By Sallie James
DELRAY BEACH — Longtime Delray Beach resident and construction executive Armand Burton Mouw, a former city commissioner and community activist known for his upstanding character, died Jan. 11 not long after a cancer diagnosis. He was 92.
The Delray Beach pioneer founded the premier home-building construction company of Hawkins & Mouw Inc. in February 1956. The company morphed into Mouw Associates Inc., a name associated with many signature projects, including construction of the $90 million Bethesda West Hospital in Boynton Beach. Mr. Mouw also helped pave the way for the creation of the city’s historic district, which includes Old School Square Cultural Arts Center.
“He was a man with a gracious heart and a strong intellect. He was a man’s man, faithful to his God, and a hard worker. He loved his community and his family,” said the Very Rev. Bernard J. Pecaro, rector at St. Martin Episcopal Church in Pompano Beach, who became friends with Mr. Mouw in 1990.
The two met at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Delray Beach, where Mr. Mouw served on the vestry and attended worship regularly. At the time, Pecaro was a single father and a Navy reservist who was a new assistant rector at the church. A year later in 1991, when Pecaro was called to active duty at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Mr. Mouw and his wife, Catherine, cared for Pecaro’s 14-year-old daughter for about six months.
“They did a wonderful job,” Pecaro recalled. Later, when Pecaro decided to remarry, Mr. Mouw stood as best man in his wedding. Their friendship was cemented forever.
“He was a close friend and counsel to me. He was a very wise man. I will miss him,” Pecaro said.
Mouw Associates controller Robin Watkins remembered the company owner as a kind man with a tireless work ethic whose name was synonymous with honesty and integrity. The snowbird loved his job and came into work for several hours a day when in town, despite his advanced age, until April when his health began to fail, she said.
“He was the kind of person if you got into trouble, he would absolutely give you a second chance,” Watkins said. “He was so respected in the community and loved by so many people.”
Mr. Mouw was born on Sept. 13, 1927, in West Palm Beach. He attended Colgate and Western Michigan colleges, ultimately earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Florida in 1949.
He married his first wife, Audrey, in 1951 and they had four sons: Joseph, Gregory, Michael and Richard, who goes by Rick and is now president of Mouw Associates.
The pair later divorced. He married Catherine in 1977 and the couple adopted a son, Andrew. Mr. Mouw had a sixth “unofficial son,” Paul, whom he also considered family.
Mr. Mouw served in the Navy in 1945-1946 and the Army from 1950 to 1952, where he worked as a mathematician alongside German V-2 rocket scientists.
Mr. Mouw also served as national director of the Associated General Contractors of America in Washington, D.C. He was named the Florida East Coast AGC president in 1973.
He received numerous awards and recognitions for the work he did for contractors in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, receiving the Distinguished Builder award in 1992. He was inducted into the Construction Hall of Fame at the University of Florida.
He was also very civic-minded. Mr. Mouw was elected to the Delray Beach City Commission in November 1990 and served until March 1993 at a time when the city was gearing up for major redevelopment.
“He was a very visionary person, the great voice of reason,” said former Delray Beach Mayor Tom Lynch, who held office from 1990 to 1996. “I convinced him to run for the City Commission. It was at a time when we were going through a lot of financial issues and union issues. He did a great job.”
Lynch said the two met in 1985 when the city formed a Community Redevelopment Agency to address blight. Mr. Mouw served on the CRA board four years, he said.
City activist Frances Bourque recalled the staunch support she got from Mr. Mouw when she started work on what would eventually become the Old School Square Cultural Arts Center.
“He thought it was a beautiful fit for the city. He was a genuinely good-to-the-core human being. I will miss him forever,” she said.
Rick Mouw said his father’s life was grounded in integrity. He recalled searching for old contracts for past projects dating to the ’60s and ’70s and being unable to find them. When he asked where the paperwork was, Mr. Mouw told him there was none.
“It was all done by handshake during a time where a handshake was as good as a contract,” Rick Mouw said.
“He was strict but fair. He had a big heart. Everyone was equal until you proved otherwise. He was open to everyone.”
The devoted family man was proud that his construction company employed three generations of Mouws: He, Rick and grandson John had all worked together.
“He was brilliant, but he was kind and he did not ever make you feel that you were not the one who was brilliant,” Bourque recalled.
Mr. Mouw is survived by his wife, Catherine, five sons and numerous grandchildren. Services were held on Jan. 18 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent to the hospice Trustbridge of West Palm Beach.
By Sallie James