Paddling proponent 

Abowitz wasn’t the first person to try to share rowing with Oklahoma, but he did help the sport gain its footing in Oklahoma City long before it was a well-known phenomenon. 

“Oklahoma comes late to these things,” Abowitz said of rowing.

The sport hooked Abowitz at the University of Pennsylvania, but when he came to Oklahoma he didn’t know where to row.

Eventually, Abowitz met Bob Stroud, who had an idea to build a boathouse for rowing and kayaking on Lake Overholser. Building the boathouse took about four years due to financial constraints.

“I hopefully did my part,” Abowitz said. “I was there, I did what they told me to do, I was good labor and I could follow directions.”

Once the Stroud House was built, rowing still didn’t catch the attention Abowitz and Stroud had hoped it would. Stroud, founder of the Oklahoma City Rowing Club, Abowitz and a few other fans tried unsuccessfully to get high school and college students involved in the sport.

“There was a period of time when Mr. Stroud and I were the only ones out there besides some stray cats,” Abowitz said.

The antics of this dedicated athlete kept rowing in the public eye for years, and helped Stroud establish the Oklahoma City Rowing Club.

“What I did during those years, I don’t know that I did anything but pursue what I loved to do,” Abowitz said.

“I cut the grass occasionally, at least maintained the presence out there.”

Abowitz was key in staging an Olympic festival for rowing and kayaking and the Dust Bowl Regatta on the North Canadian, said Mike Knopp, executive director of the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation.

“It takes guys like Murray and a few dedicated ones to keep the program going, to keep it moving,” Stroud said.

Abowitz, a member of the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation, refuses to let rowing fade from his life, although he is busy as founding partner at his law firm.

“Some people watch football; I watch rowing,” Abowitz said.

Abowitz helped solidify rowing as a popular local sport, Knopp said.

“Murray was one of the early advocates for rowing, and rowing has gotten to be such a big thing in Oklahoma City in recent years,” he said. “There are not a lot of people who can say they were a part of the start, and Murray is one of them.”

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