REMEMBERING Lewis W. Bowker Jr., 1939-2010
</byl>BY MARY KLAUSmklaus@patriot-news.com
Lewis Bowker Jr. waltzed through his two careers as easily as he danced with his wife of 41 years while they chaperoned Trinity High School proms.
The Hampden Twp. man served 27 years in the U.S. Army, retired as a colonel, then spent 10 years as a high school math teacher.
Bowker, who died on Aug. 22, taught his students more than the principles of calculus and algebra, his fellow teachers said. He also taught students how to live faith-filled lives that made a difference in the world.
“I taught with Lew for several years,” said John Cominsky, Trinity High School religion and social studies teacher and dean of faculty. “Lew was a very effective teacher. The school day ended at 2:40 p.m., but Lew was almost always the last one to leave the second floor, usually between 5 and 6 p.m. because he would tutor students. He gave them a lot of attention.”
Cominsky called Bowker a “down to earth, optimistic guy whom everyone loved, the quintessential gentleman. He represented the best of Trinity, heart and soul. He had a good sense of humor. His laugh started in his belly and took off. Others laughed when they heard him. And he could laugh at himself too.”
Born in Tennessee and raised in Mississippi, Bowker never lost his Southern accent or his love of sports, honed when he was a star football player in his high school days. After graduating from Mississippi State University with a degree in mathematics, he entered the Army as a second lieutenant.
Over the next 27 years, he served in Germany, Vietnam and Korea. He worked in Somalia and Sudan, then came back to the United States and worked in 10 states. Some of his most historic duties involved serving with the 2nd Missile Battalion, 43rd Artillery at Turner Air Force Base during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and serving combat duty in South Vietnam in 1967.
He also worked with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon and taught at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle. He received numerous military awards and medals.
After retiring from the military, he enthusiastically headed for his next career. When he was 61, he became a math teacher at Trinity High School, the alma mater of both his children. Bowker used to call that his “dream job.”
Cominsky recalled how Bowker “went to Harrisburg Area Community College a couple summers ago to brush up on a math course. He tried to make 100 percent on every test.”
Martin Carr, a Trinity mathematics teacher, taught in the room next to Bowker’s for 10 years.
“Lew taught algebra II, geometry and calculus,” Carr said. “He told the kids that if they were in his class, they were there because they could do it. He was very popular. For some, he was the grandfather image even though he never acted his age.”
Carr said that Bowker wore his Army uniform to school on Veterans Day and talk to the students about his time in the Army and the sacrifices families make to be in the military.
“He didn’t put on airs,” Carr said. “But he made the military real to students. He also was a wonderful Catholic, a man of faith. He shared his faith and was a good role model. He would take seniors on retreat each year. He was loved and respected at Trinity.”
Bowker enjoyed sports, rooting enthusiastically for “his” Trinity High School and University of Notre Dame teams
“He went to every game in every sport at Trinity,” Cominsky said. “He especially loved girls basketball. He also loved Notre Dame football. He and his wife went to many Notre Dame home games.”
Bowker often invited other Trinity teachers to his house to watch Notre Dame games, said David Geisel, a Trinity social studies teacher. Geisel said Bowker prepared for those parties “by researching statistics about Notre Dame and the opponent. My team is Ohio State. He would joke with me about that. He liked pizza with everything on it. He would chastise us if we ordered plain pizza!”
Bowker’s friends marveled at his boundless energy.
“He lived in my neighborhood,” said Carr. “I would be sitting on my porch reading a book and he would be jogging up and down the streets. Keeping in shape was part of his routine.”
When Bowker chaperoned the school dances and prom, he didn’t just sit on the sidelines.
“Lew loved to dance,” Carr said. “He would do the slow dances with his wife, Dorothy, and the fast dances with the students. He just gave it his best shot and wasn’t embarrassed. The kids loved it. Our yearbooks have pictures of Lew dancing with Dorothy. He loved Dorothy with all his heart.”
Carr recalled Bowker and Sister Susan demonstrating the jitterbug to students in the cafeteria.
“Lew was a wonderfully fun individual,” Geisel said. “You couldn’t help but like him. He had a tremendous laugh, was fun to be around and had a great commitment to his family and students. He was young for his age too. Sometimes, it was hard for younger folks to keep up with him. It’s not the same at school without him. But we still talk to him and still hear his laugh. I miss him tremendously.”
Mary Klaus, reporter
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