked for Mowris at Accudyne.


"He was the hardest man I ever worked for, but I respected him the most," Grant said. "He was very driven. He gave 110 percent and nothing less from us."


But when Grant and Mowris were away from work, golfing or involved in some other activity, the businessman didn't say "two words" about the job, Grant said.


A 1968 Gazette article announcing his promotion to vice president noted that he served as a cub master at Washington School for four years and a member of the Oak Ridge Ski Club.


Mowris loved golfing and fishing and always included his kids on his outings and trips, Gerald Mowris said.


When one of his sons was sick in the hospital with a degenerative disease, Mowris did whatever was necessary to see him.


"They had strict visiting hours, and because my dad worked all day, he couldn't get into the hospital during the regular times," Gerald Mowris said. "He used to sneak into the hospital the back way, and sneak around the nurses and nuns to bring his son a comic book."



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