Rumors of the death of this duck-feeding couple’s daughter were greatly exaggerated

It started out innocently enough. Just your everyday, “Couple gets sued for up to $250,000 by its Homeowners Association for allegedly feeding ducks” story.

But apparently there was a miscommunication between the couple – Kathleen and George Rowe – and the Houston Chronicle, which reported the story. In it, the Rowes had expressed concerned about the welfare of some ducks in the neighborhood.

“When Kathleen Rowe, now 65, saw large, domesticated-looking fowl among the native black-bellied whistling ducks, she immediately knew what had likely happened, the Chronicle reported. “She imagined the ducks growing up in an incubator and sold from a farm store before getting dumped in the wild without the skills needed to navigate their new environment.

“They’ve never had a mother,” she said. “I feel like I’m just stepping in.”

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But Kathleen Rowe also referred at the time to the couple having “lost” their only daughter, the Chronicle noted today. That reference, since removed, apparently caused the story to go viral the incorrect assumption that their daughter, Austin therapist Alicia Rowe, had died.

The Daily Mail UK had run a story online (that) offered zero ambiguity about her demise: “Texas couple who began feeding neighborhood ducks to cope with loss of only daughter are sued for (up to) $250,000 by HOA for causing a nuisance and are forced to sell home to cover costs,” read the article’s headline,” the Chronicle reported today.

Alicia Rowe came across that story, the Chronicle reports, and “she stared at the article in shock. Then she wondered how she had died. She had her suspicions.”

The daughter contacted the Chronicle which in turn contacted the Rowes’ attorney. Here’s how the paper says that went:
“She wanted me to communicate her apologies,” the lawyer, Richard Weaver, told the Chronicle shortly afterward. “She reiterated her words to me. And it was that she had lost her daughter. When she told me she’d lost her daughter, I thought she’d passed away.”

But she hadn’t. It turns out that Alicia Rowe is estranged from her parents, but quite alive, the Chronicle says.

““It’s this weird intersection of media, family trauma and how fast information gets around,” she said. “Alicia said the last time she was on speaking terms with her mother was roughly six years ago.”