Baiba Gowen passed away peacefully on the evening of November 15, 2023, with Bob, her loving husband of 59 years, at her side.
Born February 18, 1943, in Riga, Latvia, she was the elder daughter of Aleksandris and Irene Zelmenis.
Baiba spent her early years war-torn Europe before emigrating to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with her parents in 1949. There, she graduated from Ontario Teachers College and was teaching when her best friend from high school introduced her to Bob in 1963. The couple married in December of 1964, then in 1967 moved to the small town of Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, where they started a family. Baiba taught school, was a contributing member of the Junior League, and enjoyed an active social life, forging friendships she treasured throughout the rest of her life.
Baiba was heavily involved in the Mountain Lakes community, volunteering to chaperone many school field trips and serving as a Girl Scout Troop leader, though she is likely remembered best for her superior skills in the kitchen and her love of entertaining. The holiday season featured many memorable parties full of merriment and her amazing cooking, which was always artfully presented. No plates were ever served without first being beautifully garnished — she always wanted the best for her guests. Baiba also contributed her culinary expertise at the Phoebe Snow, a restaurant situated in an old historical railroad station, where her popovers brought smiles to countless customers.
As an empty nester, Baiba spent her free time cultivating lovely gardens (roses and dahlias were her favorite flowers), sewing elaborate quilts, perfecting her quilting skills, and — above all — showering love on her pets, especially her golden retrievers Willie, Harry, and Charlie.
After Bob retired, Baiba and Bob moved to McMinnville, Oregon, to be near their daughter, Kris. She especially loved driving out to the Oregon Coast to eat oysters and watch the waves on Cannon Beach, as well as visiting vineyards in the rolling hills of nearby wine county.
When Baiba’s health began to deteriorate, she and Bob moved with their rescue pup Gertie to Westminster Canterbury of the Blue Ridge, a retirement community in Charlottesville, Virginia, where their son, Rob Gowen, and daughter-in-law, Seamane Flanagan, reside.
In addition to her husband and children, Baiba is survived by her sister, Ieva Fraser, who lives with her husband and two children in Toronto.
The family wishes to express their sincere and deepest appreciation to the wonderful, compassionate staff at Westminster Canterbury, who ensured that Baiba was comfortable and felt cared for in her final days, and who have also been of great support to Bob.
A small service at Westminster Canterbury will be scheduled and announced soon.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to your local SPCA.
Condolences may be shared with the family on the Tribute Wall.