By John Ogbin
In September of 1989 I entered 7th grade not knowing what to expect. Little did I know I would meet one of my best friends that year. I was a kid who was friendly and had a few good friends already but not one like Nick Mowers. My brother Chris had a huge love of music and turned me on to a lot of different kinds. I loved listening to and talking about music with my brother something I was never able to do with many people until I met Nick. It didn’t take long for Nick and I to become close friends, bonding over music and comedy. It was easy to tell that we liked the same things. As Nick and I grew close in middle school so did the rest of our friends and soon we had a group. It wasn’t long before people would see some form of Nick, Billy, Mike, Jordan, Tiedeman, Cumbo, Joe, Clint, Danielle, Darlene, and me hanging at parties, high school events, football games, and concerts…plenty of concerts. Nick was my concert partner. Nick and most of our friends traveled to see The Grateful Dead, The Black Crowes, and The Allman Brothers to name a few. I was with Nick for the first of many times visiting New York City to see The Black Crowes and later for The Allman Brothers March Madness at the Beacon. These are some of the finest memories of my life and Nick had a lot to do with it.
Nick was unique, he had a way of making every situation fun and always had time to laugh. I have never laughed harder than I did when I was around him. That’s what everyone loved about him. Something I always admired about Nick was his outlook on life. He was a free spirit. That is what I miss the most about him. After graduation and community college Nick moved to North Carolina and I missed him tremendously. I looked forward to his visits home and loved when he stopped by to talk about life and to listen to some new music. I was always excited to hear about his art. Nick was a metal smith and made some beautiful pieces of jewelry. He was always proud to show off his work.
I’ll never forget that fateful day when Nick had the aneurysm. It was a Monday and as soon as I heard, I called Mike, and he planned on flying down. I joined him. We met up with Billy and went to the hospital. Unfortunately, when we arrived our friend Danielle who lives in North Carolina told us that our visit was only to say our last goodbyes to Nick. It was horrible. How could a healthy 36-year-old be taken so suddenly? It seemed and still seems unfair. I was mad when it happened, and I still get a little mad. I would love to see what Nick would be doing today.
I always wondered if Nick had close friends in North Carolina like he did at home in New Jersey. Deep down inside I knew he did, he could make friends anywhere. He would talk about his friends down there now and then, but I never got to meet them. It was overwhelming seeing just how many people loved him in North Carolina. I got to meet a lot of them after he passed and one of them has become a close friend with me and all of Nick’s New Jersey friends. Travis was Nick’s closest friend in North Carolina and now he is one of us. It stinks that we have been brought together over such a tragic event, but we love Travis.
When Nick passed away I was determined to keep his memory alive but was challenged to find a way to remember him. How do you memorialize someone who was larger than life? When he wanted to play guitar, he did. When he wanted to mountain bike, he did. When he wanted to travel, he did. And he was good at all of them…except his short foray in football…he wasn’t good at football, and he would agree with that statement. After meeting with everyone including Nick’s family we decided on a 5K but not just any 5K. I wanted a 5K with the best after party Pennsville could offer and I’m happy to say that over four years we have built an awesome event for everyone to enjoy. The Nick Mowers 5K has grown by leaps and bounds. We now have a 5K in the morning and an after party that usually lasts until 5pm with a basket auction, live music, and fun. Fun was what Nick was all about and this is a party he would love. My friends (including Travis from North Carolina) along with Nick’s family and about two hundred people who knew Nick, or love what we do, get together each April to remember him.
Through this event we have been able to donate over $10,000 in scholarships to graduating Pennsville Memorial High School seniors continuing their education in the field of Art. Nick loved animals especially dogs. This year due to generous donations from the 5K and a Go Fund Me page we were able to build the Nick Mowers Dog Park in Pennsville. It’s amazing. I am taken aback when I think of it. Who knew in 1989 that this is where we’d be today. I miss my friend and would love to have one more day with him, but I can’t. This is a reality that everyone who loved Nick has to face. However, we do agree on one thing. We do a great job remembering a great son, brother, uncle, and true friend. Here’s to you Nick for leaving your mark on the world, we all miss you.
John Ogbin is the director of the Nick Mowers 5K. He is an educator, runner, family man and BBQ enthusiast. He has competed in Half Marathons, 10ks, 5ks, and BBQ competitions. He loves to spend time with his family in OCMD, smoking meat, and watching his daughters in dance.