Cover photo for Eleanore McGowan's Obituary
Eleanore McGowan Profile Photo
1926 Eleanore 2020

Eleanore McGowan

June 2, 1926 — November 24, 2020

Forest Lake

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Eleanore Mary (Osterbauer) McGowan, age 94, Forest Lake, MN died at home surrounded by family on Tuesday, November 24, 2020.  She was born June 2, 1926 in Wyoming, MN, daughter of Mathias (1895-1971) and Barbara (Saftner) Osterbauer (1901-1974).  She grew up on their farm, surrounded by children, animals, gardens, pastures and fields.  She learned the art of hot dishes and overcooking dinner, raising gophers in a barrel, playing in the haymow, using horse-drawn wagons, and the chores of farm life.  On her Depression-era farm of sandy soils, make-dos were common and shoes were seasonal.  She walked the railroad tracks to her elementary school in Wyoming, MN when she could not catch a ride with the creamery truck.  She is a 1944 graduate of Forest Lake High School.

Eleanore married Jack LeRoy McGowan (1924-2018) of Forest Lake on June 11, 1952, eloping to Wisconsin and a honeymoon on Lake Superior.  They raised two sons during 65 years of marriage.  She is preceded in death by her mother and father, husband, sisters, Isabel (1923-1942) and Anna (1928-1950), and brothers, Thomas (1924-1962) and William (1930-2018).  She is survived by sons Max (Lynette) and Perry (Sheila), sister, Mary Ellen (Jacob) Clement and brother, Lee Roy (Cathy) Osterbauer and their families.

She attended Keister’s Ladies’ Tailoring College, graduating in 1949, where she increased her love of fashion and textile arts, and then St. Catherine’s College for its liberal arts. Her working career began as a nanny for the Heim family in Forest Lake establishing relationships she always cherished.  She later joined Northwestern Bell Telephone Co as a telephone operator in Forest Lake, and in downtown St. Paul.  She joined Forest Lake State Bank as a teller in the 1950s, and was invited into the leadership team as Cashier and Auditor in the 1970’s, becoming the first woman to be an officer of the bank during its 90 year history.  She continued with the bank until its 1994 acquisition by Wells Fargo, and then joined County Bank of Forest Lake until her retirement.  Husband, Jack, owned McGowan Cabinet Co. and Ellie often worked evenings assisting the business in innumerable ways for over 60 years.

Eleanore took great pleasure in a professional career, an uncommon practice for a woman of her time.  She enjoyed the many community relationships fostered by her banking work. When opportunities for professional women increased, she became a role model and throughout her career nurtured, mentored and advised many younger women on making successful careers.

Eleanore was a wonderful entertainer, an excellent cook (oh, those pecan pies!), a creative seamstress, and an endless source of love and guidance.  She was a friend to many, a lover of parties, and small children upon whom she lavished countless thoughtful gifts.  She loved her sons and siblings, a dear group of high school friends, the McGowan family in-laws, garage sales and recipes, and was a frequent thoughtful volunteer who made many dozens of lap quilts for local nursing homes. She was known for her kindness, wit, sense of humor, resilience and determination. She will be dearly missed.

In light of the pandemic, friends are invited to leave an ornament on her Christmas tree in the drive at her home at 920 SE 9th Ave, Forest Lake, between noon and 6pm on December 7th and 8th.  Save the date for a tentative memorial event on June 2, 2021 in recognition of her 95th birthday.  Enjoy her memorial slideshow at

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Eleanore McGowan, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Family to do services at later date

Mattson Funeral Home & Cremation Service

343 North Shore Drive, Forest Lake, MN 55025

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