A longtime war correspondent with a yen for adventure, Roy Rowan has lost some of his wind but none of his zest as he gallops into his 10th decade. In his self-described “rambling memoir,” Never Too Late: A 90-Year-Old’s Pursuit of a Whirlwind Life, he mixes advice with anecdote in a bid to inspire others.
“This feisty man’s guide to growing old … is about aging, vigorously, actively, and any way but gracefully,” says Rowan, who quotes Dylan Thomas’s famous lines about raging “against the dying of the light.”
There is nothing particularly earth-shattering about Rowan’s advice: Find new interests (or explore old ones) after retirement, stay close to friends, use positive thinking to combat disease and infirmity. But his scattered recollections — related in chapters with titles such as “Quit Is a Four-Letter Word” and “R Is for Resilience” — make Never Too Late a congenial and often entertaining read.
A member of the so-called Greatest Generation, Rowan was a reporter and editor at a time when journalism was an expanding, profit-generating bastion of machismo and derring-do. After rising from U.S. Army private to major in the Pacific theater during World War II, he spent most of his career working for Henry Luce’s empire of magazines, including Time, Life and Fortune. So loyal was Rowan to the Time Inc. realm that he wed “a charming young Life picture researcher” after being introduced to her by his mentor, Bill Gray. Roy Rowan and Helen Rounds — to whom Never Too Late is dedicated — have been married for more than 58 years.
Between magazine-editing stints, Rowan covered wars both cold and hot in Europe and Asia. He reserved his greatest passion (as did Luce) for China, where he witnessed at perilously close hand the civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists in the late 1940s. Rowan returned to China periodically after that, serving as Time’s Hong Kong-based Asian bureau chief in the 1970s and writing a 2004 memoir, Chasing the Dragon, about the Maoist revolution.
Rowan has authored nine books (and coedited one more) on subjects ranging from minor-league baseball and management techniques to presidential dogs. He has also fathered four sons, survived melanoma and bone cancer, and cultivated the friendship of such figures as Luce and Gerald Ford. Luce was “intimidating and aloof around the office,” he recalls, but “warm and friendly to his correspondents out in the field.” Ford emerges as a “regular guy who just happened to be president of the United States.”