Longtime Copperas Cove resident, Cove Santa, to be remembered
Clyde Delane Sowell Jr., known as CJ and “Cove Santa”, passed away on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024, at his home in Copperas Cove.
CJ was a beloved husband, father, papa, brother, uncle, and friend whose presence brightened the lives of everyone blessed to know him.
He was born on June 7, 1963, in Savannah, Tennessee, to Clyde Sowell Sr. and Dorothy (Smith) Sowell.
Raised in Bayvon, Virginia until the age of 13, CJ then moved with his family to his mother’s hometown of Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she met and married William Davis Sr. The U.S. Army brought the family to Copperas Cove in 1980.
CJ was a proud graduate of the Copperas Cove High School class of 1982 – and always said he was a “Bulldog” not a “Bulldawg”.
As a young man, he discovered his passion for cooking by learning from his mother and grandmother, then later at his very first “real” job after high school at the Hallmark Restaurant in Killeen. Owner Jerry Henderson pulled CJ out of the lineup of applicants and hired him on the spot as a dishwasher. He worked hard and worked his way up to line cook, honing his culinary skills under the guidance of “Momma,” the head cook.
His dedication to nurturing and caring for others then led him to embark on a career working with children. CJ’s first job in that field was at Little Lamb Child Care Center in Copperas Cove. He taught PreK4 and likewise worked as a cook and menu planner for the center.
During his first marriage, the biggest joys of his life were born -- Zachariah Michael and Hannah Ariel. He loved being a dad, playing with them and teaching them and watching them grow.
Then, he married Lynette Gagnon in 1995 and their family became four. CJ and Lynette built a life together with Zachariah and Hannah, enjoying travels as a family over the years to the Texas Gulf Coast, Tennessee, Colorado, New England, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
With his entrepreneurial spirit, he took a leap of faith and opened Noah’s Ark Registered Family Home in 1997 and operated it until 2013. Through these childcare centers, countless children were welcomed by Mr. CJ’s warm embrace and infectious smile. Even years later, former students would recognize their beloved caregiver fondly. Outside of the classroom, he taught children’s church for many years.
In 2013, CJ joined the team at the newly opened H-E-B Plus! in Copperas Cove. He thrived in his role as one of the original grill masters at the Flaming Bird Café. His infectious personality and exceptional sales skills endeared him to fellow partners and customers alike.
Known for his dad jokes and generous spirit, he constantly sought to bring joy and laughter into the lives of those around him. His genuine kindness and encouragement touched the hearts of all who had the privilege of crossing paths with him.
In 2014, CJ found his calling in working as a paraprofessional at Mae Stevens Learning Academy within the Copperas Cove Independent School District. He called it his dream job and he looked forward to working through all the way to retirement.
He loved his prekindergarten students. Every morning, he greeted each child with a smile and brightened their day before they even entered the classroom. .
He enjoyed visiting his wife, his “Queen”, at her job at the Copperas Cove Leader-Press offices, so much so that he became part of the newspaper’s circulation and distribution in 2019.
He would faithfully label hundreds of newspapers each week prior to their mailing. He loved being even a part-time part of the newspaper staff and learning more about the goings-on in the community.
Likewise, he loved volunteering in his community. He completed the Copperas Cove Citizens Police Academy and at one point volunteered with the alumni to support local law enforcement. He also previously served on the Keep Copperas Cove Beautiful Commission and participated in numerous waterway cleanups, roadway cleanups, and educating youngsters at the annual Eco Harvest.
But the top of his list of favorite things was playing Santa in the community and he became known as “Cove Santa.” For 10 years, he volunteered as Santa for the annual Krist Kindl Markt in Copperas Cove. Likewise, he enjoyed visiting with children of all ages at local businesses and events from Temple to Lampasas. Even in the “off” season, he would be recognized as Santa when out and about.
CJ also found joy in spending time with his family. He loved cooking for them, creating delicious meals that brought everyone together. He was a big fan of Southern comfort food. He especially enjoyed the family’s Christmas “open house” each year for at least two decades.
As an entertainment enthusiast, he was a huge fan of Star Trek shows and movies. A lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan, CJ proudly supported his favorite football team through both victories and defeats.
Additionally, since childhood, he held a deep passion for WWE wrestling, always eager to witness the electrifying performances within the squared circle.
CJ was preceded in death by his father Clyde Sowell Sr., mother Dorothy (Smith) Davis, stepmother Ada Dickey Sowell, brother Ricky Thornton, brother Eddie Sowell, and sister Mona Cruze.
He is survived by his beloved wife Lynette (Gagnon) Sowell, daughter Hannah McWhorter and son-in-law David, son Zachariah Sowell and daughter-in-law Brittany Earls; sisters Kimberly (David) Gutierrez, Monica (Bud) O’Neal, Mitchalene Dickey, Judy (Troy) Franks, and Lena (Marisela) Sowell. His brothers include Brian (Maria) Thornton and William Davis Jr.
Among his cherished survivors are also his father William Davis Sr., seven adored granddaughters - Gabriella, Mia, Riley, Aurora, Helena, Madison, and Allison; aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews. He has numerous honorary nieces and nephews -- too many to name. He also has two honorary grandchildren, Ethan and Jillian Provost, as well as an honorary great-greandson, Milo.
A celebration of his life and legacy is scheduled for Saturday, January 27, at 3 p.m., at Lea Ledger Auditorium on the campus of Copperas Cove High School. Afterward, a “food and fellowship” gathering will take place in the cafeteria of Mae Stevens Learning Academy. Those who are interested in helping with the dinner are welcome to contact Sharon Miles at (254) 368-6896.
In lieu of flowers, the family would be thankful for donations made in his memory to Pink Warrior Angels (www.pinkwarriorangels.org), Cove Blue Santa, or the Copperas Cove Education Foundation (https://www.ccisd.com/615565_3).