When Todd Bowman bid on a boxed dinner at a Box Social in Fort Morgan, Colorado in 1946, little did he know that his kind gesture would turn into a 70-year marriage to the love of his life.
Todd and Jean (Writebol) Bowman of Coarsegold celebrated their 70 years of marriage on Aug. 16, at the Park Sierra with about 70 friends.
Todd, 96, and Jean, 89 greeted their guests from Park Sierra, American Legion and Senior Nutrition Center along with the couple’s nephew Brad Bowman and his wife Tanya from Watts Valley near Tollhouse.
The highlight of the day was the surprise arrival of the couple’s daughter Ann Booth, who flew in from Australia for the party, and was hiding in a back room when the Bowmans were introduced by Diane Bradsher. Bradsher had just started to read a bio about the couple, when she stopped and said, “I think I’ll let their daughter Ann read this.”
After catching her breath, Jean said, “We are so delighted that she (Ann) made it ... We had no idea she was going to be here.”
Jean narrated a 70-photo slide show put together by Ann and friend David Ellis.
The couple’s Aug. 16, 1947 wedding was a small affair with close family and friends in Fort Morgan, Colorado. Jean’s sister Vivian Writebol stood as her maid of honor and Todd’s brother Bob Bowman served as best man.
Jean was born in Washington, Kansas. One of five girls and one boy, Jean and her siblings helped out with the numerous chores around the family farm as a child.
The family moved to Morrowville, Kansas where Jean attended high school. They moved to Fort Morgan, Colorado shortly before Jean graduated.
After graduation Jean joined the family in Fort Morgan and got her first job in Duckwalls Five and Dime Store until she got a job with Mountain States Telephone Company as a switchboard operator.
Todd was born near Kersey, Colorado. His family were in Weldona, Colorado for a short time until they moved to Lyman, Nebraska.
The Bowman family started a dairy and delivered milk to Lyman. Todd graduated from Lyman High School in 1940 and worked at the family dairy as well as other ranches in the Nebraska/Wyoming area.
Off to war
Todd was drafted into the Army in 1942, doing his basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in field artillery. He was transferred to the 701st Tank Destroyer Battalion, 36th Division, A Co. where he spent most of his service time.
During 1943 Todd escorted German and Italian Prisoners of War across the Atlantic to the USA. One trip was on the Queen Mary, which is now anchored in Long Beach.
He had driven a mechanic to Rome to repair a tank, and on their return they thought they heard a plane and stopped to look for it. The Germans spotted them and shot at both men. Todd received shrapnel wounds to his right arm and earlobe. He carried a photo album in his left breast pocket, and he later found a piece of shrapnel imbedded in it, halfway through the album. The album now resides in the display case at the Veterans Clinic in Oakhurst, along with other WWII memorabilia. He received an honorable discharge in October 1945.
When first married, Todd worked as a surveyor while Jean was still a switchboard operator until their first child, Tom, was born in 1948.
They rented a farm in Fort Morgan where their daughter Ann was born in 1952, and they worked the farm until it was sold in 1956. It was then that they decided to move to California, where there were more employment opportunities.
They bought their family home in Lakewood where Todd worked at the Stauffer Chemical Plant for 30 years before retiring in 1985. Jean worked as a receptionist for General Veneer Manufacturing Company for 30 years, retiring in 1987.
During their time in California, they developed a love for camping, boating and fishing. Todd and Jean became full-time travelers in 1987 and took their RV across the length and breadth of the U.S., along with visiting Alaska and Hawaii plus several trips to Australia to visit their daughter. Their son Tom passed away in 1982.
The Bowmans joined a camping club - Escapees - who wanted to build a RV Park in the Yosemite area. In 1990 the club purchased property on Road 416 just off Highway 41 in Coarsegold, and in 1991 the lots were developed. Todd and Jean were part of the ‘pioneers’ who were there at the very beginning of Park Sierra.
They continued to travel for many years until they decided it was time to call it quits with the traveling and ‘park up’ the rig.
In addition to their two children, the couple have two grandchildren, five great grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.
When asked what it takes for a long-lasting marriage, Jean said, “Love each other, do for each other, and be a good companion. That’s what we have done for 70 years.”
NOTE: For additional photos, see www.sierrastar.com.